DOE RFI Enabling Technologies for Improving Fusion Power Plant Performance and Availability.
RFI Enabling Technologies for Improving Fusion Power Plant Performance and Availability
This is a Request for Information (RFI) only. This RFI is not accepting applications for financial assistance. The purpose of this RFI is solely to solicit input for ARPA-E consideration to inform the possible formulation of future programs. The purpose of this RFI is to solicit input for a potential future ARPA-E-funded research program focused on two overarching themes: (A) Improving fusion power plant performance and (B) Increasing fusion power plant availability. ARPA-E identifies and funds applied research and development to translate science into breakthrough energy technologies with large commercial impact. The ALPHA (Accelerating Low-Cost Plasma Heating and Assembly) , BETHE (Breakthroughs Enabling THermonuclear-fusion Energy) , and GAMOW (Galvanizing Advances in Market-Aligned Fusion for an Overabundance of Watts) fusion programs, each contribute to enabling timely, commercially viable thermonuclear fusion energy. However, there remain technological and economic gaps that need to be closed to enable timely demonstration and deployment of fusion energy. To close these gaps, a path forward should include the development of low-cost enabling technologies that improve fusion power plant performance as well as increase plant availability. Improving performance with innovative heating schemes and high-performance targets: For both magnetic fusion energy (MFE) and laser inertial fusion energy (IFE) concepts, increasing the wall-plug efficiency (WPE) of plasma heating systems and lasers, respectively, reduces the required recirculating power and therefore increases the fraction of the fusion power which can be delivered to the grid, thereby reducing the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). An additional challenge for IFE concepts is the need for large quantities (~million/day) of low-cost targets designed for to the chosen laser technology that can survive injection into the target chamber at high velocity. Increasing FPP availability through accelerated discovery of novel fusion materials: Presently, there is no solution for a plasma-facing material that can handle the expected heat, neutron flux, and particle load without significant erosion and melting, requiring periodic replacement at high cost. The development of materials with the ability to survive the harsh reactor environment is essential for cost competitive fusion energy. The economic viability of a FPP is improved significantly with the development of novel structural materials with better reliability and longer life. Structural materials development for FPPs must also require consideration of change in nuclide composition (transmutation) under neutron irradiation. Additionally, some of these newly created nuclides may be radioactive, leading to activation of the material. Autonomous and accelerated discovery of novel materials for FPPs will enable realizing fusion power within a reasonable timeframe. Advancements in enabling technologies in the areas of high-throughput material synthesis and characterization will certainly help with these efforts. Successes in earlier data-driven approaches that fuse high-throughput materials synthesis and characterization with machine learning algorithms and closed-loop discovery automation should be leveraged to reduce the development timeline. To view the RFI in its entirety, please visit https://arpa-e-foa.energy.gov.
November 21, 2022
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