Key Facts

What is HiPER?

  • HiPER stands for High Power laser Energy Research facility
  • HiPER is intended to demonstrate the feasibility of laser driven fusion as a future energy source
  • It is also being designed to investigate a broad range of new science such as laboratory astrophysics, nuclear physics and extreme material studies.

What is Fusion and why use it?

  • Fusion occurs when Deuterium and Tritium (isotopes of Hydrogen) are fused together using laser energy. This reaction releases a large amount of energy, a helium nucleus and a neutron
  • Fusion power plant designs are typically at the Gigawatt scale
  • Sea water contains the main fuel source
  • Fusion does not release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is believed to be a factor in global warming
  • There is no long lived radioactive waste produced
  • Fusion does not rely on a large fuel mass, unlike fission, and so ‘melt down’ is not possible. The worst that can happen is that you get no energy output!
  • As such, the benefits of fusion energy cannot be overstated in the current global setting where climate change, pollution, energy security and the ever increasing demand for consumption represent a principal challenge facing mankind. It is a long-term, sustainable solution that will take a concentrated research and development effort across a range of options to realise its potential.

Laser driven fusion

  • The physics underlying inertial fusion is already proven. This is the approach adopted by Nature – this mechanism powers our Sun and all other stars.  Far more importantly, the process of energy production from inertial fusion has already been demonstrated on Earth in a spin-out of the US defence programme. Demonstration of fusion energy production using a laser is now anticipated in 2010.
  • The principle is conceptually similar to a combustion engine – a fuel compression stage and an ignition stage.
  • Lasers are used to compress a shell of Deuterium and Tritium fuel to very high density.
  • A very high power laser is then focused into the dense DT fuel, raising it to fusion temperatures (~100 million degrees Celsius).
  • The power of these lasers is truly immense: roughly ten thousand times the power in the entire UK national grid!  Of course, this power only lasts for a few million millionths of a second.

The Collaboration

  • The HiPER project has to date involved a collaboration between 70+ scientists from 11 European countries (Czech republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, UK) with strong international links to programs in USA, Japan, South Korea, China and Canada.

The Timeline

  • This consortium of nations will submit a proposal for funding of a 3-year “preparatory phase programme” to the EC on 2nd May 2007.
  • The Preparatory Phase Project started on 28th April 2008 and will run for 3 years. The detailed Definition and Design phase is envisaged to start in 2011, with the Construction Phase starting in 2014 at the earliest. If funded, the facility would be opened to the scientific community towards the end of next decade.
  • Laser driven fusion is due to be proven in the laboratory in 2010.

The UK is the leading contender to host the HiPER laser facility.

Key Facts ( pdf_icon pdf 2.42 MB )

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