Meet the Program Director: Dr. Ahmed Diallo
Dr. Ahmed Diallo currently serves as a Program Director for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). His focus at ARPA-E is on potentially transformative research & development to enable commercial fusion energy.
Tell us about your background and what brought you to ARPA-E.
In terms of my professional background, I am a scientist at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory – one of 17 DoE National Labs. I have been there for about 13 years working on fusion and low temperature plasmas. During my tenure, among other projects, I managed the Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) – a private-public partnership program that enabled private companies to work with national labs and universities to advance their technology and meet corresponding milestones.
This experience and interest introduced me to ARPA-E and led me to investigate what ARPA-E is doing. What Dr. Scott Hsu has accomplished has inspired me to try to push ahead with ARPA-E, to challenge myself and attack high-risk, high-reward projects. This is what excites me about ARPA-E, and fusion energy fits well in ARPA-E’s portfolio. The goal is to move the needle in the field of fusion. We need to accelerate fusion and put electricity on the grid soon. For that, I am confident that ARPA-E can help bring novel technologies that will facilitate bringing fusion energy on the grid.
How does your past work in commercial fusion energy drive your current work supporting ARPA-E’s mission of developing entirely new ways to generate, store, and use energy?
Working as part of INFUSE allowed me to see the ecosystem of the field of fusion in the past few years, both in private companies as well as the research that is being done at national labs, at universities, and so forth. I have undertaken my own research over the course of several decades as well. The fusion community is eager to deploy fusion soon by improving our understanding of the plasma physics behind fusion, as well as all the ancillary systems needed for a power plant to be built.
I believe that ARPA-E can identify and catalyze areas where progress should be made and where innovation is most needed to accelerate commercial fusion. This is well-aligned with the White House bold decadal vision. Fusion is a very important energy source that should contribute to the energy mix of the future.
What existing ARPA-E programs will you be working on as you begin at ARPA-E?
In terms of potential new program areas, what out-of-the-box ideas or technical whitespaces do you want to explore once you get settled in?
I would particularly like to target programs that would drive power plant fusion performance as well as improve fusion power plant availability. For instance, fusion power plants would need novel materials that could sustain extreme heat but also high neutron doses. Other topics of interest would include advanced driver technologies and target fabrication and delivery for fusion power plants. There is an appetite for innovation, and I would like to see an acceleration in time to support cost-effective commercial fusion on the grid.
What do you hope to accomplish during your tenure at ARPA-E?
During my tenure at ARPA-E, I would continue to support existing programs through sustained success, as well as establish new programs necessary to enable fusion on the grid. I also want to contribute and/or provide resources across the ARPA-E’s portfolio and continue to move commercial fusion as far forward as possible.