ARPA-E is making up to $30 million in funding available (DE-FOA-0001184) for a new program: Accelerating Low-cost Plasma Heating and Assembly (ALPHA). ALPHA seeks to support innovative R&D on low-cost tools to aid in the future development of fusion power.
The program will focus on intermediate-density fusion approaches between low-density, magnetically confined plasmas and high-density, inertially confined plasmas. ARPA-E’s goal is to create a toolset to enable rapid learning through high shot rate at low cost-per-shot to catalyze the creation of new, low-cost paths to fusion power, with a focus on approaches to produce plasmas in the final density range of 1018-1023 ions/cm3 (at Lawson conditions).
In the background to the ALPHA concept paper, ARAP-E noted that to date, the largest fusion research efforts have focused on magnetic confinement of plasmas at densities of approximately 1014 ions/cm3 and on inertial confinement of plasmas at densities exceeding 1025 ions/cm3.
Advances in scientific understanding and engineering of high energy density plasmas resulting from these research campaigns have been remarkable, but the ultimate goal of self-sustaining, controlled, thermonuclear fusion remains elusive. This reflects the extraordinary technical challenges of high energy plasma physics, which are compounded by the high cost of fusion research. In this FOA, ARPA-E pursues focused investments to develop tools for fusion approaches in the intermediate density regime, between 1018-1023 ions/cm3. This intermediate density regime has been highlighted in recent analyses as a potential low-cost route to fusion power, and because it sits between the operating densities of pure magnetic confinement and inertial confinement, developments in this regime will complement mainline fusion programs.
The deadline to submit a Concept Paper for ALPHA is 5 p.m. ET on October 14, 2014.