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  • richardmitnick 8:14 pm on February 15, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Looking Forward to Fusion", , , , MIT Spectrum, Patrick White, SPARC   

    From MIT Spectrum: “Looking Forward to Fusion” 

    MIT Widget

    From MIT Spectrum

    Winter 2019

    1
    Patrick White (photographed in the Plasma Science and Fusion Center) is focused on the policy questions that will arise from the new SPARC technology. Photo: Bryce Vickmark

    Technical policy scholar Patrick White joins the SPARC project to ask: what comes after success?

    Controlled fusion power has been a tantalizing prospect for decades, promising a source of endless carbon-free energy for the world. Unfortunately, persistent technical challenges have kept that achievement on an ever-receding horizon. But recent developments in materials science and superconductivity have changed the landscape. The proposed SPARC experiment of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC), in collaboration with the private, MIT alumni-led company Commonwealth Fusion Systems, is poised to use those breakthroughs to build the first fusion device that generates more energy than it consumes, bringing commercial fusion energy within practical reach in the near future.

    MIT SPARC fusion reactor tokamak

    Patrick White, a PhD candidate in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE), is looking ahead to that long-awaited day. His PhD project, funded by the Samuel W. Ing (1953) Memorial Fellowship in the NSE department and PSFC, anticipates the many questions that will follow a successful SPARC project and the development of fusion power.

    “How do you commercialize this technology that no one’s ever built before?” he asks. “It’s an opportunity to start from scratch.” White is focusing on the regulatory structures and safety analysis tools that will be necessary to bring fusion power plants out of the laboratory and onto the national power grid.

    He first became fascinated with nuclear science and technology while studying mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. “I think it was the fact that you can take a gram of uranium and release the same energy as several tons worth of coal, or that a single nuclear reactor can power a million homes for 60 years,” he remembers. “That absolutely blew me away.” He saw commercial reactor technology up close during an undergraduate summer internship with Westinghouse, and followed that with two summers in Washington, DC, working with the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

    When White came to MIT for graduate work, he joined the MIT Energy Initiative’s major interdisciplinary study, The Future of Nuclear Energy in a Carbon-Constrained World, authoring the regulation and licensing section of the final report (which was subsequently released this past September). He began casting about for a PhD topic around the time the SPARC project was announced.

    The goal of SPARC is to demonstrate net energy from a fusion device in seven years—a key technical milestone that could lead to the construction of a commercially viable power plant scaled up to roughly twice SPARC’s diameter. Because the fusion process produces net energy at extreme temperatures no solid material can withstand, fusion researchers use magnetic fields to keep the hot plasma from coming into contact with the device’s chamber. Currently, the team building SPARC is refining the superconducting magnet technology that will be central to its operation. Already familiar with the regulatory and safety framework that’s been developed over decades of commercial fission reactor operation, White immediately began considering the challenges of regulating an entirely new potential technology that hasn’t yet been invented. One concern in the fusion community, he notes, is that “before we even have a final plant design, the regulatory system could make the ultimate device too expensive or too cumbersome to actually operate. So we’ll be looking at existing nuclear and non-nuclear industries, how they think about safety and regulation, and trying to come up with a pathway that makes the most sense for this new technology.”

    His PhD project proposal on the regulation of commercial fusion plants was selected by the PSFC for funding, and he got down to work in fall 2018 under three advisors: Zach Hartwig PhD ’14, the John C. Hardwick Assistant Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering; assistant professor Koroush Shirvan SM ’10, PhD ’13; and Dennis Whyte, director of PSFC and the Hitachi America Professor of Engineering.

    White’s career plans beyond the fellowship remain flexible: he notes that whether he ends up working with the licensing of advanced fission reactors or in the new world of commercial fusion power will depend on the technology itself, and how SPARC and other experimental projects evolve. Another possibility is bridging the communications gap between the nuclear industry and a public that’s often apprehensive about nuclear technology: “At the end of the day, if people refuse to have it built in their backyard, you’ve got a great device that can’t actually do any good.”

    For now, White’s fellowship is not only laying the groundwork for his own future, but also perhaps the future of what would be one of the greatest technological advances of humankind. He points out that the stakes are higher than simply developing a new energy technology. “If we’re really concerned about climate change and decarbonizing, we need to have every single tool on the table,” he says. “The more tools, the better.”

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 12:50 pm on December 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , SPARC   

    From MIT News: “On the right path to fusion energy” 

    MIT News
    MIT Widget

    From MIT News

    December 21, 2018
    Peter Dunn

    1
    A fusion power plant could provide clean, carbon-free energy with an essentially unlimited fuel supply. From the point of view of electrical power generation, the fusion device is just another heat source that could be used in a conventional thermal conversion cycle. Image courtesy of PSFC, adapted from Wikimedia Commons.

    A new report on the development of fusion as an energy source, written at the request of the U.S. Secretary of Energy, proposes adoption of a national fusion strategy that closely aligns with the course charted in recent years by MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) and privately funded Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), a recent MIT spinout.

    Fusion technology has long held the promise of producing safe, abundant, carbon-free electricity, while struggling to overcome the daunting challenges of creating and harnessing fusion reactions to produce net energy gain. But the Consensus Study Report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine states that magnetic-confinement fusion technology (an MIT focus since the 1970s) is now “sufficiently advanced to propose a path to demonstrate fusion generated energy within the next several decades.”

    It recommends continued U.S. participation in the international ITER fusion facility project and “a national program of accompanying research and technology leading to the construction of a compact pilot plant that produces electricity from fusion at the lowest possible capital cost.”

    ITER Tokamak in Saint-Paul-lès-Durance, which is in southern France

    That approach (which the report says would require up to $200 million in additional annual funding for several decades) leverages opportunities presented by new-generation superconducting magnets, reactor materials, simulators, and other relevant technologies. Of particular emphasis from the committee is the advances in high-temperature superconducting magnets which can access higher fields and smaller machines. The report recommends a U.S. program to prove out high-field large-bore magnets. They are seen as enabling faster and less-costly cycles of learning and development than extremely large experiments like ITER, which will not come on line until 2025, while still benefitting from the knowledge that emerges from those programs.

    This smaller-faster-cheaper approach is embodied in the SPARC reactor concept, which was developed at the PSFC and forms the foundation of CFS’s aggressive effort to demonstrate energy-gain fusion by the mid-2020s and produce practical reactor designs by the early 2030s.

    MIT SPARC fusion reactor tokamak

    This approach is based on the similar conclusion that high-field high-temperature magnets represent a game-changing technology. A $30 million program between CFS and MIT to demonstrate the high-field large bore superconducting magnets is underway at MIT and is a key step to a compact fusion energy system. Despite a handful of other privately funded fusion companies having offered roughly comparable timelines, the National Academies report does not envision demonstration fusion reactors appearing until the 2050 time frame.

    The report also affirms that the scientific underpinnings of the tokamak approach have been strengthened over the previous decade, giving increasing confidence that this approach, which is the basis of ITER and SPARC, is capable of achieving net energy gain and forming the basis for a power plant. Based on this increased confidence the committee recommends moving forward with technology developments for a pilot power plant that would put power on the grid.

    “The National Academies are a very thoughtful organization, and they’re typically very conservative,” says Bob Mumgaard, chief executive officer of CFS. “We’re glad to see them come out with a message that it’s time to move into fusion, and that compact and economical is the way to go. We think development should go faster, but it gives validation to people who want to tackle the challenge and lays out things we can do in the U.S. that will lead toward putting power on the grid.”

    Andrew Holland, director of the recently formed Fusion Industry Association and Senior Fellow for Energy and Climate at the American Security Project, notes that the report’s authors were charged with creating “a consensus science report that reflects current pathways, and the current pathway is to build ITER and go through the experimental process there, while meanwhile designing a pilot plant, DEMO.”

    Shifting the consensus toward a faster way forward, adds Holland, will require experimental results from companies like CFS. “That’s why it’s notable to have privately funded companies in the U.S. and around the world pursuing the scientific results that will bear this out. And it’s certainly important that this study is aimed at getting the government-based science community to think about a strategic plan. It should be seen as part of a starting gun for the fusion community coming together and organizing its own process.”

    Or, as Martin Greenwald, deputy director of the PSFC and a veteran fusion researcher, puts it, “There’s a tendency in our community to argue about a 20-year plan or a 30-year plan, but we don’t want to take our eyes off what we need to do in the next three to five years. We might not have consensus on the long scale, but we need one for what to do now, and that’s been the consistent message since we announced the SPARC project — engaging the broader community and taking the initiative.

    “The key thing to us is that if fusion is going to have an impact on climate change, we need answers quickly, we can’t wait until the end of century, and that’s driving the schedule. The private money that’s coming in helps, but public funding should engage with and complement that. Each side has an appropriate role. National labs don’t build power plants, and private companies don’t do basic research.”

    While several approaches to fusion are being pursued in public and private organizations, the National Academies report focuses exclusively on magnetic confinement technology. This reflects the report’s role in the Department of Energy’s response to a 2016 Congressional request for information on U.S. participation in ITER, a magnetic-confinement project. The report committee’s 19 experts, who conducted two years of research, were also charged with exploring related questions of “how best to advance the fusion sciences in the U.S.” and “the scientific justification and needs for strengthening the foundations for realizing fusion energy given a potential choice of U.S. participation or not in the ITER project.”

    The report’s publication comes at a time of renewed activity and interest in fusion energy, with some 20 private companies pursuing its development, increased funding in the most recent federal budget, and the formation of the Fusion Industry Association to advocate for the community as a whole. But the report cautions that “the absence of a long-term research strategy for the United States is particularly evident when compared to the plans of our international partners.”

    That situation may be evolving. “We had a very nice meeting of stakeholders a month and a half ago in DC, and there was a lot of resonance among private companies, the research community, the Department of Energy, and Congressional staffers from both parties,” says Greenwald. “It seems like there’s momentum, though we don’t know yet just what form it will take.” He adds that the establishment of an industry association is very helpful for navigating and communicating in Washington.

    “We would love to see the government have a role in things that lift all fusion companies, like advanced materials labs, the process of extracting heat from reactors, additive manufacturing, simulations, and other tools,” says Mumgaard. “There are many opportunities for collaboration and cooperation; every company will have a different mix of partnerships, even on personnel exchange as we do with MIT.”

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 9:33 am on October 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , SPARC   

    From MIT: “A new path to solving a longstanding fusion challenge” 

    MIT News
    MIT Widget

    From MIT News

    October 9, 2018
    David L. Chandler

    1
    The ARC conceptual design for a compact, high magnetic field fusion power plant. The design now incorporates innovations from the newly published research to handle heat exhaust from the plasma. ARC rendering by Alexander Creely

    2
    The ARC conceptual design for a compact, high magnetic field fusion power plant. Numbered components are as follows: 1. plasma; 2. The newly designed divertor; 3. copper trim coils; 4. High-temperature superconductor (HTS) poloidal field coils, used to shape the plasma in the divertor; 5. FLiBe blanket, a liquid material that collects heat from emitted neutrons; 6. HTS toroidal field coils, which shape the main plasma torus; 7. HTS central solenoid; 8. vacuum vessel; 9. FLiBe tank; 10. joints in toroidal field coils, which can be opened to allow for access to the interior. ARC rendering by Alexander Creely

    Novel design could help shed excess heat in next-generation fusion power plants.

    A class exercise at MIT, aided by industry researchers, has led to an innovative solution to one of the longstanding challenges facing the development of practical fusion power plants: how to get rid of excess heat that would cause structural damage to the plant.

    The new solution was made possible by an innovative approach to compact fusion reactors, using high-temperature superconducting magnets. This method formed the basis for a massive new research program launched this year at MIT and the creation of an independent startup company to develop the concept. The new design, unlike that of typical fusion plants, would make it possible to open the device’s internal chamber and replace critical comonents; this capability is essential for the newly proposed heat-draining mechanism.

    The new approach is detailed in a paper in the journal Fusion Engineering and Design, authored by Adam Kuang, a graduate student from that class, along with 14 other MIT students, engineers from Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories and Commonwealth Fusion Systems, and Professor Dennis Whyte, director of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, who taught the class.

    In essence, Whyte explains, the shedding of heat from inside a fusion plant can be compared to the exhaust system in a car. In the new design, the “exhaust pipe” is much longer and wider than is possible in any of today’s fusion designs, making it much more effective at shedding the unwanted heat. But the engineering needed to make that possible required a great deal of complex analysis and the evaluation of many dozens of possible design alternatives.

    Taming fusion plasma

    Fusion harnesses the reaction that powers the sun itself, holding the promise of eventually producing clean, abundant electricity using a fuel derived from seawater — deuterium, a heavy form of hydrogen, and lithium — so the fuel supply is essentially limitless. But decades of research toward such power-producing plants have still not led to a device that produces as much power as it consumes, much less one that actually produces a net energy output.

    Earlier this year, however, MIT’s proposal for a new kind of fusion plant — along with several other innovative designs being explored by others — finally made the goal of practical fusion power seem within reach.

    MIT SPARC fusion reactor tokamak

    But several design challenges remain to be solved, including an effective way of shedding the internal heat from the super-hot, electrically charged material, called plasma, confined inside the device.

    Most of the energy produced inside a fusion reactor is emitted in the form of neutrons, which heat a material surrounding the fusing plasma, called a blanket. In a power-producing plant, that heated blanket would in turn be used to drive a generating turbine. But about 20 percent of the energy is produced in the form of heat in the plasma itself, which somehow must be dissipated to prevent it from melting the materials that form the chamber.

    No material is strong enough to withstand the heat of the plasma inside a fusion device, which reaches temperatures of millions of degrees, so the plasma is held in place by powerful magnets that prevent it from ever coming into direct contact with the interior walls of the donut-shaped fusion chamber. In typical fusion designs, a separate set of magnets is used to create a sort of side chamber to drain off excess heat, but these so-called divertors are insufficient for the high heat in the new, compact plant.

    One of the desirable features of the ARC design is that it would produce power in a much smaller device than would be required from a conventional reactor of the same output. But that means more power confined in a smaller space, and thus more heat to get rid of.

    “If we didn’t do anything about the heat exhaust, the mechanism would tear itself apart,” says Kuang, who is the lead author of the paper, describing the challenge the team addressed — and ultimately solved.

    Inside job

    In conventional fusion reactor designs, the secondary magnetic coils that create the divertor lie outside the primary ones, because there is simply no way to put these coils inside the solid primary coils. That means the secondary coils need to be large and powerful, to make their fields penetrate the chamber, and as a result they are not very precise in how they control the plasma shape.

    But the new MIT-originated design, known as ARC (for advanced, robust, and compact) features magnets built in sections so they can be removed for service. This makes it possible to access the entire interior and place the secondary magnets inside the main coils instead of outside. With this new arrangement, “just by moving them closer [to the plasma] they can be significantly reduced in size,” says Kuang.

    In the one-semester graduate class 22.63 (Principles of Fusion Engineering), students were divided into teams to address different aspects of the heat rejection challenge. Each team began by doing a thorough literature search to see what concepts had already been tried, then they brainstormed to come up with multiple concepts and gradually eliminated those that didn’t pan out. Those that had promise were subjected to detailed calculations and simulations, based, in part, on data from decades of research on research fusion devices such as MIT’s Alcator C-Mod, which was retired two years ago. C-Mod scientist Brian LaBombard also shared insights on new kinds of divertors, and two engineers from Mitsubishi worked with the team as well. Several of the students continued working on the project after the class ended, ultimately leading to the solution described in this new paper. The simulations demonstrated the effectiveness of the new design they settled on.

    “It was really exciting, what we discovered,” Whyte says. The result is divertors that are longer and larger, and that keep the plasma more precisely controlled. As a result, they can handle the expected intense heat loads.

    “You want to make the ‘exhaust pipe’ as large as possible,” Whyte says, explaining that the placement of the secondary magnets inside the primary ones makes that possible. “It’s really a revolution for a power plant design,” he says. Not only do the high-temperature superconductors used in the ARC design’s magnets enable a compact, high-powered power plant, he says, “but they also provide a lot of options” for optimizing the design in different ways — including, it turns out, this new divertor design.

    Going forward, now that the basic concept has been developed, there is plenty of room for further development and optimization, including the exact shape and placement of these secondary magnets, the team says. The researchers are working on further developing the details of the design.

    “This is opening up new paths in thinking about divertors and heat management in a fusion device,” Whyte says.

    “All of the ARC work has been both eye-opening and stimulating of new ways of looking at tokamak fusion reactors,” says Bruce Lipschultz, a professor of physics at the University of York, in the U.K., who was not involved in this work. This latest paper, he says, “incorporates new ideas in the field with the many other significant improvements in the tokamak concept. … The ARC study of the extended leg divertor concept shows that the application to a reactor is not impossible, as others have contended.”

    Lipschultz adds that this is “very high-quality research that shows a way forward for the tokamak reactor and stimulates new research elsewhere.”

    The team included MIT graduate students Norman Cao, Alexander Creely, Cody Dennett, Jake Hecla, Brian LaBombard, Roy Tinguely, Elizabeth Tolman, H. Hoffman, Maximillian Major, Juan Ruiz Ruiz, Daniel Brunner, and Brian Sorbom, and Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories engineers P. Grover and C. Laughman. The work was supported by MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 4:32 pm on March 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , SPARC   

    From MIT: “MIT and newly formed company launch novel approach to fusion power” 

    MIT News

    MIT Widget

    MIT News

    March 9, 2018
    David Chandler

    1
    Visualization of the proposed SPARC tokamak experiment. Using high-field magnets built with newly available high-temperature superconductors, this experiment would be the first controlled fusion plasma to produce net energy output. Visualization by Ken Filar, PSFC research affiliate.

    Goal is for research to produce a working pilot plant within 15 years.

    Progress toward the long-sought dream of fusion power — potentially an inexhaustible and zero-carbon source of energy — could be about to take a dramatic leap forward.

    Development of this carbon-free, combustion-free source of energy is now on a faster track toward realization, thanks to a collaboration between MIT and a new private company, Commonwealth Fusion Systems. CFS will join with MIT to carry out rapid, staged research leading to a new generation of fusion experiments and power plants based on advances in high-temperature superconductors — work made possible by decades of federal government funding for basic research.

    CFS is announcing today that it has attracted an investment of $50 million in support of this effort from the Italian energy company Eni. In addition, CFS continues to seek the support of additional investors. CFS will fund fusion research at MIT as part of this collaboration, with an ultimate goal of rapidly commercializing fusion energy and establishing a new industry.

    “This is an important historical moment: Advances in superconducting magnets have put fusion energy potentially within reach, offering the prospect of a safe, carbon-free energy future,” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “As humanity confronts the rising risks of climate disruption, I am thrilled that MIT is joining with industrial allies, both longstanding and new, to run full-speed toward this transformative vision for our shared future on Earth.”

    “Everyone agrees on the eventual impact and the commercial potential of fusion power, but then the question is: How do you get there?” adds Commonwealth Fusion Systems CEO Robert Mumgaard SM ’15, PhD ’15. “We get there by leveraging the science that’s already developed, collaborating with the right partners, and tackling the problems step by step.”

    MIT Vice President for Research Maria Zuber, who has written an op-ed on the importance of this news that appears in today’s Boston Globe, notes that MIT’s collaboration with CFS required concerted effort among people and offices at MIT that support innovation: “We are grateful for the MIT team that worked tirelessly to form this collaboration. Associate Provost Karen Gleason’s leadership was instrumental — as was the creativity, diligence, and care of the Office of the General Counsel, the Office of Sponsored Programs, the Technology Licensing Office, and the MIT Energy Initiative. A great job by all.”

    Superconducting magnets are key

    Fusion, the process that powers the sun and stars, involves light elements, such as hydrogen, smashing together to form heavier elements, such as helium — releasing prodigious amounts of energy in the process. This process produces net energy only at extreme temperatures of hundreds of millions of degrees Celsius, too hot for any solid material to withstand. To get around that, fusion researchers use magnetic fields to hold in place the hot plasma — a kind of gaseous soup of subatomic particles — keeping it from coming into contact with any part of the donut-shaped chamber.

    The new effort aims to build a compact device capable of generating 100 million watts, or 100 megawatts (MW), of fusion power. This device will, if all goes according to plan, demonstrate key technical milestones needed to ultimately achieve a full-scale prototype of a fusion power plant that could set the world on a path to low-carbon energy. If widely disseminated, such fusion power plants could meet a substantial fraction of the world’s growing energy needs while drastically curbing the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global climate change.

    “Today is a very important day for us,” says Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi. “Thanks to this agreement, Eni takes a significant step forward toward the development of alternative energy sources with an ever-lower environmental impact. Fusion is the true energy source of the future, as it is completely sustainable, does not release emissions or long-term waste, and is potentially inexhaustible. It is a goal that we are increasingly determined to reach quickly.”

    CFS will support more than $30 million of MIT research over the next three years through investments by Eni and others. This work will aim to develop the world’s most powerful large-bore superconducting electromagnets — the key component that will enable construction of a much more compact version of a fusion device called a tokamak. The magnets, based on a superconducting material that has only recently become available commercially, will produce a magnetic field four times as strong as that employed in any existing fusion experiment, enabling a more than tenfold increase in the power produced by a tokamak of a given size.

    Conceived at PSFC

    The project was conceived by researchers from MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, led by PSFC Director Dennis Whyte, Deputy Director Martin Greenwald, and a team that grew to include representatives from across MIT, involving disciplines from engineering to physics to architecture to economics. The core PSFC team included Mumgaard, Dan Brunner PhD ’13, and Brandon Sorbom PhD ’17 — all now leading CFS — as well as Zach Hartwig PhD ’14, now an assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT.

    Once the superconducting electromagnets are developed by researchers at MIT and CFS — expected to occur within three years — MIT and CFS will design and build a compact and powerful fusion experiment, called SPARC, using those magnets. The experiment will be used for what is expected to be a final round of research enabling design of the world’s first commercial power-producing fusion plants.

    SPARC is designed to produce about 100 MW of heat. While it will not turn that heat into electricity, it will produce, in pulses of about 10 seconds, as much power as is used by a small city. That output would be more than twice the power used to heat the plasma, achieving the ultimate technical milestone: positive net energy from fusion.

    This demonstration would establish that a new power plant of about twice SPARC’s diameter, capable of producing commercially viable net power output, could go ahead toward final design and construction. Such a plant would become the world’s first true fusion power plant, with a capacity of 200 MW of electricity, comparable to that of most modern commercial electric power plants. At that point, its implementation could proceed rapidly and with little risk, and such power plants could be demonstrated within 15 years, say Whyte, Greenwald, and Hartwig.

    Complementary to ITER

    The project is expected to complement the research planned for a large international collaboration called ITER, currently under construction as the world’s largest fusion experiment at a site in southern France.

    ITER Tokamak in Saint-Paul-lès-Durance, which is in southern France

    If successful, ITER is expected to begin producing fusion energy around 2035.

    “Fusion is way too important for only one track,” says Greenwald, who is a senior research scientist at PSFC.

    By using magnets made from the newly available superconducting material — a steel tape coated with a compound called yttrium-barium-copper oxide (YBCO) — SPARC is designed to produce a fusion power output about a fifth that of ITER, but in a device that is only about 1/65 the volume, Hartwig says. The ultimate benefit of the YBCO tape, he adds, is that it drastically reduces the cost, timeline, and organizational complexity required to build net fusion energy devices, enabling new players and new approaches to fusion energy at university and private company scale.

    The way these high-field magnets slash the size of plants needed to achieve a given level of power has repercussions that reverberate through every aspect of the design. Components that would otherwise be so large that they would have to be manufactured on-site could instead be factory-built and trucked in; ancillary systems for cooling and other functions would all be scaled back proportionately; and the total cost and time for design and construction would be drastically reduced.

    “What you’re looking for is power production technologies that are going to play nicely within the mix that’s going to be integrated on the grid in 10 to 20 years,” Hartwig says. “The grid right now is moving away from these two- or three-gigawatt monolithic coal or fission power plants. The range of a large fraction of power production facilities in the U.S. is now is in the 100 to 500 megawatt range. Your technology has to be amenable with what sells to compete robustly in a brutal marketplace.”

    Because the magnets are the key technology for the new fusion reactor, and because their development carries the greatest uncertainties, Whyte explains, work on the magnets will be the initial three-year phase of the project — building upon the strong foundation of federally funded research conducted at MIT and elsewhere. Once the magnet technology is proven, the next step of designing the SPARC tokamak is based on a relatively straightforward evolution from existing tokamak experiments, he says.

    “By putting the magnet development up front,” says Whyte, the Hitachi America Professor of Engineering and head of MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, “we think that this gives you a really solid answer in three years, and gives you a great amount of confidence moving forward that you’re giving yourself the best possible chance of answering the key question, which is: Can you make net energy from a magnetically confined plasma?”

    The research project aims to leverage the scientific knowledge and expertise built up over decades of government-funded research — including MIT’s work, from 1971 to 2016, with its Alcator C-Mod experiment, as well as its predecessors — in combination with the intensity of a well-funded startup company. Whyte, Greenwald, and Hartwig say that this approach could greatly shorten the time to bring fusion technology to the marketplace — while there’s still time for fusion to make a real difference in climate change.

    MITEI participation

    Commonwealth Fusion Systems is a private company and will join the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) as part of a new university-industry partnership built to carry out this plan. The collaboration between MITEI and CFS is expected to bolster MIT research and teaching on the science of fusion, while at the same time building a strong industrial partner that ultimately could be positioned to bring fusion power to real-world use.

    “MITEI has created a new membership specifically for energy startups, and CFS is the first company to become a member through this new program,” says MITEI Director Robert Armstrong, the Chevron Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT. “In addition to providing access to the significant resources and capabilities of the Institute, the membership is designed to expose startups to incumbent energy companies and their vast knowledge of the energy system. It was through their engagement with MITEI that Eni, one of MITEI’s founding members, became aware of SPARC’s tremendous potential for revolutionizing the energy system.”

    Energy startups often require significant research funding to further their technology to the point where new clean energy solutions can be brought to market. Traditional forms of early-stage funding are often incompatible with the long lead times and capital intensity that are well-known to energy investors.

    “Because of the nature of the conditions required to produce fusion reactions, you have to start at scale,” Greenwald says. “That’s why this kind of academic-industry collaboration was essential to enable the technology to move forward quickly. This is not like three engineers building a new app in a garage.”

    Most of the initial round of funding from CFS will support collaborative research and development at MIT to demonstrate the new superconducting magnets. The team is confident that the magnets can be successfully developed to meet the needs of the task. Still, Greenwald adds, “that doesn’t mean it’s a trivial task,” and it will require substantial work by a large team of researchers. But, he points out, others have built magnets using this material, for other purposes, which had twice the magnetic field strength that will be required for this reactor. Though these high-field magnets were small, they do validate the basic feasibility of the concept.

    In addition to its support of CFS, Eni has also announced an agreement with MITEI to fund fusion research projects run out of PSFC’s Laboratory for Innovation in Fusion Technologies. The expected investment in these research projects amounts to about $2 million in the coming years.

    “Conservative physics”

    SPARC is an evolution of a tokamak design that has been studied and refined for decades. This included work at MIT that began in the 1970s, led by professors Bruno Coppi and Ron Parker, who developed the kind of high-magnetic-field fusion experiments that have been operated at MIT ever since, setting numerous fusion records.

    “Our strategy is to use conservative physics, based on decades of work at MIT and elsewhere,” Greenwald says. “If SPARC does achieve its expected performance, my sense is that’s sort of a Kitty Hawk moment for fusion, by robustly demonstrating net power, in a device that scales to a real power plant.”

    See the full article here .

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    MIT Seal

    The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

    MIT Campus

     
  • richardmitnick 6:40 am on August 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: CAST, , SPARC,   

    From U Arkansas: “NSF Continues Support for Program in Spatial Archaeometry” 

    U Arkansas bloc

    University of Arkansas

    Aug. 30, 2017
    Rachel Opitz,
    Spatial Archaeometry Research Collaborations
    Center For Advanced Spatial Technologies
    479-575-6159
    rachel.opitz@glasgow.ac.uk

    [Finally something good to say about the NSF.]

    1
    Researchers Katie Simon and Jennie Sturm use the SIR 3000 with 400 MHz antennas to map an iron metalworking site in western Oman. Photo Submitted

    The National Science Foundation has renewed funding for the Spatial Archaeometry Research Collaborations program, an initiative through the University of Arkansas, Dartmouth College and the University of Glasgow that acts as a national hub for geospatial research in archaeology.

    The $158,762 grant allows the SPARC program to continue to provide research and technical expertise to archaeological research projects working with a variety of technologies, including 3-D survey and modeling, geospatial analysis and visualization, and geophysical and airborne remote-sensing. In 2017-2018 the SPARC team plans to focus on analytical and publication projects.

    The SPARC program was created by the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies and the Archaeo-Imaging Laboratory with a $250,000 grant from the NSF in 2013. The program offers direct support to archaeological projects through awards in fieldwork, data and analytics, and publication. In addition to collaborating on research projects directly, SPARC helps researchers learn about the latest technologies and their archaeological applications through residencies at the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies or through online resources and periodic webinars.

    For many decades, space has been viewed as one of the central dimensions of archaeological study, from artifacts to landscapes, and SPARC supports a wide variety of collaborators and projects around the world. Researchers at the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies have collaborated on 29 projects worldwide, including working with the Cameron Monroe, University of California-Santa Cruz, to document and study the standing architecture and sub-surface archaeology at San Souci in Haiti; with Nick Carter and colleagues at Harvard University to analyze relationships between terrain, routeways, and evolving settlement patterns in the Five Lands region during the Classic period of Maya culture history; and with Krysta Ryzewski, Wayne State University, and John Cherry, Brown University, to use airborne lidar to map potential cultural landscape features and other anomalies in the Centre Hills region of Montserrat.

    A full list and complete descriptions of recent awards can be found on the SPARC website.

    About the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies: The Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies is a multidisciplinary center for spatial research and technology housed within the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas. Established in 1991, CAST offers students, faculty, and the public opportunities to learn about the various applications of geographic information systems. CAST investigators span the social and physical sciences with expertise in the measurement and analysis of spatially referenced, multi-scalar data and processes, and are funded primarily through external sponsorships. More information about CAST can be found at http://cast.uark.edu/. For ongoing news, follow CAST on Facebook and Twitter.

    See the full article here .

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    U Arkansas campus

    The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.

     
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