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UC San Diego is Part of DOE Grant to Establish Inertial Fusion Energy Hub

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The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded a four-year, $16 million grant to a multi-institutional team led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and including the University of California San Diego to establish a national Inertial Fusion Energy (IFE) Science & Technology Accelerated Research for Fusion Innovation & Reactor Engineering (STARFIRE) Hub.  

This IFE hub will accelerate demonstration of high-gain target designs, target manufacturing and engagement and diode-pumped solid state laser technologies, with development of these technologies guided through an IFE-plant modeling framework. The project will also begin developing the workforce of the future for IFE through partnerships with leading universities and innovative new curriculum development and implementation.

“The achievement of ignition at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) provides fresh impetus and the scientific foundation for IFE,” said LLNL IFE Institutional Initiative Lead Tammy Ma, principal investigator for the IFE Hub and a Ph.D. alumna of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. “This represents the re-establishment of the public U.S. IFE program, and we are incredibly excited to bring together an excellent team to advance fusion energy, in synergy with our stewardship mission.”

At UC San Diego, Farhat Beg, director of the Center for  Matter under Extreme Conditions, and a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, will be part of a team focusing on building a curriculum for both master’s and Ph.D. students. Beg was Ma’s Ph.D. adviser. Several UC San Diego students will also work with LLNL researchers on various inertial fusion energy projects. 

“This grant is a step towards putting  inertial fusion energy on the grid and will enable a team of experts to address scientific and engineering challenges,” Beg said. 

Supported by the DOE Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (FES), this project will establish the foundational S&T for a broad range of laser-based inertial fusion approaches, help cement synergistic partnerships between FES and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) on IFE, and support DOE’s public-private partnership Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program for the commercialization of fusion energy. The STARFIRE Hub will accelerate development of IFE and help solidify U.S. leadership in this critical energy technology of the future by bringing together and applying the extensive capabilities, expertise and knowledge developed over the past decades with forefront R&D in an inclusive and collaborative manner to support the entire community. 

The Hub consists of members from seven universities, four U.S. national labs, one international lab, three commercial entities, one philanthropic organization and three private IFE companies. In addition to researchers from LLNL, other participants include General Atomics; UC San Diego; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Los Angeles; University of Rochester; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; University of Oklahoma; Texas A&M University; Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology; TRUMPF Inc.; Leonardo Electronics US Inc.; the Livermore Lab Foundation; SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Savannah River National Laboratory; Xcimer Energy; Focused Energy Inc.; and Longview Fusion Energy Systems.

The LLNL-led Hub is one of three projects totaling $42 million in funding selected via competitive peer review under the DOE Funding Opportunity Announcement for Inertial Fusion Energy Science & Technology Accelerated Research (IFE-STAR), announced at LLNL’s Ignition Celebration by Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm.

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