The US Department of Energy has announced $30 million in funding for new research on fusion energy.

The funding includes $17 million for research focused on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) approaches for prediction of key plasma phenomena, facility operations, and accelerated discovery through data science, among other topics.

An additional $13 million will be devoted to fundamental fusion theory research, including computer modelling and simulation. This will focus focused on factors affecting the behaviour of hot plasmas confined by magnetic fields in fusion reactors.  

“Recent advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies can bring new, transformative approaches to tackling fusion energy theories and challenges,” said US Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette.

“The research funded under these initiatives will be integral to overcoming important barriers to the development of fusion as a practical energy source.”

US national laboratories, universities, non-profit organisations, and private sector companies, working either singly or with multiple institutional partners, can apply for the AI/ML funding.  

Total funding planned for the programme is $17 million for projects of two to three years in duration. Some $7 million is expected to be available in FY 2020, with out-year funding subject to congressional appropriations.

Applications for the theory funding are open to universities, non-profit organisations and private sector companies, DOE said. The $13 million of planned funding is expected to be in the form of three-year grants. Again, up to $7 million is planned for FY 2020.

In February, DOE announced up to $50 million in cross-cutting departmental funding for programmes to support fusion energy research and development.