Radio Frequency tools for Breakthrough Fusion Concepts

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Cambridge, Massachusetts
Project Term:
08/11/2020 - 02/10/2024

Critical Need:

Controlled fusion has long been thought of as an ideal energy source—safe, clean, abundant, and dispatchable. Fusion is on the cusp of demonstrating net positive energy gain, spurring interest in both the public and private sectors to adopt a more aggressive development path toward a timely, grid-ready demonstration. A critical need today is to increase the performance levels and the number of lower-cost fusion approaches that might eventually lead to commercial fusion energy with competitive capital cost and levelized cost of energy. To address this need, the BETHE program supports (1) advancing the performance of earlier-stage, lower-cost concepts, (2) component-technology development to lower the cost of more-mature concepts, and (3) capability teams to assist multiple concept teams in theory, modeling, and diagnostic measurements.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Fusion requires confining plasmas at extraordinarily high temperatures. One of the most promising ways to heat plasmas to these temperatures is with high-power radio-frequency (RF) waves. Beyond providing heating, RF waves can enable control of the radial current profile in a plasma, which can help improve confinement and control or mitigate plasma instabilities. Complex analytic theory and computer simulations are required to design effective and efficient plasma-heating scenarios, which must be tailored for various fusion concepts. MIT’s Capability Team will apply established state-of-the-art theoretical and simulation tools, developed and tested by the fusion research community on more traditional concepts, to accelerate the development of potentially transformative, lower-cost fusion concepts. The computer simulations will use some of the largest supercomputers in the world, and the predictions from these codes will guide these high-risk, high-reward experiments for the best chance of success.

Potential Impact:

Accelerating and lowering the costs of fusion development and eventual deployment will enable fusion energy to contribute to:


Fusion energy will ensure the U.S.’s technological lead and energy security.


Fusion energy will improve our chances of meeting growing global clean-energy demand and realizing cost-effective, net-zero carbon emissions, while minimizing pollution and avoiding long-lived radioactive waste.


As a disruptive technology, fusion energy will likely create new markets, opportunities, and export advantages for the U.S.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Ahmed Diallo
Project Contact:
Mr. John Wright
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
CompX Corporation

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