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Japan drives laser fusion energy closer to commercialization

13 Oct 2023

Tokyo Tech and Ex-Fusion establish R&D cluster to develop laser fusion reactors.

Tokyo Institute of Technology (“Tokyo Tech”) and EX-Fusion Inc. have established a collaborative research cluster focused on advancing liquid metal devices for the realization of commercial laser fusion reactors. The signing ceremony to formalize this partnership was held on in Tokyo on October 11th, marking the official commencement of their joint efforts.

The “EX-Fusion Liquid Metal Collaborative Research Cluster” has been established with the support of the Tokyo Tech’s Open Innovation Platform. It aims to provide support for research management, intellectual property strategy, and commercialization, with the ultimate goal of facilitating the implementation of research outcomes developed at the Collaborative Research Cluster.

In the midst of the urgent demand for energy supplies that do not emit greenhouse gases, laser fusion reactors are globally garnering high expectations as a sustainable energy source. Laser fusion, in contrast to nuclear fusion, is a technology that induces nuclear fusion reactions by irradiating fuel with lasers, resulting in the generation of energy. Leveraging seawater resources, it offers a safe and sustainable energy supply option.

Furthermore, it possesses the ability to flexibly adapt to fluctuations in electricity demand, and over the long term, it is projected to be a key player in the drive towards decarbonization. However, while numerous research and development efforts are underway worldwide to address technical challenges and enhance energy efficiency, as of the present, commercial laser fusion reactors have not yet been realized.

Through collaborative research between EX-Fusion, which develops laser fusion reactors, and Tokyo Tech, which conducts academic research related to liquid metal fluid, the Collaborative Research Cluster aims to construct a concept for liquid fuel blankets suitable for laser fusion reactors. It will also develop the necessary liquid blanket component technologies while working broadly on joint research towards designing a blanket mock-up loop.

The insights and liquid metal technology group gained from this collaborative research are expected to be useful not only in fusion but also in a wide range of fields such as liquid metal mirrors and environmental purification technologies.

EX-Fusion is a startup company developing essential technologies for laser fusion reactors, including lasers and fuel targets. It has been recognized by Toyo Keizai, a major Japanese economic magazine, as one of the 'Top 100 Outstanding Ventures' in 2023. Through collaboration between EX-Fusion and Tokyo Tech, which is at the forefront of research on energy conversion systems using liquid metal fluid, they plan to jointly tackle such a wide range of technological applications, aiming to maximize the social implementation of these technologies.

Collaborative research

The Collaborative Research Cluster will enhance the large-scale synthesis technology of high-purity liquid lithium-lead fuel breeding material[4], which is essential for commercial reactor operation, leveraging the technical expertise accumulated by Tokyo Tech. It will also develop the final optical system of the laser irradiation system applying liquid metal technology.

By integrating these technologies, the Collaborative Research Cluster will design a blanket mock-up loop. Furthermore, it will also consider applying the liquid metal technology developed through this collaborative research to low-melting-point metal mirrors for deep space exploration and environmental purification technologies such as seawater desalination.

By collaborating, EX-Fusion, which is developing laser and fuel target technologies for laser fusion reactor development, and Tokyo Tech, which is conducting research on energy conversion systems using liquid metal fluid, aim to accelerate the early realization of laser fusion energy.

Future plans

Over the next three years, the Collaborative Research Cluster aims to advance the high-purity synthesis method for liquid fuel breeding material, which is key to the fuel cycle of laser fusion. This technology development aims to support fusion energy development happening globally.

In addition, while conceptualizing the liquid blanket system, they will develop various technologies related to its longevity and operational efficiency. By integrating these blanket technologies into the laser fusion reactors developed by EX-Fusion, they aim for the commercialization of laser fusion energy within the next 10 years.

CHROMA TECHNOLOGY CORP.Mad City Labs, Inc.CeNing Optics Co LtdTRIOPTICS GmbHLASEROPTIK GmbHOptikos Corporation HÜBNER Photonics
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