The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy has announced recipients of its $32 million BETHE (Breakthroughs Enabling THermonuclear-fusion Energy) program. This program is the successor to the ALPHA program, which successfully demonstrated that there was a pathway towards lower-cost fusion development. ASP supports greater investment into fusion energy research, and the ARPA-E fusion programs have been very successful since they began in 2015 in accelerating fusion energy.
The awards were broken into three parts, with to accelerate fusion energy development towards a goal of getting fusion power within two decades:
- Concept Development to advance the performance of inherently lower-cost but less-mature fusion concepts
- Component Technology Development to significantly reduce the capital cost of higher-cost, more-mature fusion concepts;
- Capability Teams that can apply existing capabilities (including theory/modeling, machine learning, and diagnostics) to accelerate the development of multiple concepts.
Notable companies involved in these three areas include members of the Fusion Industry Association, affiliated with ASP. Zap Energy, which received $1 million to upgrade their experiment toward breakeven conditions; Commonwealth Fusion Systems, which received $2.4 million to design a new fast-ramping, high-temperature-superconducting (HTS) central solenoid (CS) for tokamak power plants and was a part of a team with the University of Wisconsin that received $5 million to demonstrate a potentially transformative development path toward a low-cost linear fusion device; HyperJet Fusion, which is part of a team with Los Alamos National Lab that will develop and perform integrated liner-on-target compression experiments of a magnetized target plasma; and General Fusion, which was a part of a team with Sapientai of Austin, Texas to apply machine learning and artificial intelligence to accelerate the development of fusion concepts.
Other notable awards include $1.75 million to the University of Rochester and the Naval Research Lab to test direct-drive inertial fusion energy, $3 million to Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in partnership with SABR Enterprises to design and build rare-earth permanent magnets that can support stellerator development, and $1.5 million to the University of Washington that would support the research by FIA member company CTFusion. The whole list of awards can be found through the ARPA-E website or downloaded here (PDF).