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U.S. Department of Energy Invests $6.4 Million in Research on International Fusion Energy Facilities

Projects span studies of turbulence, ion-heat transport, and equilibrium stability to improve confinement of fusion plasmas

Published on June 11, 2021

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $6.4 million in funding for U.S. scientists to carry out seven research projects at two major fusion energy facilities located in Germany and Japan. These collaborations enable U.S. researchers to explore critical science and technology issues at the frontiers of magnetic fusion research using the unique capabilities of the most advanced overseas research facilities.

Fusion energy research seeks to harness the energy that powers the sun and stars as a clean, safe, and abundant source of energy on earth. The research projects will be carried out at two fusion facilities, known as “stellarators,” that represent a promising alternative approach to the “tokamak” fusion reactor design that dominates magnetic fusion research in the United States and around the world. The two facilities, Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) in Germany and the Large Helical Device (LHD) in Japan, are respectively the largest and second largest superconducting stellarator facilities in the world.  Compared with tokamaks, stellarators have the advantage of providing continuous operation without damaging plasma disruptions and with low recirculating power requirements.

“The early success of W7-X has demonstrated the ability to optimize stellarators for performance, reliability, and simplicity” said James Van Dam, DOE Associate Director of Science for Fusion Energy Sciences (FES).  “These awards will help us assess whether stellarators are a viable option for a future fusion pilot plant.”

The funded projects at W7-X will continue the major U.S. collaboration with Germany, advance understanding of magnetic confinement, and address research priorities critical to the W7-X mission. Projects include studying ion-heat transport within heated plasmas, developing improved methods to measure electric fields and turbulence, and investigating equilibrium stability and control to improve plasma confinement.

The projects were selected by competitive peer review under the DOE Funding Opportunity Announcement for Collaborative Research in Magnetic Fusion Energy Sciences on Long-Pulse International Stellarator Facilities.

Total funding is $6.4 million for projects lasting up to three years in duration, with $1.6 million in outyear funding contingent on congressional appropriations. The list of projects can be found on the FES homepage under the heading “What’s New.”

Staff Writer