MEMS RF Accelerators For Nuclear Energy and Advanced Manufacturing

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OPEN 2018
Berkeley, California
Project Term:
02/21/2019 - 02/20/2024

Critical Need:

Ion beams can be used to generate neutrons for radiation-resistant materials testing and several high-value manufacturing processes, but they are currently prohibitively expensive. Advanced fission reactor development will benefit greatly from rapid, economical qualification of materials for neutron damage. There is also interest in applying ion-beam implantation to help improve accident-tolerant nuclear fuel cladding to make it resilient to corrosion and radiation effects. A compact ion accelerator will be able to treat materials for a wider variety of applications than is possible with state-of-the-art ion beams.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

LBNL will use advanced microfabrication technology to build and scale low-cost, compact, higher-power multi-beam ion accelerators. These accelerators will be able to increase the ion current up to 100 times, helping to enable a new learning curve for compact accelerator technology. MEMS (micro-electro mechanical systems) technology enables massively parallel, low-cost batch fabrication of ion beam accelerators. The team proposes to scale ion accelerators based on MEMS to higher beam power and pack hundreds to thousands of ion beamlets on silicon wafers. Ions will be injected and accelerated across the gaps formed in stacks of wafers, leading to high-current densities for ion accelerators. MEMS-based batch fabrication will reduce the size, weight, power and cost of ion accelerators more than tenfold, enabling low-cost, rapid testing and development of radiation-hard materials for advanced nuclear energy and new applications in manufacturing.

Potential Impact:

The concept could potentially positively improve the energy efficiency of many economic sectors including rapid radiation-damage and neutron-damage studies for advanced fission, advancing surface hardening techniques, integration of high-Tc superconducting cables for power transmission, semiconductor doping, and more.


Improving energy efficiency in rapid radiation-damage and neutron-damage studies for advanced fission, advancing surface-hardening techniques, material doping, etc., will help maintain the U.S.’s technological lead in these areas.


The technology will enable transformative new approaches to generate clean electricity through nuclear fission and fusion.


Low-cost, flexible, and scalable ion accelerators could enable the rapid development of advanced nuclear energy materials and new applications in manufacturing.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Robert Ledoux
Project Contact:
Dr. Thomas Schenkel
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Cornell University

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