Berkeley Lab contributes to report for US fusion, plasma science research

Photo of Berkeley Lab laser
Berkeley Lab/Courtesy
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee recently adopted a report regarding a 10-year plan for fusion and plasma science research. According to the report, plasma research has led to significant scientific achievements.

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Two years in the making, a report adopted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee, or FESAC, establishes a plan for the next decade of fusion and plasma science research.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, or Berkeley Lab, participated heavily in the community planning process report, which laid the foundation for the 10-year plan, according to Cameron Geddes, deputy director of the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator Center and a member of FESAC. The report outlines partnerships with federal, international and private investors and provides opportunities for growth in fusion and plasma research.

Plasma, the fourth state of matter, is ionized gas that achieves fusion — the merging of atomic nuclei to release energy — when confined, Geddes said. Understanding plasma and harnessing fusion power are among the main drivers laid out in the report.

“Harnessing this process offers a limitless and carbon-free source of energy,” Geddes said in an email. “It has an urgent role to play as the world pushes to establish a sustainable decarbonized energy supply to mitigate climate change.”

On top of creating a clean energy source, plasma research has led to far-reaching scientific achievements, according to the report. Understanding the unique state of matter enables the creation of technologies with implications for medical imaging and microchip production, Geddes added.

Partnerships with investors is another important part of the report, which lays out a plan for the U.S. Department of Energy’s office of fusion energy sciences, one of the key supporters of fusion and plasma science work. Along with many more federal agencies, the report states that partnership with the international ITER fusion project is “essential” for U.S. fusion energy development.

“The prospect of a clean and limitless source of energy is also prompting significant private investment,” Geddes said in the email. “There are several U.S. and international private companies developing their own approaches to fusion, and these have important linkages with the Federal program.”

The report built a prioritized plan based on the community planning process, which gathered an “unprecedented” level of input from academic, research and industrial fusion and plasma communities. Berkeley Lab was very involved in this process, which required everyone involved to learn about the comprehensive plan outside their own focus, which is key in advancing scientific research, according to Geddes.

Berkeley Lab is also working on a variety of projects across the field of plasma, fusion science and technology. Geddes added in the email that that Berkeley Lab’s contribution to the vision for plasma and fusion science described in the report will be significant.

“The realization of this plan will offer Berkeley residents a clean energy source to address climate change while supplying reliable, plentiful energy,” Geddes said in the email. “It will give us new insight on the formation and structure of space and astrophysical objects, which are composed largely of plasma.”

Contact Vani Suresh at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @vanisuresh_.