Fusion research institutes from around Europe gathered in Brussels to mark the signing of a grant between the EU and the EUROfusion consortium that will help keep Europe’s lead in fusion energy research.
EUROfusion represents a major change in the way fusion research is funded in Europe. From 2014 to 2018, research will be funded through the Euratom Horizon 2020 fusion energy research programme, in line with Europe’s fusion energy roadmap, which aims to deliver electricity generated by fusion to the grid by 2050.
Nuclear fusion uses the same energy that powers the sun – heating hydrogen atoms to millions of degrees Celsius so that they fuse together into helium, generating energy in the process.
‘We are at the beginning of an exciting new journey with the launch of EUROfusion,’ said Vice-President responsible for energy, Günther H. Oettinger during the launch event in Brussels on 9 October.
‘Fusion has the potential to become a reliable, safe, non-CO2 emitting and sustainable energy source. Today’s launching of our European Joint Programme on fusion shows how Europe benefits if we unite our research strength.’
At the moment, countries representing over half the world’s population are working to build the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) – in the south of France.
‘We are at the beginning of an exciting new journey.’
Vice-President responsible for energy, Günther H. Oettinger
If they are successful Europe plans to go on and build a demonstration reactor, known for the moment as DEMO, which is expected to start contributing energy to the power grid around 2050.
‘This is a very pivotal time for us to be in fusion,’ Professor Steve Cowley, Chief Executive of the UK-based Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, told the meeting in Brussels. ‘I believe that this (ITER) is the most important experiment of the twenty-first century.’
Fusion technology could be able to meet a large proportion of the world’s energy demand in a cost-effective way. Unlike fission, which powers the nuclear reactors used today, fusion does not produce long-lived radioactive waste and is not subject to the same safety concerns.
The impact of heavy droughts, heatwaves and cold spells on energy demand and supplies would be lessened with seasonal climate forecasts that allow energy companies to better predict spikes in usage ahead of time, researchers say.
Earthworms and tiny water fleas could help deliver clean water to billions of people living in remote areas of the world by eating up sewage and other pollution.
A sister and brother who created shock-activated protective gear featuring a starch liquid for people who in-line skate, motorcycle and do other risky sports, won one of the three first prizes at this year’s European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS).
Biofilters offer in-situ low-maintenance ways of treating wastewater.
Winners from Germany and Canada take home top prizes.
Electric cars with liquid batteries could be charged in minutes, says Prof. Cronin.