Feature Story

DOE announces first round of FY21 public-private partnership awards to advance fusion energy

DOE/US Department of Energy

The Department of Energy (DOE) today awarded $2.1 million across 9 collaborative projects between DOE national laboratories and private industry aimed at overcoming challenges in fusion energy development. Fusion energy research seeks to harness the energy that powers the sun and stars as a clean, safe, and abundant source of energy on earth.

Today’s awards are part of the Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) program which was established in 2019 by DOE’s Office of Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) and seeks to accelerate fusion energy development through public-private research partnerships.

“After two successful years of INFUSE, it is clear that the program offers significant benefit to the fusion community,” said James Van Dam, DOE Associate Director for Fusion Energy Sciences. “This new round of funding shows continued interest in the program as new companies continue to apply, looking to leverage the unique expertise and capabilities available at the DOE national laboratory system.”

The funding will provide selected companies with access to the world class expertise and facilities of DOE’s national laboratories, which will equip researchers to address the critical scientific and technological challenges of pursuing fusion energy systems. The INFUSE program selected projects from members of the fusion industry for one- or two-year awards between $50,000 and $500,000 each, with a 20% cost share for industry partners. The awards are subject to a successful negotiation of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between the companies and the partnering DOE National Laboratories.

“Through partnerships with innovators in private industry, these INFUSE projects will accelerate the development of cost-effective fusion energy technologies,” said Dennis Youchison, director of the INFUSE program and a fusion engineer at DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “Many projects are focused on the near-term technologies needed for accelerated fusion reactor development to supplement carbon-free electricity production and combat global climate change.”

The 9 selected projects include representation from 7 private companies, including new participants General Atomics, Microsoft, and Air Squared. Projects will take advantage of INFUSE’s primary areas of focus: enabling fusion technologies; materials; diagnostics; modeling and simulation; and experimental capabilities.

Awardees selected in today’s announcement:

  • Air Squared Inc. (Broomfield, CO): Design, Test, and Evaluation of a Scroll Roughing Vacuum Pump with Filter and Vespel Tip Seals for Tritium Handling (Partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
  • Commonwealth Fusion Systems (Cambridge, MA): Active Redox Control of Molten Salts for Fusion Blankets (Partnership with Savannah River National Laboratory)
  • Commonwealth Fusion Systems (Cambridge, MA): Informing Layout and Performance Requirements for SPARC Massive Gas Injection (Partnership with Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory)
  • General Atomics (San Diego, CA): Performance Testing of Low-resistance Demountable HTS Joints for Large Segmented Magnets (Partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)
  • HelicitySpace (Berkeley, CA): Simulation of the Helicity Drive Magneto-Inertial Fusion Concept (Partnership with Los Alamos National Laboratory)
  • Microsoft (Redmond, WA): Improving Plasma Control Capabilities in Magnetically-Confined Tokamak Systems with Transformer Neural Networks (Partnership with Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory)
  • Renaissance Americas Inc. (Houston, TX): Phase Diagram of Li-LiH,D,(T) Mixtures and Implications for Tritium Retention and Extraction (Partnership with Savannah River National Laboratory)
  • TAE Technologies, Inc. (Foothill Ranch, CA): Extending Operational Boundaries in the Advanced FRC (Partnership with Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory)
  • TAE Technologies, Inc. (Foothill Ranch, CA): X-ray Diagnostic for C-2W FRC Plasma (Partnership with Los Alamos National Laboratory)

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Full abstracts for each project are available on the INFUSE website.


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