Study Abroad: Oxford Joins Imperial and York in a £12 Million Business Cooperation for Fusion Power

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Study Abroad: Oxford Joins Imperial and York in a £12 Million Business Cooperation for Fusion Power
Study Abroad: Oxford Joins Imperial and York in a £12 Million Business Cooperation for Fusion Power
A multi-institutional team will investigate a novel technique for producing fusion energy that it thinks may one day be scaled up to produce secure, abundant, and clean energy.

First Light Fusion, the organization that came up with this novel strategy. Also, UK Research and Innovation’s Prosperity Partnership programme have each contributed £12 million to the project’s funding.


Together with colleagues from Imperial College London, the University of York, and business partners First Light Fusion and Machine Discovery, Oxford University academics from the Departments of Engineering, Science, and Physics will work on the project.

Nuclear fusion occurs when the nuclei of two atoms, such as hydrogen atoms, fuse to generate helium. Because the newly formed atom is lighter than its component atoms, there is a tremendous amount of extra energy released during nuclear fusion. If fusion conditions, which call for extreme heat and pressure, could be produced, it is recognised that fusion has the potential to turn into a safe, clean, and abundant energy source. The scalability of these approaches and of fusion power in general has been questioned due to the fact that the methods explored thus far have only produced modest amounts of energy.

A projectile fusion-based approach is being developed by University of Oxford spinoff First Light Fusion. This will prove to be more scalable than others hitherto tested. To study the behavior of materials at severe temperatures, pressures, and densities, as well as how heat, matter, and radiation move across interfaces between those materials, researchers from the three universities, two businesses, and other organizations will collaborate under the terms of the new collaboration.

Study Abroad: Oxford Joins Imperial and York in a £12 Million Business Cooperation for Fusion Power

Using X-ray imaging methods they have developed over the years, Professors Gianluca Gregori, Sam Vinko, and Dan Eakins of the Department of Engineering Science and Gianluca Gregori and Sam Vinko of the Department of Physics will look at specific phenomena relating to hydrodynamics and heat transport.

“By recreating these extreme conditions at a 4th generation synchrotron, it will freeze these processes in their tracks, providing much-needed data to exercise, stretch, and even break current models,” says Professor Eakins. “This will help in building back better and more viable pathways for safe, clean energy.”

Professor Gregori continues, “It is difficult to understand matter X at the extreme conditions as seen in the targets, and it necessitates combining computational and experimental methodologies that push the boundaries of knowledge.

The development of this novel strategy will be sped up by Machine Discovery, another University of Oxford spinout, which will offer an Al-Powered solution for compute-intensive activities to achieve significant productivity.

According to Professor Vinko, “machine learning tools, like neural-network-based emulators, have a key role to play in exploring the extreme states of matter required to deliver fusion.” The competence required to take on this significant task is brought together by this alliance.

According to Dr Nick Hawker, an Engineering Science alumnus and co founder and CEO of First Light Fusion, this grant, which are doubling to bring the total to £12 million, will be a crucial platform in attracting the best and brightest physicists to First Light Fusion and, more importantly, will unlock significant physics research as continued with mission to solve the problem of fusion power with the simplest machine possible.

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