Canada-based company General Fusion has announced a collaboration with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) aimed at advancing the commercialisation of magnetised target fusion energy.
The results will hone the design of General Fusion’s demonstration machine, currently being built at the Culham Science Centre in Abingdon. Ultimately, the company expects that the projects will support its efforts to provide low-cost and low-carbon energy to the electricity grid.
According to General Fusion, its approach to fusion maximises the reapplication of existing industrialised technologies, bypassing the need for expensive superconducting magnets, significant new materials or high-power lasers. With its demonstration machine, the company aims to create fusion conditions in a power-plant-relevant environment, thereby confirming the performance and economics of its technology.
‘The leading-edge fusion researchers at UKAEA have proven experience building, commissioning and successfully operating large fusion machines,’ said Greg Twinney, General Fusion’s CEO. ‘Partnering with UKAEA’s incredible team will fast-track work to advance our technology and achieve our mission of delivering affordable commercial fusion power to the world.’
‘Fusion energy is one of the greatest scientific and engineering quests of our time,’ said Ian Chapman, CEO of the UKAEA. ‘This collaboration will enable General Fusion to benefit from the ground-breaking research being done in the UK and supports our shared aims of making fusion part of the world’s future energy mix for generations to come.’
General Fusion will benefit from the UKAEA’s expertise in building polychromators, which are used in an industry-standard diagnostic called Thomson Scattering, which measures electron temperature. The UKAEA will build a new, larger Thomson Scattering system that will be installed on General Fusion’s fusion demonstration machine at Culham. Electron temperature measurements are used for the calculation of thermal confinement, a fundamental process in determining the success of failure of an experiment.
Since it was founded in 2002, General Fusion has formed more than 200,000 hydrogen plasmas, averaging 100 neutron-generating plasmas per day. In its collaboration with the UKAEA, the company will harness the UKAEA’s extensive neutron modelling software and expertise to simulate the neutron flux distribution from General Fusion’s operational large-scale plasma injector (PI3) as well as future machines. The simulation results from PI3 will be used to develop higher level physics models that will inform the design of neutron diagnostics on future machines, including the fusion demonstration and commercial power plants.
According to General Fusion, the past 20 years, enabling technologies such as advanced composite materials and additive manufacturing have offered innovative new pathways to resolve historical barriers to fusion energy. The design of its fusion demonstration will feature special steel that can withstand the high temperatures and compressive forces found in a fusion vessel. The UKAEA will use its vacuum facilities to test the specific steel that General Fusion will use and help inform the demonstration facility’s final design.