LBNL, in coordination with Cornell University, will develop a driver for magneto-inertial fusion based on ion beam technology that can be manufactured with low-cost, scalable methods. Ion beams are commonly used in research laboratories and manufacturing, but currently available technology cannot deliver the required beam intensities at low enough cost to drive an economical fusion reactor. LBNL will take advantage of microelectromechanical (MEMS) technology to develop a design consisting of thousands of mini ion “beamlets” densely packed on silicon wafers – up to thousands of beamlets per 4 to 12 inch wafer. Ions will be accelerated using radio-frequency driven accelerators, resulting in extremely high current densities and high-intensity ion beams that can be focused on plasma targets to achieve fusion. The use of MEMS technology enables low-cost batch fabrication, which could reduce the overall cost of a fusion reactor, in addition to enabling drivers that are modular and scalable. If successful, this project will result in an economical and flexible ion beam driver technology for magneto-inertial fusion reactors.
If successful, LBNL and Cornell’s research will provide a design for low-cost driver technology that could be used to help achieve economical fusion power production.
LBNL’s innovations could accelerate the development of cost-effective fusion reactors, which could provide a nearly limitless supply of domestic power and eliminate dependence on foreign sources of energy and limited fuel supplies.
Fusion reactors offer nearly zero emissions and produce manageable waste products. If widely adopted, they could significantly reduce or nearly eliminate carbon emissions from the power production sector.
LBNL’s ion beam driver technology could help reduce the cost of magneto-inertial fusion, facilitating progress towards economical fusion reactors.