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LPA Online Seminars

The path to laser-fusion energy: 'Focused Energy', a new startup in the fusion community

by Prof. Markus Roth (TU Darmstadt)


Fusion, the fundamental energy source in the universe and origin of almost all
the matter we are made of. For decades scientists have worked on recreating
the engine of the stars in the laboratory to harvest this energy source. As
clean and safe energy is needed more than ever new developments have led to
the rise of startup companies around the globe taking advantage of the
science developed of the years and combining the results of the past with
the technology of the 21st century to make fusion energy a reality.
Focused Energy is a US/German startup supported by the TU Darmstadt and
deeply embedded in the international science community. We are focusing on
the concept of laser-driven inertial confinement fusion, an alternative
approach to the magnetic confinement mainstream with their flagship facilities
ITER and Wendelstein 7-X.
In inertial fusion energy (IFE) a pellet is compressed by powerful lasers and
the thermalization of the fuel in the central spot is supposed to reach fusion
conditions and yield. After decades of research this for the first time has
been achieved successfully at the National Ignition Facility in the US on
August 8th 2021. However, this specific approach is not well suited for energy
In our approach, a small pellet containing a milligram of DT is directly
irradiated by intense laser light and compressed to roughly 1000 times solid
density. At the moment of maximum density, a burst of energetic, laser-driven
ion beams is focused into a small part of the compressed fuel to rapidly rise
the temperature above ignition temperature and start a bootstrap fusion
reaction, which results in a supersonic burn wave consuming the fuel.
More than two decades of research have led to this path, which has recently
been quoted the most promising approach in inertial fusion energy by
international leaders in the field (see for example Physics Today).

Focused Energy plans to develop a demonstration facility within this decade
to demonstrate ignition, burn and gain sufficient for attractive energy
production based on the unique combination of high-energy and high-power