At the end of 2022, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced one of the biggest breakthroughs in fusion energy science history: fusion ignition. This development was “just the beginning” of fusion energy advances from national laboratories, according to U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.
To accelerate advances in fusion energy, the DOE Office of Science’s Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) program partners the expertise and capabilities at DOE national laboratories with the entrepreneurial spirit of the private sector. A Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) project, led by Materials Scientist Dalong Zhang, was recently selected to receive support through the INFUSE program. Through this project, PNNL scientists will partner with Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) to develop new materials for fusion energy applications.
“CFS has a clear vision to create a commercially viable fusion energy system through materials, manufacturing, and an understanding of the supply chain,” said Zhang. “We are excited to leverage PNNL’s expertise in solid phase processing to help achieve this goal.”
The PNNL/CFS project will focus on advanced manufacturing of large, complex parts from oxide dispersion strengthened (ODS) steel for fusion applications. While ODS steel is a promising candidate for near-plasma components in fusion energy systems, its use is currently hindered by manufacturing difficulties. Zhang will address this problem by using the PNNL-developed Shear Assisted Processing and Extrusion (ShAPE) process to produce ODS steel wire.
“Only a handful of materials can withstand the high temperatures and irradiation inside fusion reactors—ODS steel is one,” said Zhang. “The problem is that it is not commercially available anywhere in the world. PNNL has the capability to produce such materials in a scalable way to meet the high demand for fusion energy applications.”