ARPA-e ENERGY INNOVATION SUMMIT
March 22nd - March 24th, 2023
FUSION ENERGY NEWS INTL - PRIMER
BREEDING, HANDLING, MANAGING, MITIGATING & SIMULATING
FENi will be investigating the various technologies presented over the 3-day event. If you have specific questions, you would like answered, please email us at
firstname.lastname@example.org and put TRITIUM in th subject line. We will try to get those answers and report back.
Future Primers Will Include:
Plasma Facing Materials
Shear Flow Stabilized Z-Pinch
Fusion Power to the Grid
February 14th, 2023
Current research in fusion energy is pushing for advancements that brings us “power to the grid” by the early 2030’s. This will alleviate both base load energy requirements and relief from climate degradation. Tritium is one of the main fuel components used in the fusion reaction. Naturally occurring tritium is extremely rare on Earth.
The research expressed by the participants at the ARPA-e Summit is cutting edge. This research is being done to close the gap from being rare to being self-duplicating and self-sustaining. The overviews below will give you information on the directions being taken. The connecting links are where you can find more depth on the subject matter.
We don’t just need to “breed” tritium, we need to management it. Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. With its short radioactive half-life of a little more than 12 years and the relatively small amount needed for the fusion reaction, it is manageable. Managing requires handling, storage, accountability, sequestration and mitigation standards. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, while they haven’t finalized the regulation, they are leaning toward “accelerator” level rules.
Materials research for plasma facing components and neutron fluency concerns are addressed here and in other topics.
Tritium properties are well known and understood to the level that computer simulations can lead directly to the real-world experiments and tests that prove those simulations.
There is a great deal of info below. If you have any questions you can contact FENi at email@example.com
Savannah River National Laboratory (SNRL) Booth #630
Dirtect LiT Electrolysis Process Modeling & Scale up
Direct lithium tritide (LiT) electrolysis uses advanced solid lithium-conducting electrolytes to reduce the complexity and footprint of tritium extraction from breeding-blanket materials, such as lead-lithium, in fusion-energy systems. Savannah River National Laboratory’s new process eliminates the need for expensive equipment like centrifugal systems and molten salts used in other proposed technologies. The process improvements enable the reaction to be performed in existing process vessels such as the blanket buffer tank and reduces the entire tritium-extraction system footprint. This system uses solid lithium ion ceramic conductors that serve as both the electrolyte and separator of the two sides of the reaction. Because the ceramic conductors are ionic and not electrical conductors, the extraction of LiT can be carried out in molten metal without the need for additional salts as electrolytes. The solid-state ceramic electrolyte simplifies the tritium extraction process because it is stable in molten lithium and has a high lithium ion conductivity that enables high electrical efficiency. The simplicity and throughput of the tritium recovery system are significantly improved by direct LiT electrolysis, which will in turn dramatically reduce tritium residence times and inventories within the liquid metal system. This project will scale up the process from the presently demonstrated proof-of-concept scale to an intermediate scale, thus demonstrating viability for further fusion-relevant scaleup.
EM-ENHANCED HyPOR LOOP FOR FAST FUSION FUEL CYCLES
Fusion power cannot be realized without vacuum pumps. The vacuum technology needed to operate a commercial fusion power plant does not currently exist, however. Although existing vacuum technology could be adapted to meet the challenges posed by fusion energy, a radically new pump oil treatment and recycling system may be necessary to handle tritium removal and radiation damage. Savannah River National Laboratory will demonstrate a hydrocarbon pump oil-recycling loop process that can selectively remove heavier hydrogen isotopes from pump oil (target of 99.5 % removal, with an uptake of 0.01% of tritium throughput), while also purifying the oil of radiation-induced damage. The recycled oil will retain its pumping characteristics, and hydrogen isotopes and impurities will be extracted in gaseous form for further processing in the tritium plant. The project’s successful execution would potentially enable fusion pumping solutions capable of reducing pump operational costs >100X, pump electric-power consumption by 10X, and tritium inventory by more than 4X.
NK Labs - Booth #614
Conditions for High-Yield Muon Catalyzed Fusion
A muon is a short-lived subatomic particle with the same charge as an electron but 206 times the mass. When bound to an atomic nucleus, it orbits much closer to the nucleus than an electron does. In the context of a deuterium-tritium molecule, this screens the electric charge and reduces the “Coulomb barrier” that ordinarily prevents the nuclei from fusing. When a muon stops in a mixture of deuterium and tritium, even at ordinary temperatures, it causes nuclear fusion. In most cases, the muon is released following a fusion reaction and will catalyze additional fusions, but roughly 0.8% of the time it sticks to a resulting alpha particle and is removed from the catalytic cycle. This effect has hindered efforts to design a reactor based on muon-catalyzed fusion (µCF). Reducing this “sticking rate” by varying environmental conditions could open the door to a viable, cost-effective µCF reactor concept. Using modern experimental techniques from the field of high-pressure physics, the team will simultaneously heat, pressurize, and bombard a tiny volume of fusion fuel with muons, at pressures up to 100 times higher than what has been attempted previously, where it is hypothesized that the sticking rate will be reduced. They will measure the muon sticking fraction and cycling rate and other key parameters over a range of temperatures, pressures, and tritium concentrations. They will update publicly available computer models and databases based on their results, which, if favorable, may potentially lead to new µCF designs capable of net energy gain.
Colorado School of Mines – Booth #646
Interfacial-Engineered Membranes for Efficient Tritium Extraction
One of the biggest challenges facing the practical deployment of fusion energy-based power is the effective management of tritium resources. Tritium, an isotope of hydrogen with a short half-life, is a fusion fuel and must be continuously generated, recovered, and recycled in any tritium-fueled fusion power plant. Currently, scalable tritium extraction and pumping technologies do not exist. Colorado School of Mines will develop and demonstrate engineered composite membranes for efficient tritium extraction from breeder media and the vessel exhaust. These membranes will be engineered for high performance, stability, and environmental compatibility. Atomic layer deposition and reactive sputtering will be used to modify surfaces and impart desired functionality. This technology enables a lower-cost and safer fusion energy system by eliminating major fuel cycle components and reducing tritium inventory, release, and required breeding ratios.
PPPL & Woodruff Scientific – Booth #622
Costing study for ARPA-E fusion portfolio projects/concept
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and Woodruff Scientific, Inc., will develop a costing capability to help ARPA-E fusion performers estimate both the projected overnight capital cost and levelized cost-of-electricity (LCOE) of a fusion power plant based on their fusion concepts. These estimates will underlie essential technology-to-market analysis and help guide R&D priorities by illuminating the costliest aspects of different concepts and need for further development. This costing activity builds on and leverages the costing study performed for the ALPHA project concepts, and this updated costing study will use improved balance-of-plant cost modeling. The improved model will be benchmarked against other fusion costing codes. A new model will be developed for a reduced scale fusion tritium processing system. The costing tools/methods will be applied to the fusion concepts from BETHE and other programs, as well as non-ARPA-E fusion projects.
ARPA-e - Booth #616
VA Polytechnic Inst.
State Univ. VA Tech
Capability team in theory, modeling, and validation for a range of innovative fusion concepts using high-fidelity moment-kinetic models
As fusion machines move toward a burning-plasma regime, liquid first walls and blankets may be needed to handle first‑wall heat-flux, reduce erosion, and eventually to convert energy and generate tritium fuel. Repetitively pulsed fusion designs may require extreme electrode survivability, where the electrode may be solid, liquid, or a combination of both. It is critical to address how plasma dynamics in the fusion plasma will couple with both liquid-metal and electrode-material dynamics for fusion energy to become realizable. This Capability Team will use fluid and reduced kinetics, including building on its existing open-source simulation technology, Gkeyll, and a multi-phase, incompressible magnetohydrodynamic model, to study liquid- and solid-wall dynamics in the presence of fusion plasma and to experimentally validate aspects of the modeling tools. The team will perform high-fidelity kinetic plasma simulations that can account for complex plasma-wall interactions to support the development of multiple lower-cost fusion concepts.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) - Booth #638
Fusion Energy Reactor Models Integrator (FERMI)
The current fusion reactor conceptual design cycle can take many years, increase costs, delay schedules, risk inconsistencies, and compromise learning and innovation. Detailed engineering design is even more challenging and lengthy. ORNL and its partners will develop an integrated simulation environment, the Fusion Energy Reactor Models Integrator (FERMI), to simulate the first wall and blanket for power extraction and tritium breeding. FERMI will substantially shorten the overall design cycle and reduce costs while significantly improving accuracy. The project team will integrate FERMI’s capabilities and demonstrate utility by simulating and assessing the innovative and potentially transformative liquid-immersion- blanket concept that could enable a compact, high-field path to commercial fusion energy.
University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Booth #626
Renewable low-Z wall for fusion reactors with built-in tritium recovery
The University of California, San Diego, will investigate the potential of using a continuously renewable wall to protect the first walls of fusion reactors from large plasma heat loads and sputtering (where solid material ejects microscopic particles after its bombardment by plasma or gas particles), while also allowing tritium recovery. The project team seeks to develop a low-atomic-number renewable wall for fusion devices that contains a slurry composed of carbon pebbles, ceramics, and a volatile binder. The slurry will be continuously pumped and extruded through first-wall openings, where it dries partially into a pebble conglomerate upon exposure to the hot first wall. Plasma exposure then thermally shocks the pebble conglomerate, breaking it into its constituent components. Gravity drives the conglomerate down the vessel walls, carrying heat and byproducts such as tritium. This concept allows large heat flow handling and recovery away from the plasma and wall surface. By continually feeding in new wall material, resilience against first wall erosion is achieved. Tritium recovery is achieved by outgassing the recovered carbon pebbles. This project will optimize the required slurry composition and characterize its thermo-mechanical properties experimentally using reactor-relevant heat fluxes. Additionally, preliminary investigation of reactor-relevant neutron fluxes will be performed with advanced finite-element modeling techniques.