MAE Seminar: SPARC and the Path to High Field Fusion

McDonnell Douglas Engineering Auditorium (MDEA)
Brandon Sorbom
Chief Science Officer
Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS)

Abstract: MIT and Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), a new startup company focused on the rapid commercialization of fusion, are jointly pursuing a privately funded accelerated approach to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion energy. The CFS/MIT team is currently developing a new generation of high-field, large-bore, REBCO-based superconducting magnets to incorporate into a compact net-energy tokamak called SPARC that will demonstrate net fusion energy gain. The key performance metrics in a tokamak scale is the strength of the toroidal magnetic field to the third or fourth power times the volume of the device. One of the most important consequences of these scalings is that increasing the magnetic field in a tokamak enables a much smaller device to demonstrate net-energy production, leading to dramatic reductions in cost, timeline and organizational complexity required to construct and operate the fusion device. Over the past year, the SPARC team has performed much of the groundwork to enable the magnet development project. On the technical side, the team has collaborated with HTS centers of excellence to evaluate/improve the performance of REBCO from leading manufacturers, designed and built our own HTS measurement facilities, and performed several cable-level tests both in-house and at external facilities. On the programmatic side, we have raised $115M of private capital, grown a combined MIT/CFS team of over 100 people working on the SPARC effort, built magnet development, construction and testing spaces at both MIT and CFS facilities, and placed orders for several hundred km of REBCO coated conductor. This talk will present a summary of the work above and discuss plans for the future.

Bio:  Brandon Sorbom’s expertise is in fusion energy, compact power plant design and high temperature superconductors. During his doctoral work at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, Sorbom was the leader of the ARC Reactor design study, a conceptual design for a small, modular fusion pilot plant that formed the basis for a comprehensive high-field pathway to commercial fusion energy. As CSO of CFS, Sorbom leads the work in evaluating high temperature superconductor performance and prospects for scale-up, as well as leading the power plant design-scoping efforts. Sorbom earned his doctorate in nuclear science and engineering in 2017 at MIT, where he as served as a Plasma Science and Fusion Center researcher since 2010.