University-Industry Engagement Week

MIT inks five-year expansion of research deal with Commonwealth Fusion Systems


By David Schwartz
Published: May 17th, 2022

MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) has signed a five-year expansion of its research and education agreement with its own spinout, Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS).

“This expanded relationship puts MIT and PSFC in a prime position to be an even stronger academic leader that can help deliver the research and education needs of the burgeoning fusion energy industry, in part by utilizing the world’s first burning plasma and net energy fusion machine, SPARC,” says PSFC director Dennis Whyte. “CFS will build SPARC and develop a commercial fusion product, while MIT PSFC will focus on its core mission of cutting-edge research and education.”

Commercial fusion energy holds much promise in combating climate change, sparking a great deal of interest from energy companies, governments, and foundations. The new agreement promises to help PSFC expand its fusion technology efforts with a wider variety of sponsors. The collaboration enables rapid execution at scale and technology transfer into the commercial sector as soon as possible.

CFS’s financial commitment to PSFC is doubled under the new deal, enabling greater recruitment and support of students, staff, and faculty. “We’ll significantly increase the number of graduate students and postdocs, and just as important they will be working on a more diverse set of fusion science and technology topics,” notes Whyte. Already, the partners have worked together to achieve numerous advances toward fusion power plants, including last fall’s demonstration of a high-temperature superconducting (HTS) fusion electromagnet with record-setting field strength of 20 tesla.

Around the world, multiple fusion energy technologies are seeing rapidly accelerating development, potentially creating a new fusion energy industry that would require thousands of trained people.

CFS is a start-up member of MIT Energy Institute (MITEI). The institute’s director, Robert Armstrong, says the new agreement is part of a well-defined plan. “Our goal from the beginning was to create a membership model that would allow start-ups who have specific research challenges to leverage the MITEI ecosystem, including MIT faculty, students, and other MITEI members. The team at the PSFC and MITEI have worked seamlessly to support CFS, and we are excited for this next phase of the relationship.”

“This has been an incredibly effective collaboration that has resulted in a major breakthrough for commercial fusion with the successful demonstration of revolutionary fusion magnet technology that will enable the world’s first commercially relevant net energy fusion device, SPARC, currently under construction,” says MIT alum Bob Mumgaard, CEO of Commonwealth Fusion Systems. “We look forward to this next phase in the collaboration with MIT as we tackle the critical research challenges ahead for the next steps toward fusion power plant development.”

“To address the climate crisis, the world needs to deploy existing clean energy solutions as widely and as quickly as possible, while at the same time developing new technologies — and our goal is that those new technologies will include fusion power,” added Maria T. Zuber, MIT’s vice president for research. “To make new climate solutions a reality, we need focused, sustained collaborations like the one between MIT and Commonwealth Fusion Systems. Delivering fusion power onto the grid is a monumental challenge, and the combined capabilities of these two organizations are what the challenge demands.”

Source: MIT News

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week