US DOE announces funding for stellarator research

15 June 2021

The US Department of Energy (DOE) on 8 June announced $6.4 million in funding for US scientists to carry out seven research projects at two major fusion energy facilities located in Germany and Japan. These collaborations enable US researchers to explore critical science and technology issues at the frontiers of magnetic fusion research using the unique capabilities of the most advanced overseas research facilities.

The research projects will be carried out at two fusion facilities with stellarators - an alternative approach to the tokamak fusion reactor design that dominates magnetic fusion research in the US and globally. The two facilities, Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) in Germany and the Large Helical Device (LHD) in Japan, are respectively the largest and second largest superconducting stellarator facilities in the world. Compared with tokamaks, stellarators have the advantage of providing continuous operation without damaging plasma disruptions and with low recirculating power requirements.

“The early success of W7-X has demonstrated the ability to optimise stellarators for performance, reliability, and simplicity” said James Van Dam, DOE Associate Director of Science for Fusion Energy Sciences (FES). “These awards will help us assess whether stellarators are a viable option for a future fusion pilot plant.”

The funded projects at W7-X will continue the major US collaboration with Germany, advance understanding of magnetic confinement, and address research priorities critical to the W7-X mission. Projects include studying ion-heat transport within heated plasmas, developing improved methods to measure electric fields and turbulence, and investigating equilibrium stability and control to improve plasma confinement.

The projects were selected by competitive peer review under the DOE Funding Opportunity Announcement for Collaborative Research in Magnetic Fusion Energy Sciences on Long-Pulse International Stellarator Facilities. The funding is for projects lasting up to three years in duration, with $1.6 million in outyear funding contingent on congressional appropriations. 

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