Applied Fusion Systems

Nuclear Fusion Research

Zero Coal

For the first time since the industrial revolution this country has gone 24 hours without burning coal. Times change.

This is a neat tool to monitor UK and French power usage:

‘First Look’ Applied Fusion Systems release early reactor design and modelling concepts

The need for higher efficiency and lower costs in fusion engineering has led AFS to the spherical tokamak reactor design model. These reactors offer more favourable magnetohydrodynamic behaviour meaning they can be run for longer bursts and are less prone to damaging plasma instabilities called disruptions. In addition, spherical tokamaks are known to operate more efficiently confining plasma at a higher pressure than conventional tokamaks using less intense and therefore cheaper magnetic fields.


The reactor is part of the new breed of high efficiency spherical tokamaks. The STAR planned Alphpa and Beta reactors are intended to produce 100MW of electricity and will do so using the new generation of materials suited to fusion science; for the toroidal coils REBCO superconductors make the design far easier to service because they are simpler to join. The design also features symmetrical diverter systems which can be used to aid heat extraction from the plasma.

 STAR will make use of recent advanced in additive manufacturing otherwise known as 3d printing. Major components can now be laser sintered rather than cast or milled, reducing build costs and times. Complex geometries become possible with additive manufacturing and so AFS can explore novel approaches to existing design challenges.

 STAR is slightly larger than the MAST reactor at CCFE, to ensure it can meet a minimum commercial standard of 100MW electrical output. 


The Physics

If heat is converted to electricity at 40% efficiency, the reactors need a fusion power of 250MW to produce 100MW of electricity. A steel blanket is widely recognised to support a maximum wall loading of 5MW/mˆ2 so at peak wall loading the STAR reactors A and B require a wall area of ˜50Mˆ2 (250/5). These requirements determine the basic geometry of STAR, major radius = 1.1m minor radius = 0.9m. 

MAST Centre Column Installed

The slow motion video is actually nail-biting stuff. The centre column is a key component of MAST and contains the main current drive solenoid. It also has space for cooling channels and plasma shaping coils.

The units for power density are W/mˆ3, is there a sensible measure for “tech density” maybe $/mˆ3? The so-called ‘million $ kebab’ seems to be following the fusion tradition of remarkable amounts of tech crammed into tight spaces.

Here’s the video

MAST Upgrade – lifting the Centre Column into place


3D Printed Magnets

From the Economist:

I’m in favour of any process involving a BAAM machine. That’s Big Area Additive Manufacturing.

It’s not hard to imagine a group of scientists interested in 3D printing magnets:


You’ll need more than a set of french curves



Nuclear Fusion: Small is beautiful. The UK is set to become a hub for Nuclear Start-ups.

Nuclear Fusion: Small is beautiful. The UK is set to become a hub for Nuclear Start-ups.

Small British Firm, Applied Fusion Systems has its sights set on its own reactor and believes that the UK is a center for excellence of Nuclear Fusion Technology offering Small Enterprises an unparalleled opportunity for Research and Investment.


Fusion was easy, that’s what scientists thought, that was in the 1950s. Things didn’t go according to plan.

Over the past two weeks’ fusion research has seen more setbacks. Firstly, Princeton’s NSTX reactor was shut down after a malfunctioning copper coil melted. The device will be offline for a year. This week the Alcator c-mod at MIT was powered up for the last time. The reason? Funding cuts.

Fusion research has a problem and the problem is size. Years ago, the US agreed to join the ITER project, a vast multi-billion dollar consortium of countries building a huge test reactor in the south of France. Not scheduled to begin fusion reactions until 2027 and massively expensive, it took two years simply to decide to locate the project in Cadarache, Provence. The huge expense of ITER means that funds are tight for homegrown fusion research, hence the demise of Alcator at MIT.

But look closer and you will see the emergence of a new wave of fusion research. In recent years, a number of startups have appeared pursuing their own path to commercial fusion conceptualising smaller, cheaper designs with lead times of years instead of decades.

In the UK, Applied Fusion Systems is typical of this new breed; small, nimble and plugged into a world leading research community. Founded by Richard Dinan and Dr. James Lambert, Applied Fusion is in the process of privately financing the construction of its own British made Tokamak reactor, ‘S.T.A.R.’ (Small Toroidal Atomic Reactor).

The designers behind STAR have compiled elements from some of the most successful reactors over the past 20 years and applied the very latest super computing technologies, combined with a cutting edge understanding of Plasma Physics. A subject for which the UK is home to a wealth of World experts. Additionally down the road in Culham is CCFE, the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. Here sit JET and MAST, world-leading fusion experiments with their researchers singly focused on bringing fusion to the grid.

Fusion had been a tough sell for venture capitalists but a number of factors have combined to change that making fusion particularly enticing to investors and graduates who, a few years ago, might have gravitated towards investment banking. Fusion research is a number crunching game and over the last decade the cost of supercomputing has collapsed. Instead of filling warehouses with computers researchers can now hire time on a provider’s cluster on the other side of the world.

The financial crisis of 2008 has reversed a brain drain which saw many to physicists leave the lab for the city. Now, with Imperial College, Oxford, Cambridge, York and others carrying out world-class fusion research the time has never been better for UK enterprises to get into fusion.

To sign up to regular updates on Applied Fusion, register your interest. visit

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Alcator c-mod’s new record

Big news from MIT today. Their fusion test reactor the Alcator c-mod has set a new record for plasma pressure at 2 atmospheres.

It’s also a sad announcement, this record was set on the last day of operation of this device. Funding was cut in 2012 because of The United States’ existing commitment to fund the ITER project in Provence.

Last week the NSTX at Lawrence Livermore was taken offline by a damaged toroidal coil. Now with alcator c-mod retired the US is left with only one functioning fusion facility, the DIII-D run by general atomics in san Diego.

The fusion department at MIT is run by Dennis Whyte who is overseeing the construction of MIT’s ARC reactor, an affordable and easy to maintain fusion reactor. Also a tokamak.

What’s Taking So Long?

We were asked to comment on the state of fusion research for this article by Jamie Carter. Looks like it came out really well.–1329056

Taking Shape

We’re building a reactor. We’re going to tell you why fusion matters, why our project matters and where we’re going from here.

Applied Fusion Systems sees nuclear fusion as the inevitable solution to humanity’s energy problem. Put simply: How do you keep the lights on without destroying the planet?

Our answer is taking shape and we’re very excited.

The concept is based on a design called a tokamak. That’s a Russian acronym which roughly translates as “Toroidal chamber with magnetic coils”. Here’s what they look like:


Courtesy of Euro Fusion


Tokamaks work by levitating hot plasma with incredibly strong magnetic fields. The hot plasma contains two forms of Hydrogen, Deuterium and Tritium, which fuse to make Helium and release energy. In the image above the plasma (purple) circulates inside the donut shaped vessel which is surrounded by ‘D’-shaped magnetic coils.

Figuring out the right way to do all this is hard. Until recently the supercomputing resources needed to accurately predict how the plasma would behave simply didn’t exist. Now they do and that’s why we’re excited.

Plasmas don’t behave like gases. Gases obey the laws of hydrodynamics, they flow about in response to differences in pressure, a gas particle only notices its immediate neighbours by bumping into them. Plasmas on the other hand obey the laws of magnetohydrodynamics, a dizzyingly complex branch of physics which combines Maxwell’s laws with those of hydrodynamics. The reason for the stark difference is that the nuclei and electrons in plasmas are electrically charged, whereas gas particles are not. As a result a plasma particle feels the forces generated by other particles both near and far, vastly complicating the mathematics.

Having heated plasma to around 100M Centigrade some of the Deuterium and Tritium nuclei will collide and fuse releasing energy in the form of heat. The end goal is to produce enough heat to keep the plasma hot and still have enough left over to drive a turbine and produce electricity.


But let’s take a step back and look at the $6,000B/year global energy market. In many countries energy costs are second only to health care. Energy is big business, especially in emerging markets, sadly high costs are damping potential growth all over the world. We only need to look at the uncontrollable costs of the U.K.’s Hinkley Point project to see that something has gone badly wrong with the “old nuclear” industry’s costs. A change is needed.

We believe the time is ripe for a new approach to the fusion puzzle, the new generation of REBCO superconductors and the collapse in the price of supercomputing resources means that for the first time a new entrant in the fusion sector makes economic sense.

3 years ago Cycle Computing ran code on Amazon’s cluster at a cost of 36 Gigaflops per dollar!


Fusion is not held back the way old nuclear is. It produces no long-lived waste and cannot melt-down. The primary fuels are Deuterium which is found in seawater, and Lithium which is abundant in the Earth’s crust. These reserves should keep us going for 20,000 years.

Some more good news. The U.K is a world class research leader in fusion technology. Take  a trip to the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) to see JET or MAST, two remarkable and very different tokamaks. In addition, universities like Imperial college, Warwick and York are well known for their strong plasma physics and fusion credentials. The U.K. fusion sector has a deep bench of talent to draw from.

This is the right place and the right time to dive into fusion in a big way. Applied Fusion Systems is delighted to announce the start of our reactor project. We are starting with physics simulation and design validation before moving on to prototyping.

If you would like to be kept up to date then join our think tank and you won’t miss a thing.

Thank you from the team at AFS.

Spherical tokamaks take a step forward

Good to see such a promising design gaining ground:

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