MIT expands fusion collaboration

17 May 2022

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) is to expand its fusion energy research and education activities under a new five-year agreement with MIT spinout company Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS).

PSFC's vision of SPARC (Image: PSFC)

CFS is working to build the SPARC prototype fusion machine which it says will pave the way for a first commercially viable fusion power plant called ARC. The new agreement, administered by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) will help PSFC expand its fusion technology efforts with a wider variety of sponsors, and the collaboration will enable "rapid execution at scale and technology transfer into the commercial sector as soon as possible," according to PSFC.

"This expanded relationship puts MIT and PSFC in a prime position to be an even stronger academic leader that can help deliver the research and education needs of the burgeoning fusion energy industry, in part by utilising the world's first burning plasma and net energy fusion machine, SPARC," PSFC Director Dennis Whyte said. "CFS will build SPARC and develop a commercial fusion product, while MIT PSFC will focus on its core mission of cutting-edge research and education."

The agreement doubles CFS's financial commitment to PSFC and extends a collaboration that has already resulted in numerous advances towards fusion power plants, PSFC said. This includes the demonstration last year of a high-temperature superconducting fusion electromagnet with record-setting field strength of 20 tesla.

SPARC is described by PSFC as a compact, high-field, net fusion energy device which would be the size of existing mid-sized fusion devices, but with a much stronger magnetic field. It is predicted to produce 50-100 MW of fusion power, achieving fusion gain greater than 10.

"To address the climate crisis, the world needs to deploy existing clean energy solutions as widely and as quickly as possible, while at the same time developing new technologies - and our goal is that those new technologies will include fusion power," said Maria Zuber, MIT's vice president for research. "To make new climate solutions a reality, we need focused, sustained collaborations like the one between MIT and Commonwealth Fusion Systems. Delivering fusion power onto the grid is a monumental challenge, and the combined capabilities of these two organisations are what the challenge demands."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News