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What is Fusion and why use it?

The Timeline Global partnership

• Fusion is the bonding together of small atoms. The output • The project was accepted onto the ‘European Roadmap’ The HiPER consortium has members located around the
of a fusion reaction releases a huge amount of energy that in October 2006, with the UK agreeing to take a leadership world. A full list of partner institutes is available on the
can be captured to drive a gigawatt scale power plant. role in January 2007. HiPER web site.
• Fusion offers: • A consortium of 7 nations, 2 regional governments, The European High Power Laser Energy Research Facility
- Plentiful fuel
(at a scale that can meet mankind’s long term needs),
multiple international institutions and industry submitted
a proposal for a 3 year ‘preparatory phase project’ to the
- Energy Security EC on 2nd May 2007. This consortium has strong
(sea water contains the main international links to programs in USA, Japan, Korea, Russia,
fuel source), China and Canada.

- Clean energy • Following positive reviews from the EC in July 2007, the
1 km

(there are no greenhouse gas preparatory phase of the project will run from 2008 to
emissions, and no long-lived 2011 and will coincide with the start of the experimental
radioactivity), 1 km and technological validation programme on the
1 km
PETAL laser. This will prepare the case for a definition phase
- Safe operation One cubic kilometre of seawater to start in 2011 with the construction phase envisaged
(there is no stored energy, so contains enough deuterium to
exceed the total world oil reserve. to start in 2014.
‘melt down’ or catastrophic
failure are impossible), • The HiPER facility is anticipated to open towards the end
of the next decade dependent on the success of the
- Complementary solutions
preparatory phase project.
(‘magnetic fusion’ facilities such as ITER, and ’inertial Exploring the science of extreme
fusion’ using lasers). • The UK is the leading contender to host the HiPER
laser facility. conditions and developing the route
• The benefits of fusion energy cannot be overstated in a
global setting where climate change, pollution, energy
to laser driven fusion energy
security and the ever increasing demand for consumption
represent a principal challenge facing mankind. It is not a
short term fix, but rather a long-term, sustainable solution
that will take a concentrated research and development Contact info
effort across a range of options to realise its potential.
Professor AM (Mike) Dunne
• HiPER offers a complementary solution to the fusion
Science and Technology Facilities Council
project known as ITER, which uses magnetic fields to
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
contain the fusion reaction. The scale of the energy Central Laser Facility
problem is such that multiple solutions are demanded. Harwell Science and Innovation Campus
There is great potential for knowledge exchange between Didcot
the two projects in areas such as material research, Oxfordshire OX11 0QX
diagnostics and the underlying science. Both routes to UK
fusion have received many billions of dollars investment
such that their future development path is now clear. Email:
What is HiPER? Inertial (laser) driven fusion The HiPER Science Programme
• HiPER stands for High Power laser Energy Research facility.
• The physics underlying inertial fusion is already proven. HiPER will open up entirely new research programmes in a
• HiPER will demonstrate the feasibility of laser driven fusion This is the approach adopted by Nature – this mechanism wide range of scientific disciplines, including:
as a future energy source. powers our Sun and all other stars. Far more importantly, • astrophysics in the laboratory
• It is also being designed to investigate a broad range of the process of energy production from inertial fusion has • behaviour of matter in truly extreme conditions
new science in extreme conditions which cannot be already been demonstrated on Earth in a spin-out of the
• material science in the challenging “warm dense” regime
produced elsewhere on Earth (temperatures of hundreds US defence program. Demonstration of net energy from
of millions of degrees, billion atmosphere pressures, and • nuclear physics and nucleosynthesis
inertial fusion using a laser is now anticipated in the period
enormous electric and magnetic fields). 2010 to 2012 (on the National Ignition Facility, USA). • atomic physics
• The PETAL laser, located in the Aquitaine region of France, • HiPER is designed to move forwards from this landmark • turbulent flow at very high Mach numbers
will be a fore-runner to the HiPER facility to address physics demonstration, using an approach which better enables • relativistic particle beam studies and applications
and technology issues of strategic relevance for HiPER. a commercial energy production solution (and a • plasma physics at high energy density
broad-based basic science mission). • laser plasma interaction physics
• The principle is conceptually similar to a combustion • quantum vacuum studies
engine – a fuel compression stage and an ignition stage.
• fundamental physics in ultra-strong electric fields.
• Lasers are used to compress a shell of Deuterium and
Tritium fuel to very high density. A very high
power laser is then focused into the dense
DT fuel, raising it to fusion temperatures
(~100 million degrees Celsius).
• The power of these lasers is truly
immense: roughly ten thousand
times the power in the entire UK
national grid! Of course, this
power only lasts for a few million
millionths of a second and acts like
a match to ignite the fusion fuel.