The UK Inertial Fusion Energy Network

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Physics

Abstract

The UK has played a very significant role in the development of Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) via a combination of curiosity driven academic research and training, scientific and technical activities hosted in national laboratories and through many collaborations with major international partners. The prospect for fusion ignition at the US National Ignition Facility (NIF) has prompted the need to discuss how the UK could capitalise on its (often world leading) expertise in fusion science and technology to develop an Inertial Fusion Energy (IFE) programme. The long term goal of an IFE programme would be to create a technically and commercially viable source of carbon free energy based on thermonuclear fusion, and this is likely to be a demanding undertaking requiring a multi-national effort. In the Magnetic Confinement Fusion (MCF) community such a programme already exists in the UK and has well defined leadership, long term goals, scientific and technical sub-programmes, funding streams and links to international partners and industry. There is currently no equivalent IFE activity in the UK and a key aim of this network will be to develop proposals for a more programmatic approach to IFE research and development, and highlight where the UK is best placed to have major international impact.

Our proposal is to bring together all members of the UK's scientific and industrial communities with an interest in inertial fusion and supporting technologies in a series of well coordinated network activities including focused technical and scientific workshops and large scale community meetings. We will highlight where UK academics, national laboratories and industry are best placed to play world leading roles. A full and open discussion of the short, intermediate and long term goals and potential leadership of IFE activities in the UK will be held, and we will develop a series of strategies for IFE based on future funding scenarios and scientific drivers (e.g. a demonstration of fusion ignition). We will engage in community building and outreach activities that identify opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration (for example with MCF, Generation IV fission and materials research) and reach out to industry to highlight where they too can benefit, for example by partnering with national laboratories to gain access to and help commercialise cutting edge technologies.

Planned Impact

The proposed IFE Network will have a broad range of organisational, technical and scientific impacts across UK academia, national laboratories and small and large scale industries. Its fostering of the UK's involvement in Inertial Fusion Energy (IFE) programmes also holds out the prospect for major societal impact in the longer term, for example through enhanced energy security for the UK and access for UK companies to new technologies and markets. The published outputs of the network (e.g. strategy documents) and strengthened links between academia and the outward facing activities of key national laboratories including AWE Aldermaston will help to inform future research council and government policy on Inertial Fusion Energy. Some of these impacts will occur over the timescale of the network, e.g. by fostering new collaborations and enhancing engagement between the UK academic and industrial communities. Some impacts will potentially occur on the 10-20 year timescale as the development of new low carbon energy sources progresses.

We expect the impact of this network to be both national and international in nature. The network will foster improved collaboration and more efficient working within the UK, for example by identifying synergies and enabling new collaborations linking academic materials research with the demands of IFE, MCF and Gen. IV fission plants. It will highlight where UK activities are best placed to deliver world leading input to major international IFE programmes, for example in collaboration with the US National Ignition Campaign. It will also benefit the UK science base (e.g. in ICF capsule design and manufacture and complex computer simulations) by developing trans-national mechanisms for accessing key data sets generated by our international partners, e.g. at the National Ignition Facility that currently require individual end user agreements.

The IFE network will not directly generate new technical and scientific advances itself. However a key aim of the network will be to highlight the opportunities for UK industry to benefit from academic research and the IP portfolios of national laboratories, and the fostering of new collaborations. The network already has well defined industrial contacts and it will actively seek more. It will help companies to identify and contact potential partners across academia, national laboratories, and between large and small scale industrial concerns who may be unaware of existing expertise and opportunities. There is thus the potential for enhancing the economic competitiveness of the UK, for example in the manufacture of a new generation of high efficiency, high repetition rate laser, which would find many applications beyond drivers for fusion power plants.

Publications

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Dr A E Turrell (BuildingA Star On Earth) (2014) The Journal of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee

 
Description This grant to helped to support the UK Inertial Fusion Energy (IFE) network and is primarily targeted at funding for discussion meetings and community engagement across the UK's academics institutions, National laboratories and industry. It also includes within its remit engagement with key international partners. Funds are directed through and managed by both Imperial College and the University of York. The Imperial component part funds the PI Prof Roland A Smith who helps to direct, coordinate and report on the IFE Network's activities. We highlight that the Network's aims explicitly exclude funding of "new science" and so it will not produce peer reviewed research papers in the way that a "standard" grant would be expected to, although it is administered as a "standard" responsive mode project. Its aim is to develop a consensus and a time line in the UK for development of inertial fusion as an energy source. This includes both links to Magnetic Confinement Fusion and international Inertial Fusion programmes, e.g. at NIF in the US and Laser Megajoule in France.
Exploitation Route Influencing the direction of IFE relevant research in the UK.

Development of national and international collaborative frameworks spanning multiple institutions.

Influencing UK Research Council policy re Inertial Fusion Energy programmes, e.g. in highlighting the value in allowing UK researchers to bid for resources to access major laser facilities in the UK where similar capabilities do not exist in the UK.

Influencing UK Government policy re Inertial Fusion Energy programmes, for example highlighting the often world leading IFE relevant capabilities of AWE Aldermaston, providing a platform for AWE to indicate its interest in supporting IFE which currently lies outside its core business aims as defined by the MoD.

Providing a framework for UK industry to recognise and access IP portfolios being developed as part of IFE relevant research, e.g. in areas such as efficient diode pumped laser systems.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education,Energy,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description Influencing the direction of IFE relevant research in the UK. Development of national and international collaborative frameworks spanning multiple institutions. Influencing UK Research Council policy re Inertial Fusion Energy programmes. For example highlighting the high value for money associated with allowing UK teams to include time on major US facilities such as the Omega laser (U Rochester) in grant proposals. A proposal including this element has since been successful at peer review and received funding to allow a UK team to access a major facility not available in the UK. Contributions to the UK Parliamentary process though attendance at the meetings of the "All-Party Parliamentary Group for Nuclear Fusion". Collaborative proposal from First Light Fusion, Imperial College London and the University of Oxford for a £5.1M EPSRC Propserity Partnership bid to investigate a new rout to Inertial Fusion Energy using projectile impact. Influencing UK Government policy re Inertial Fusion Energy programmes, for example highlighting the often world leading IFE relevant capabilities of AWE Aldermaston, providing a platform for AWE to indicate its interest in supporting IFE which currently lies outside its core business aims as defined by the MoD.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education,Energy,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description All-Party Parliamentary Group for Nuclear Fusion - Meeting 1
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
URL https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmallparty/171108/nuclear-fusion.htm
 
Description All-Party Parliamentary Group for Nuclear Fusion - Meeting 2
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
URL https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmallparty/171108/nuclear-fusion.htm
 
Description Briefing to EPSRC Council on Inertial Fusion Energy Research (4th March 2015)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Membership, UK Fusion Advisory Board
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
URL http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/research/xrcprogrammes/energy/rcukfab/
 
Description Poster presentation on UK IFE to the EPSRC Energy SAC (24th Feb 2015)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description UK IFE Network Final Report for EPSRC
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Lawrence Livermore PhD Studentships
Amount $6,300,000 (USD)
Organisation Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 
Sector Public
Country United States
Start 10/2016 
End 03/2021
 
Title UK IFE Community Survey for EPSRC 
Description The aim of this survey is understand more deeply the interests and capabilities of individual researchers, research groups and institutions in the UK who work in fields related to inertial fusion energy (IFE) and how this has evolved over the last three years. The context of this is an EPSRC funded exercise to develop a strategy and roadmap for future IFE and inertial confinement fusion (ICF) related research in the UK and its links to industry and technical spin out, advanced training, high-quality science and collaborations with major international partners. It will provide data to inform decision making by UK research Councils (RCUK, STFC, EPSRC etc), research institutions and UK Government. This survey follows on from a 2012 exercise conducted on behalf of EPSRC's Fusion Advisory Board. Our first study was initiated by the imminent prospect of fusion ignition at the US National Ignition Facility (NIF) and the expectation that this would trigger significant high-level interest and the need to respond rapidly to RCUK and UK Government regarding the UK's capabilities in fusion science and technology. Over the last three years NIF, the world's largest laser facility, has delivered high-power laser light to target with a quality at or above its original design specification, and a broad range of ICF and other physics experiments have been undertaken. A major advance achieved in this period was the first clear laboratory scale demonstration of alpha self heating. This is a regime in which nuclear processes driven by the laser reach the level where the energy they redeposit into the target bootstraps additional fusion reactions and further energy release, a critical step towards net energy gain However, fusion ignition and a demonstration of breakeven energy production has not yet been achieved, highlighting the technical and scientific challenges of IFE. This exercise takes place in the context of a lack of ignition to date on NIF and a challenging financial environment for UK science. This will make the case for a major new UK initiative in IFE or a dedicated experimental facility more difficult to champion. At the same time it highlights the impact that world leading UK science can have in addressing the pressing challenges of IFE, particularly when engaging with major international partners. Input was saught from academics and University groups, National Laboratories and UK industry. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This survey will inform development of a future UK IFE Strategy and be incorporated into a final report for EPSRC. 
 
Description First Light Fusion 
Organisation First Light Fusion Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We run a number of joint PhD projects either fully funded or co-funded by First Light Fusion, investigating the production and interrogation of high energy density plasmas created in ultra-high velocity impacts. We provide access to state of the art plasma and shocked material diagnostics, including collaborative experiments on advanced x-ray and laser light sources. We provide access to advanced laser and pulsed power systems and expertise.
Collaborator Contribution ~£200k PA for 5 years to run a portfolio of PhD studentships and related research activities. Collaborative experiments including access to high velocity impact systems.
Impact Multi disciplinary
Start Year 2016
 
Description Creation of the Popomatic laser demonstration. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Using outreach funding from the UK IFE Network we created a number of demonstrations of high intensity laser applcations, particularly bursting of balloons with a focused laser. The system was engineered to allow for safe use in a wide variety of environemnts including schools, public events, talks, science festivals and laboratory, university and institution open days.

Construction of four "Generation II" popomatics was aided by IK IFE Network funding for a UROP summer student placement (Meriame Berboucha), these units will be hosted by Imeprial College, the University of York, AWE and RAL for future outreach work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017,2018
URL http://meriameberboucha.blogspot.com/
 
Description Pint-Of-Science, Dr Arthur Turrell, "How to build a start on Earth" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A public presentation, discussion and demonstration by Dr Arthur Turrell (Imperial College London) as part of the "Pint of Science" series. Demonstration equipment was provided by the UK IFE Network.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://pintofscience.co.uk/event/star-power/
 
Description Royal Institution Friday evening discourse, Dr Kate Lancaster. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Kate Lancaster (UK IFE Network Coordinator) presented a talk and a series of demonstrations at the Friday evening discourse of the Royal Institution. This included use of a high power laser "Popomatic" demonstration using outreach equipment funded by the IFE Network.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://rigb.org/whats-on/events-2015/april/public-the-extreme-world-of-ultra-intense-lasers
 
Description Royal Institution family talk on lasers, Dr Kate Lancaster 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 300-400 people attended this special Family event (for ages 7+) on lasers at the Royal Institution. Lots of good interaction with children and their parents and received good feedback from audience members. Talk included demonstration of popomatic produced by the IFE network project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition - Heart of the Sun 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition showcases the best of UK science to approximately 15,000 visitors ranging from school children through to senior scientists and policy makers. The UK IFE Network supported the "Heart of the Sun" exhibit, including construction of demonstartion experiments and funding for outreach equipment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://sse.royalsociety.org/2014/heart-of-the-sun/
 
Description School talk at Queen Elizabeth college, Darlington, Dr Kate Lancaster 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Between 50 and 100 members of school and general public attended the event which was a talk about lasers. Post the talk I chatted to the pupils about careers in science. Talk included demonstration of popomatic produced by the IFE network project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Talk about ICF at MCF communicators workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The network reached out the MCF community through Kate's work with the ITER community. Subsequently she was invited to speak about ICF to key members of the EFDA (now EUROfusion) communications network in Lausanne. This raised awareness of the network, the need to work together, and gave them information about spokespeople for the IFE Network
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Talk to school students about lasers at University of York, Dr Kate Lancaster 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 25 students attended talk on lasers during an experiential week held at the University of York. Lots of questions and discussion after the talk. Talk included demonstration of popomatic produced by the IFE network project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017