Group establishes fusion research center

The Aerospace Research & Engineering Systems Institute, Inc. is fostering the growth of high-technology research on the Space Coast through the establishment of a state-of-the-art plasma science and fusion research laboratory.

Located near Kennedy Space Center, the Spacecoast Plasma & High-Energy Electrostatics Laboratory (SphereLab) will provide the opportunity for researchers from academia and industry as well as university students in Florida to engage in cutting-edge plasma and fusion research while also attracting talent from around the United States. The laboratory is intended to be a testbed for new technologies and potential commercial spinoffs from its research activities.

SphereLab is envisioned as a state-of-the-art yet cost-effective facility for the study of high-energy plasma and the challenges and problems of nuclear fusion and its potential use in terrestrial and aerospace power and propulsion applications.

“ARES Institute is currently involved in several projects, but SphereLab is really the cornerstone for our future activities,” says Matthew Travis, Executive Director of the Aerospace Research & Engineering Systems Institute. “The concept has been in development for several years. We hope to attract and retain high-technology talent in the area after the shuttle program ends. More than that, we want to see Central Florida become known as the foremost location for fusion-related science and technology research in the same way that Silicon Valley is synonymous with computer technology.”

Currently, work on the laboratory is focused on designing the first of its central instruments, a Hirsch-Meeks Inertial Electrostatic Confinement fusor (a type of fusion reactor) suitable for initial research activities, along with fundraising for the acquisition and construction of the laboratory facility itself. Additionally, ARES Institute has identified several potential grant opportunities with the National Science Foundation and Air Force Research Laboratory that it intends to pursue.

Once the laboratory is operational, it will be available for university students and researchers to use to conduct their own experiments. An overriding goal is to draw scientists and researchers together at a facility with unique capabilities not found elsewhere in Florida.

Currently, the development timetable is targeting Spring of 2011 for occupation of temporary facilities and startup of the first fusor instrument. The laboratory will be fully outfitted by the end of 2011. Eventually, the laboratory will move into a permanent home, perhaps at KSC’s Exploration Park.


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