The Argon Fluoride Laser as an Enabler for Low Cost Inertial Fusion Energy
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 U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) will advance the science and technologies of the electron-beam-pumped argon fluoride (ArF) laser as a potential method of improving laser-target coupling, a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for advancing low-cost inertial fusion energy (IFE). ArF’s deep UV light and capability to provide a wider bandwidth than other laser drivers improves the laser-target coupling efficiency and enables high gain at driver energies below 1 MJ. The ArF technology will use solid-state pulsed power and similar electron-beam pumping used by krypton fluoride lasers to achieve record-setting “wall-plug” efficiencies for deep UV lasers. These advantages could enable the development of smaller and lower-cost IFE power-plant modules. These factors could drastically change the current thinking that IFE is too expensive and the power-plant size too large to be competitive in contemporary power-generation markets.
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.