IP Group plc

10/15/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/15/2019 03:29

First Light Fusion Ltd - UKAEA confirms viability of concept at heart of fusion energy reactor design

Fusion island concept unique to First Light Fusion

Project supported by BEIS via Energy Entrepreneurs Fund

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), one of the world's leading centres for fusion energy research, has completed a project designed to establish some of the basic operating parameters of a fusion energy reactor.

Fusion holds the promise of safe, clean and virtually limitless power. It has the potential to transform the world's energy supply if it can be applied successfully to power generation.

The purpose of the project was to establish the viability of an innovative 'fusion island' concept which is uniquely applicable to technology being developed by First Light Fusion, the University of Oxford's fusion spin-out.

The fusion island is a sub-system that converts fusion energy into heat and manages the fuel supply in a fusion power plant. A core requirement for this system is to address the three main challenges of fusion engineering: neutron damage; heat flux; and tritium production.

The project was supported by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) via the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund.

Following more than six months of investigation addressing factors including tritium breeding, corrosion rates and compatible steels, researchers at UKAEA concluded that, fundamentally, the concept is viable.

A further positive outcome of the study is that pure lithium in natural isotope balance meets all requirements for the reactor's liquid wall. This means that First Light will be able to leverage an existing supply chain for this metal rather than relying on materials that lack established distribution channels.

First Light Fusion is planning to demonstrate fusion by the end of 2019. The company plans to demonstrate gain - generating more energy than that required to create fusion reactions - by 2024. No fusion energy project has achieved this yet.

Nick Hawker, Founder and CEO of First Light Fusion said:

'We are delighted with the positive conclusion from this work done with UKAEA, the world leaders in fusion engineering. We have learned a huge amount about the engineering specifics of the system, which we are now taking forward into further work. We are very pleased that BEIS supported this work, which has also given valuable insight into fast breeder reactor technology. It is hard to overstate the importance of being able to make the power plant from existing materials, like natural lithium. This has the potential to bring fusion power to market up to a decade sooner.'

Tim Bestwick, UKAEA Director of Business and Innovation, said:

'UKAEA is very pleased to support First Light Fusion and the rapidly-growing private sector fusion community in this vital mission to deliver zero-carbon energy from fusion.'

For more information please contact:

First Light Fusion +44 (0) 1865 807 670
Gianluca Pisanello, COO
Powerscourt Group
+44 (0) 20 7250 1446
Steve Marinker, Peter Ogden

Editors' Notes

First Light Fusion successfully commissioned Machine 3, their fusion demonstrator, at the end of 2018. Machine 3 is the only pulsed power device of its scale in the world dedicated to researching fusion energy. Machine 3 can discharge up to 200,000 volts and more than 14 million ampere - the equivalent of nearly 500 simultaneous lightning strikes - within two microseconds. The £3.6m machine will use some 3km of high voltage cables and another 10km of diagnostic cables.

Machine 3 is currently used to further research First Light Fusion's technology as the company seeks to demonstrate first fusion in 2019. The following step in the technological development will be to achieve 'gain', whereby the amount of energy created outstrips that used to spark the reaction. No fusion energy project has achieved this yet. Fusion is the ultimate source of the universe's energy and is the same process that powers stars, including the Sun.

First Light uses a high-velocity projectile to create a shockwave to collapse a cavity containing plasma inside a 'target'. The design of these targets is First Light's technical USP.

First Light's approach to fusion, which is safe, clean and virtually limitless (with the source of energy drawn from the deuterium contained in sea water), has the potential to transformthe world's energy supply if it can be applied successfully to power generation. Unlike existing nuclear power, there is no long-lived waste and raw materials can be found in abundance. As demand for alternatives to carbon-based energy grows, mainstream scientists and research institutions are looking to fusion power to answer the world's energy requirements.

UK Atomic Energy Authority

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) researches fusion energy and related technologies, with the aim of positioning the UK as a leader in sustainable nuclear energy. It oversees Britain's fusion programme, headed by the MAST Upgrade (Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak) experiment. It also hosts the world's largest fusion research facility, JET (Joint European Torus), which it operates for European scientists under a contract with the European Commission. Based at Culham Science Centre near Oxford, UKAEA is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

www.gov.uk/ukaea Twitter: @UKAEAofficial

About First Light Fusion

First Light Fusion was founded by Professor Yiannis Ventikos, who is currently the Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department at University College, London, and Dr Nicholas Hawker, formerly an Engineering lecturer at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

The company was spun out from the University of Oxford in July 2011, with seed capital from IP Group plc, Parkwalk Advisors Ltd and private investors. Invesco and OSI provided follow-on capital.

The business has developed from a research-focused university project to a fully-fledged company that has developed not only a strategy for how to make fusion energy work, but also a sustainable business model based on the technology.

The team comprises experts in relevant scientific and engineering fields plus the management experience necessary to address the challenges which lie ahead.

The company has been able to attract a world class advisory board, meaning it can benefit from decades of relevant experience to help it streamline the path towards realising its vision.
www.firstlightfusion.com Twitter: @FLFusion