ARPA-E, responding to a question from LPPFusion, has altered its requirements for its new ALPHA Funding Opportunity Announcement so as to allow aneutronic fusion concepts to compete for grants in the we $30 million program. This is the first time, to our knowledge, that a US Department of Energy program has considered aneutronic fusion proposals. In light of these new requirements, LPPFusion has submitted a proposal to ARPA-E for a $2 million, two-year grant.
The ALPHA (Accelerating Low Cost Plasma Heating and Assembly) funding program was announced by ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy) in late August, aimed at funding alternative fusion ideas. However, in the original call for applications, ARPA-E had set a requirement that fusion yield be 5 times input energy—a requirement that was unnecessary for pB11 (hydrogen –boron) aneutronic fuel and probably impossible to meet. LPPFusion sent a question to ARPA-E, asking that the requirement be changed to take into account the much higher efficiency of energy conversion (and much more economical energy conversion) possible with aneutronic fuels. Such fuels produce energy in the form of charged particles, allowing a direct conversion into electricity without use of an expensive and inefficient steam cycle.
ARPA-E responded to our question on the “FAQ” section of their website that applicants could instead use a requirement that the electricity recycled back to the next pulse be no more than half the total electricity generated. (This is the same as requiring that net power be more than half of total electric power). They specifically mentioned higher efficiency with direct conversion of charged particles, typical of aneutronic fuels (although they did not mention the fuels themselves). They then incorporated this change into a revised announcement. This revised requirement is one that a Focus Fusion generator could meet—although such a generator would still be highly economical even if net power were only 30% of generated electricity.
ARPA-E will first decide on the basis of 4-page concept papers which applicants will be asked for full detailed applications. Then 12-15 grants will be awarded on the basis of these applications.