Fusion Energy Sciences

The Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) program has two goals: (1) expand the understanding of matter at very high temperatures and densities, and (2) build the knowledge needed to develop a fusion energy source. Providing energy from fusion is one of the 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century and FES is the largest federal government supporter of research that is addressing the remaining obstacles to overcoming this challenge.

Plasmas are very hot gases, so hot that electrons have been freed from atomic nuclei, forming a collection of ions and electrons that can be controlled by electric and magnetic fields. The known universe consists of over 99% plasma, which form stars such as the sun. Scientist study plasmas in space, like star explosions, to better understand plasma physics. Scientist also study plasmas that occur on Earth, like lightning. There are also plasmas that are manufactured and are seen everywhere, like light bulbs and a store’s neon sign. There are plasmas that have practical applications, such as advanced medical and sanitation procedures. However, there are challenges in creating and sustaining plasmas on Earth.  

The sun produces light and energy that everyone can see and feel. It does this by a process called fusion. Fusion occurs in a plasma where two nuclei are combined to form a new atom. This occurs many times in the sun generating an enormous amount of energy. Scientist now want to recreate the process here on Earth and collect the energy to make electricity. The promise and potential benefits to humankind from this carbon-free energy source are enormous. Achieving this goal would have far-reaching and significant effects on human civilization and its impact on the planet. 

Together with its partner science agencies, FES supports a devoted workforce that has made impressive progress since the first fusion experiments over sixty years ago. Progress is made each day by scientists and engineers at DOE national laboratories, universities, and in private industry. With public financial support for this fundamental research, fusion scientists are undertaking fundamental tests of fusion energy’s viability using some of the most ambitious energy projects, the most powerful supercomputers, and the fastest networks in the world today.

Learn more about the Fusion Energy Sciences Program here.

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DIII-D National Fusion Facility 11-month Engineering Upgrade

FES Program Announcements

Department of Energy to Provide $50 Million for Fusion Energy and Plasma Science Research
The U.S. Department of Energy announced it will provide $50 million for private and public research efforts in fusion energy and plasma science.
Department of Energy Announces $21.4 Million for Quantum Information Science Research
Projects linked to both particle physics and fusion energy.
Department of Energy Announces $14 Million for Fusion Energy Sciences Research
Projects seek to make steady-state fusion power plants possible.
New DOE Program Connects Fusion Companies with National Labs
New program will encourage private-public research partnerships for overcoming challenges in fusion energy development.
Announcement of FES Long-Range-Strategic Planning Activity
Office of Science asks FESAC to undertake new long-range strategic planning activity.
Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S. Burning Plasma Research
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine highlights remaining challenges for fusion as an energy source.

FES Science Highlights

Parker Spiral Created in the Laboratory for the First Time Ever
March 27, 2020
Scientists created the Parker spiral – the spiral magnetic field structure of the Sun due to its rotation – in the lab.
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Magnetic Ripples Calm the Surface of Fusion Plasmas
March 18, 2020
3D magnetic fields can help control the plasma edge to prevent damaging bursts of heat and particles from fusion plasma.
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Island Retreat: Pellets Help Remove Magnetic Island Instabilities
March 18, 2020
Injecting pellets into fusion plasma helps repair tears in fusion reactors’ magnetic fields, improving prospects for fusion energy.
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Climbing the Staircase to Fusion
February 5, 2020
Forming a staircase in the edge of the plasmas can boost the performance of a fusion reactor.
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Unraveling how Tungsten Armor Erodes in Tokamak Walls
December 17, 2019
New high-resolution measurements of tokamaks’ tungsten walls may provide insight into how to better protect the armor material.
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Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors
September 18, 2019
A test of titanium diboride opens the door to a potential new class of materials for fusion reactor applications.
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Flipping the Script with Reverse D-Shaped Plasmas
June 14, 2019
Mirrored D shape demonstrates surprisingly high pressures in a tokamak, indicating a shape change may be in order for next-generation fusion reactors.
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A Trojan Horse for Fusion Disruptions
June 14, 2019
Thin-walled diamond shells carry payloads of boron dust; the dust mitigates destructive plasma disruptions in fusion confinement systems.
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Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning Accelerate Efforts to Develop Clean, Virtually Limitless Fusion Energy
April 22, 2019
The Fusion Recurrent Neural Network reliably forecasts disruptive and destructive events in tokamaks.
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Capturing Energy Flow in a Plasma by Measuring Scattered Light
April 18, 2019
First measurements of heat flux in plasmas experientially sheds light on models relying on classical thermal transport.
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FES Program News

Steering Fusion’s “D-turn”
Research scientist Alessandro Marinoni shows that reversing traditional plasma shaping provides greater stability for fusion reactions.
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A Bumper Crop of Undergraduate Students Attends Annual Plasma Workshop Kicking Off Summer Internship Programs
PPPL hosted its largest group of undergraduate students ever for the annual undergraduate plasma workshop June 10 to 14.
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Recent Breakthrough on DIII-D Enables Major Step Toward Economical Fusion Energy
“Super H Mode” experiments demonstrate record fusion performance.
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Machine Ready to See if Magic Metal – Lithium – Can Help Bring the Fusion that Lights the Stars to Earth
At DOE's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), researchers have completed a three-year upgrade of the Lithium Tokamak Experiment.
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In the Quest for Clean, Limitless Energy Through Nuclear Fusion, Scientists Use ‘Deep Learning’ AI to Predict Destructive Disruptions
In a new study published in Nature and led by the U.S. DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL), Kates-Harbeck and his colleagues created a “d
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Physicists Improve Understanding of Heat and Particle Flow in the Edge of a Fusion Device
Physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have discovered valuable information about how electrically charged gas known as “plasma” flows at the edge inside doughnut-shaped fusion devices called “tokamaks.” The findings mark an encouraging sign for the development of machines to produce fusion energy for generating electricity without creating long-term hazardous waste.
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Contact Information

Fusion Energy Sciences
U.S. Department of Energy
SC-24/Germantown Building
1000 Independence Avenue., SW
Washington, DC 20585
P: (301) 903 - 4941
F: (301) 903 - 8584
E: Email Us