Thursday 19 October 2006

Clean fusion energy: HiPER is on the Roadmap

The roadmap outlining opportunities for European science was published today. The result of two years intensive work involving over 1000 top-level scientists, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) lists 35 opportunities for major science facilities over the next 20 years.

The HiPER laser project is a key opportunity being sponsored by CCLRC within this roadmap. Its purpose is to demonstrate a high technology solution for a long-term supply of environmentally clean energy.

The European High Power laser Energy Research facility, HiPER, will be designed to investigate the newest concept for efficient generation of power from fusion – the power of the Sun. A demonstration that energy can be produced from laser driven fusion is expected in the period 2010-2012, initially in the USA and subsequently in France. HiPER has been designed to move from this scientific proof of concept to a point where a demonstration commercial power plant is feasible, using a new technique known as ‘fast ignition’.

A consortium of over 50 senior laser and plasma scientists from nine countries have worked over the past two years to prepare the conceptual design of HiPER. The consortium will now direct their efforts to preparing the case for obtaining preparatory design funding as part of the European Commission’s response to the ESFRI roadmap. The design stage is anticipated to last three years, preparing the case for construction of this €800M facility. Whilst the future location is yet to be determined, the UK is a potential host, as part of a wider drive to take a leading position in high profile science with strong economic impact.

Whilst the pursuit of a future clean energy source is the principal goal of HiPER, the capability offered by a state-of-the-art laser has not escaped the wider scientific community. Proposals to make use of HiPER are being incorporated into the design, covering fields as diverse as extreme material science, astrophysics in the laboratory, miniaturised particle accelerators, and a wide array of fundamental physics studies.

Notes for Editors

The HiPER conceptual design has been produced by over 50 senior scientists from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Czech Republic and Canada. Following on from the publication of the ESFRI roadmap, the European Commission will be seeking proposals for detailed design work preparatory to construction as part of its upcoming Framework Programme 7. See In the case of HiPER this is estimated as a 3 year project, with 3 principal goals: (i) definition of the appropriate legal, governance and financial framework, (ii) detailed design of the laser facility, (iii) development of the underlying technology and scientific maturity of the proposal.

The construction cost of HiPER is estimated at €800M. The timeline for construction is: two years conceptual design (now completed); three years preparatory phase design; five years construction; two years commissioning. Operation is therefore anticipated towards the end of the next decade, assuming funding is granted.

The ESFRI roadmap consists of 35 scientific opportunities and CCLRC has a particular interest in several of them. An upgrade programme for ESRF, the most powerful high energy synchrotron light source in Europe.

The Council for the Central Laboratory for the Research Council is one of eight UK research councils and is one of Europe’s largest multidisciplinary research organisation supporting scientists and engineers across the world. It operates world-class large scale research facilities, provides strategic advice to the government on their development and manages international research projects in support of a broad cross-section of the UK research community.

The Central Laser Facility (CLF) at the CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is one of the world's leading laser facilities providing scientists from universities in the UK and Europe with an unparalleled range of state-of-the-art laser technology. For more information please visit