Date: November 19, 2020
Time: 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Location: Virtual seminar
Director, MIT Plasma Science & Fusion Center; Hitachi America Professor of Engineering; Professor, Nuclear Science & Engineering
“Accelerating Fusion Energy’s Development Through Innovation”
Fusion energy has long been considered an ideal energy source: an on-demand, inexhaustible carbon-free, high intensity power source. The timeline of climate change has motivated an urgency for its development and deployment. This requires translating the scientific principles of fusion, established through decades of public funding, into new models of technical and organizational innovation. A prime example is the recent emergence of private-sector fusion companies that seek pathways that both shorten fusion’s development time and produce an economically competitive product. I will describe the details of one such pathway, started ca. 2018, being pursued by MIT and its private-sector partner Commonwealth Fusion Systems. This plan couples disruptive technology in superconductor magnets and well-established fusion science, to an innovative coalition of scientists, developers and investors, all aligned to the goal of developing fusion energy faster.
Dennis G. Whyte is the Hitachi America Professor of Engineering, and director of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A recognized leader in fusion research, especially in the magnetic confinement of plasmas, Whyte has paved an innovative and faster path to producing fusion energy. He leads the fusion project, SPARC — a compact, high-field, net fusion energy fusion device — in collaboration with private fusion startup Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS). The core of the SPARC project was formed over eight years ago during a design course led by Whyte to challenge assumptions in fusion. Many of the ideas underpinning the high-field approach — including the use of HTS for high-field, demountable magnets, liquid blankets, and ARC (a fusion power plant concept) — have been conceived of or significantly advanced in his design courses. Whyte has over 300 publications, is a fellow of the American Physical Society, and has served on panels for the National Academies, the United States government, and the Royal Society. In 2018, Whyte received The Fusion Power Associates (FPA) Board of Directors Leadership Award, which is given annually to individuals who have shown outstanding leadership qualities in accelerating the development of fusion. Whyte earned a B.S. from the University of Saskatchewan, and an M.S. and Ph.D. from Université du Québec.