Laser driven fusion is a path to carbon-free energy
13 October 2008
The High Power laser for Energy Research (HIPER) is a European research project led by the UK will harness nature’s prime energy source – Fusion – to demonstrate a credible path to laser driven fusion as a commercial energy production source.
Laser driven fusion to develop the path to carbon-free energy on a global scale
The quest for abundant safe clean energy is one of the most important challenges facing mankind. A European collaboration of leading physicists and government officials representing 10 countries, and supported by science partners from fusion research establishments worldwide, formally signed an agreement on the 6 October 2008 to coordinate a three-year preparatory phase to establish the planning and design for the full HiPER facility.
Professor Mike Dunne, HiPER project leader and Director of Photon Science at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) commented “This is a really exciting time for fusion. The European community has defined a strategic way forward, centred on this new project. 26 institutions from across 10 nations are working together to meet this challenge – combining the science of the extreme with one of the most compelling issues facing our society. Fusion is not a short term fix, but is designed to meet the long terms needs of our civilisation”.
Professor Dunne added, ”The benefits of fusion energy cannot be overstated in a global setting where climate change, pollution, energy security and the ever increasing demand for energy consumption represent the principal challenge facing humankind. HiPER represents a very significant step on that journey.”
The ‘proof of principle’ of laser fusion is anticipated in the next few years based on two very large scale lasers currently nearing completion in California (NIF) and Bordeaux (Laser Megajoule). This marks the culmination of over 50 years of research. HiPER will take the ‘proof of principle’ forwards by establishing a credible route to future construction of a commercial laser fusion power plant as a future energy source.
The HiPER laser will also have a major impact on a wide range of fundamental science topics – enabling researchers to study here on Earth some of the most extreme conditions in the Universe. Reaching temperatures and pressures only otherwise found at the centre of the Sun, or in an exploding supernova.
Very significant advances have recently been made in fusion research and the use of extremely powerful lasers is one of the two approaches which aim to deliver solutions for carbon-free energy on the industrial scale in the medium term.
This phase of HiPER (part of the UK and European Roadmaps for future research facilities) will mobilise the large European laser community to ensure their work is fully coordinated to meet this grand scientific challenge.
A key aspect of this will be to use the PETAL laser facility under construction in Bordeaux. This is an intermediate scale laser which will be directly linked to the HiPER project to ensure the rate of progress is as fast as possible.
The future location of HiPER is being explored over the next few years, with the UK being a prime candidate.
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