General Atomics Brings Inertial Fusion Energy Expertise to Two National Research Hubs

San Diego, CA, Dec. 08, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — General Atomics (GA) has been selected as a team member for two science and technology hubs funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Inertial Fusion Energy Science & Technology Accelerated Research (IFE-STAR) program to advance IFE science and technologies.

GA will join the STARFIRE hub, led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and the RISE hub, led by Colorado State University (CSU).

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The DOE announced the awards on December 7, 2023, as part of three projects totaling $42 million. The STARFIRE and RISE hubs will each receive $16 million each over the next four years.

“We’re excited to bring our decades of experience and advanced capabilities to the RISE and STARFIRE hubs in support of these Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) programs, with the long-term goal of commercializing fusion energy for the nation,” said Mike Farrell, Vice President of Inertial Fusion Technologies at GA.

“The Department of Energy has taken a critical step in creating these teams to help solve enabling fundamental technology in support of inertial fusion energy,” said Neil Alexander, Director of Inertial Fusion Energy at GA, who will be the main contributor on behalf of GA. “We take great pride in being part of the STARFIRE and RISE teams in support of this technology.”

Fusion is the process that powers the stars, and holds the promise of providing nearly limitless clean, safe, and always-available energy. Fueled primarily by isotopes of hydrogen found in seawater and capable of generating its own fuel during operation, a fusion energy facility would provide around-the-clock sustainable energy without any harmful emissions or long-lived waste.

In IFE, fusion is achieved by shooting targets filled with hydrogen fuel with powerful lasers or electric discharges. IFE is currently the only fusion approach to have achieved net energy gain in a laboratory, after achieving a 1.5x energy gain at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) in December 2022. The experiment was repeated this past July with a larger, 1.9x energy gain.

GA has fabricated components and provided support services for the DOE’s ICF program for over 30 years, and now supplies more than 12,000 target components to national laboratories annually. Among many other contributions to the ICF program, GA fabricated the target assemblies used in each experiment to achieve fusion ignition, and provided the targets, as well as the proofing and metrology services, that helped facilitate these historic breakthroughs.

STARFIRE Hub

The STARFIRE hub aims to accelerate the development of high-gain target designs, solid-state laser technologies, target manufacturing and engagement, IFE power plant design and assessment, and workforce development.

GA, along with LLNL and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), will develop high-resolution additive manufacturing systems for IFE foam target components. GA will also develop techniques to accurately engage (hit) a target moving at speeds greater than 50 meters per second with a laser beam.

The diverse team of experts participating in the STARFIRE hub include representatives from National Laboratories, academia, and industry, including LLNL, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL), SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, University of Rochester (UR), University of Oklahoma (OU), University of California Berkeley (UCB), University of California San Diego (UCSD), UCLA, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Texas A&M University, TRUMPF, Leonardo Electronics Inc (LEI), Focused Energy, General Atomics (GA), Xcimer Energy, Longview Fusion Energy Systems, Livermore Lab Foundation, and Fraunhofer ILT.

RISE Hub

The RISE hub will focus on advancing science and technologies that will enable inertial fusion energy, including high-gain target designs, solid-state and excimer lasers, target development and engagement, and workforce development.

GA will lead the development of manufacturing methods for IFE target capsules aimed at developing robust, reliable, and scalable processes suitable for the mass production of IFE targets.

Other collaborators working on the RISE hub include CSU, Stanford & SLAC National Accelerator Lab, University of Illinois, Cornell University, Texas A&M, Los Alamos National Lab (LANL), Naval Research Lab (NRL), Marvel Fusion (MF), and Xcimer Energy.

About General Atomics: Since the dawn of the atomic age, General Atomics innovations have advanced the state of the art across the full spectrum of science and technology – from nuclear energy and defense to medicine and high-performance computing. Behind a talented global team of scientists, engineers, and professionals, GA’s unique experience and capabilities continue to deliver safe, sustainable, economical, and innovative solutions to meet growing global demands.


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