Illinois researchers partner with Tokamak Energy on new DOE fusion program


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Illinois researchers partner with Tokamak Energy on new DOE fusion program

University of Illinois researchers will be part of a landmark program announced by the Department of Energy to support private companies in bringing fusion energy toward technical and commercial viability.

As part of the DOE’s multimillion-dollar Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program, selected companies will team with U.S. national laboratories, universities, and others to address major technical and commercialization milestones for the successful design of a fusion pilot plant.

Tokamak Energy Inc—the West Virginia-based U.S. subsidiary of British company Tokamak Energy Ltd and a longtime partner of the U of I—has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for an award as part of its bold decadal vision for delivering commercial fusion.

“The announcement that Tokamak Energy has been selected as one of the companies for the DOE Milestone-based fusion development program (MFDP) is exciting for the NPRE department,” research associate professor Daniel Andruczyk said. 

“Tokamak Energy has a longstanding collaboration with the department’s Center for Plasma-Material Interactions (CPMI). As part of the MFDP, CPMI will be working with Tokamak Energy to further develop and deploy the technologies needed for utilizing liquid lithium and other liquid metals in their first wall and blanket systems. The money that CPMI will receive will directly go into lithium loop technology development and funding the students and eventually will also utilize the department own reactor HIDRA to test pulsed ‘transient’ events and their effect on these systems.”

Andruczyk and Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering David Ruzic are the principal investigators on the NPRE portion of the project.

“We are delighted to be selected by the U.S. DOE for its Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program,” said Warrick Matthews, Tokamak Energy’s Managing Director. “It’s a fantastic endorsement of the strength of our team, technology, and path to commercial fusion energy, combining the spherical tokamak with high temperature superconducting magnets.

“We look forward to working with the DOE on the next steps towards delivering clean, secure, affordable fusion power to the world, addressing the twin challenges of energy security and climate change.”

Tokamak Energy is the only private company with more than 10 years’ experience of designing, building and operating tokamaks. It already has strong links with U.S. national laboratories, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as the University of Illinois.

In addition, Tokamak Energy and General Atomics (GA) announced they have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate in the area of high temperature superconducting technology for fusion energy and other applications in fields such as aviation, naval, space and medical.

Tokamak Energy is the first private fusion company to reach a plasma ion temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius in its ST40 tokamak, the threshold for commercial fusion. ST40 also achieved the highest triple product by a private company. Triple product is a widely recognized industry measure of plasma density, temperature, and confinement, collectively a key measure of progress on the path to realizing commercial fusion conditions.

Tokamak Energy has previously received seven awards through the U.S. Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) program. The INFUSE program was established in 2019 to accelerate fusion energy development through public-private research partnerships.

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This story was published June 8, 2023.