A new partnership in Imperial College London is scaling safer, cleaner, and more abundant energy from fusion power
Fusion power can be created using easy-to-obtain fuel sources such as the hydrogen isotope deuterium, which is found abundantly in nature.
Generated without greenhouse gas emissions and long-lived radioactive waste, researchers are aiming to increase fusion energy to avert energy costs and waste.
However, when researchers from across the three universities and two companies have created fusion reactions – requiring intense heat and pressure – more energy is often being used than the reactions released.
Fusion power is greener and safer than other energy
Nuclear fusion power occurs when the nuclei of two atoms, for example, hydrogen atoms, are combined to create a different element such as helium, releasing a huge amount of spare energy due to the difference in weight between the atomic ingredients and the newly created atom.
Researchers are the behaviour of materials at extreme temperatures, pressures, and densities, examining how heat, matter, and radiation flow at interfaces between materials that have vastly different properties.
They are working on the success of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers, who recently made a breakthrough in achieving a net energy gain – yet the experiment only generated enough energy to boil a few electric kettles.
Now, with the £12 million in funding from First Light Fusion, this research will improve the scalability of former methods and increase the reactions of fusion power in general.
First Light Fusion’s ultra-velocity projectile
Researchers from the Universities of Oxford and York, and Oxford spinouts First Light Fusion and Machine Discovery, developed a new approach to prove scalability: an ultra-velocity projectile.
This projectile is fired at a specially designed target, as the key technology in the company’s approach, which amplifies and concentrates the resulting shockwaves enough to fuse two hydrogen isotopes enclosed inside.
This new projectile approach to inertial fusion is simpler, more energy efficient, and has lower physics risk.
More energy efficient with a lower physics risk
Dr Simon Bland in Imperial’s Department of Physics, principal investigator on the project, said: “By exploring these exciting, relatively unknown conditions and learning about matter and radiation transport here, we hope to significantly improve physics models of the processes involved for the whole High Energy Density Science community.
“These will enable First Light to design much more efficient, higher yield targets that could potentially lead the way to ‘on grid’ power production.”
“More efficient, higher yield targets that could potentially lead the way to ‘on grid’ power production”
Dr Nick Hawker, Co-founder & CEO of First Light Fusion, said: “This grant, which First Light is match funding to bring it to £12 million, will be a vital platform in recruiting the best and the brightest physicists to First Light, and more critically, unlock important physics research as we continue with our mission of solving the problem of fusion power with the simplest machine possible.”
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