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Marvel Fusion to build $150M laser facility at Colorado State University

09 Aug 2023

Public-private partnership will support construction of high-power laser and fusion research facility.

Marvel Fusion, the Munich-headquartered startup looking to develop laser-driven fusion energy, says it will build a new $150 million laboratory in a collaboration with Colorado State University (CSU).

“Fort Collins is poised to become home to one of the most powerful laser facilities in the world and an international epicenter for research into laser fusion energy and high-energy density physics,” said the firm in its statement announcing the agreement.

The public-private partnership, supported via the US Department of Energy’s “LaserNetUS” program, will see a “next-generation, high-power laser and fusion research facility” built at the CSU Foothills Campus.

Ultrafast approach
One of a handful of new venture-funded private companies targeting commercial laser-driven fusion energy, Marvel says that the state-of-the-art facility will serve as a platform to advance its particular approach to what will be an immense challenge.

The startup has close links with the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) project in eastern Europe, with its CTO Georg Korn previously ELI’s scientific director.

Korn co-founded the firm in 2019 alongside CEO Moritz von der Linden, Karl-Georg Schlesinger, and Pasha Shabalin, since when it has raised €60 million, joined forces with defense giant Thales to upgrade the 10 petawatt ELI-NP facility in Romania, and set up a US subsidiary.

The firm plans to use ultrafast lasers and “nanostructured” fuel to enhance the fusion of protons and boron-11 isotopes.

“This public-private partnership sets the global standard for laser-based fusion research, propelling the development of a safe, clean, and reliable energy source. It is an incredible step forward for Marvel Fusion and a testament to our success and vision,” said von der Linden.

“Working with the world-class team at CSU over the past two years has been invaluably productive. We are immensely grateful for the trust and support of CSU, the State of Colorado, and the US Department of Energy’s ongoing support through the LaserNetUS program.”

10 Hz repetition rate
Targeted for completion in 2026, the new Fort Collins laboratory is expected to feature at least three laser systems, each with multi-petawatt peak power and a repetition rate of 10 Hz.

“Such a combination of lasers will make the facility unique in the world, and it would be designed to accommodate expansion and additional lasers in the future,” stated the firm.

CSU President Amy Parsons added: “CSU is at the cutting edge of laser research, and this new partnership will cement the university as an international leader in an area of laser science that has the potential to deliver profound benefits to our planet for generations.”

Funded by the DOE’s Office of Fusion Energy Sciences, the LaserNetUS program recently announced $28.5 million in new support for high-power laser laboratories in both the US and Canada.

The DOE has provided CSU with $12.5 million for laser upgrade prototyping, which will help create and maintain the caliber of equipment and expertise to make projects like the new facility possible.

Marvel said CSU’s capacity to conduct high-power laser research and its applications would be vastly expanded under the partnership, with opportunities in semiconductor chip production, materials science, high-energy-density science, and high-energy physics, of which fusion is just one application.

It is expected to motivate and enable further collaboration with industry, other universities, and US national laboratories.

Prototype development
Jorge Rocca, the director of CSU’s Laboratory for Advanced Lasers and Extreme Photonics, said in the Marvel release:

“This is an exciting opportunity for laser-based science, a dream facility for discovery and advanced technology development with great potential for societal impact.”

Alongside the CSU project, Marvel says it is planning the construction of a prototype as the next step toward a commercial fusion power plant.

“The prototype will house hundreds of laser systems capable of achieving fusion ignition and proving the technology at scale,” said the firm, with work set to be carried out via its Colorado subsidiary.

• News of the new CSU laser fusion facility coincided with reports that researchers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) had repeated the breakthrough fusion ignition experiment achieved last December with an improved energy yield.

First reported in the Financial Times, the latest development was confirmed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in a statement provided to Agence-France Presse (AFP) - although the laboratory did not quantify the latest yield with any figures.

The NIF team plans to disclose the new results at upcoming scientific conferences and in peer-reviewed publications, reported AFP.

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