Proxima Fusion and IST collaborate on stellarator optimisation

Proxima Fusion, a spin-out from the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) in Germany, is announcing a collaboration with the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) in Lisbon. The collaboration is signed as part of Proxima Fusion’s intention to commercialise fusion energy, based on stellarator stellarator technology, a class of devices that hold high potential for long-duration plasma confinement.

Proxima Fusion and the IST research group lab IPFN, together with led by Professor Rogerio Jorge at IST’s Physics Department, have completed a cooperation agreement to jointly work on stellarator optimization. The IST group's work involves sophisticated numerical methods and innovative algorithmic approaches, driving the design of optimized magnetic coil configurations and plasma geometries. The focus of the collaboration includes the exploration and application of fast optimization loops and machine-learning-inspired techniques – the cutting-edge tools that will likely shape the future of fusion energy.

Stellarators, unlike the more conventional tokamaks, have a unique edge: they maintain plasma confinement without the necessity of a plasma current. This crucial distinction means that fusion power plants built with stellarators can operate continuously, with significant operational and commercial benefits. However, the intricacies of stellarators, with their complex, non-symmetric magnetic field configurations, present substantial optimization challenges.

Computational optimization plays a critical role in refining these configurations to maximize plasma stability and minimize losses, two crucial factors to make fusion an effective energy source for humanity. Advanced optimization techniques enable rapid, iterative improvements to stellarator designs. By swiftly evaluating and learning from thousands of potential coil geometries and magnetic field configurations, these techniques drive the development of stellarator designs that offer optimal performance. Optimization also aids in reducing engineering challenges associated with coil fabrication and maintenance, thus making stellarators more practical for commercial applications. The end result is a stellarator that brings us closer to harnessing the immense potential of fusion energy.

Lucio Milanese, co-founder and COO of Proxima Fusion, says: 'By partnering with IST, we are tapping into a wealth of scientific knowledge and computational expertise. The integration of advanced computing techniques will enable us to iterate on designs more efficiently and accurately. This partnership marks a significant stride in the evolution of stellarator technology. The fusion power that Proxima Fusion aims to unlock through this collaboration represents an invaluable resource in our energy-strapped world.

The race to commercialise fusion energy is critical: as an energy source, fusion is both carbon-neutral and potentially nearly limitless, with fusion reactors using hydrogen isotopes and lithium as fuel. Unlike conventional nuclear fission reactors, fusion power also avoids creating long-lived, high-level nuclear waste and the associated safety risks.

By bringing Proxima Fusion's commercial ambitions and IST's scientific prowess together in partnership, the goal of creating secure energy supplies from fusion becomes closer.  Prof. Rogério Jorge says: 'This is more than a research endeavour: it's a step towards a sustainable energy future. The shared commitment of Proxima Fusion and IST brings us one step closer to that future.'