Advanced Inertial Fusion Energy Target Designs and Driver Development
Controlled fusion has long been thought of as an ideal energy source—safe, clean, abundant, and dispatchable. Fusion is on the cusp of demonstrating net positive energy gain, spurring interest in both the public and private sectors to adopt a more aggressive development path toward a timely, grid-ready demonstration. A critical need today is to increase the performance levels and the number of lower-cost fusion approaches that might eventually lead to commercial fusion energy with competitive capital cost and levelized cost of energy. To address this need, the BETHE program supports (1) advancing the performance of earlier-stage, lower-cost concepts, (2) component-technology development to lower the cost of more-mature concepts, and (3) capability teams to assist multiple concept teams in theory, modeling, and diagnostic measurements.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
The University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics ($1.75M) and the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) ($1.75M) will advance inertial fusion energy (IFE) by developing (1) innovative direct-drive, high-bandwidth, high-gain target designs using high-bandwidth laser technologies with < 1 MJ of laser input energy, and (2) high-efficiency, high-bandwidth IFE drivers to eventually enable experimental demonstration of the advanced target designs. The new laser-driver technologies, including both diode-pumped solid-state and excimer lasers, are expected to mitigate laser-plasma instabilities, potentially allowing for greater and more-symmetric energy coupling to the target. This work leverages the multiple decades of investment into inertial confinement fusion (ICF), which has achieved high values of fusion triple product, and will help place ICF on a path toward lower-cost IFE. The DOE Office of Science, Fusion Energy Sciences, is jointly supporting this work, contributing an additional $1.25M each to the University of Rochester and NRL.
Accelerating and lowering the costs of fusion development and eventual deployment will enable fusion energy to contribute to:
Fusion energy will ensure the U.S.’s technological lead and energy security.
Fusion energy will improve the chances of getting to cost-effective, net-zero carbon emissions, while minimizing pollution and avoiding long-lived radioactive waste.
As a disruptive technology, fusion energy will likely create new markets, opportunities, and export advantages for the U.S.