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RAEng Senior Research Fellowship for ambitious energy production programme

‘Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production’ (STEP) aims to deliver a prototype fusion reactor with the potential to provide unlimited energy

Artist's impression of Prototype Fusion Reactor

Artist’s impression of the protoype fusion reactor, courtesy of UKAEA

Associate Professor Ed Tarleton has been awarded a Senior Research Fellowship by the Royal Academy of Engineering for an ambitious energy production programme. It is one of eight new joint industry-academia research partnerships addressing some of the most complex challenges facing modern engineers.

STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production) aims to deliver a prototype fusion reactor, in collaboration with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), that could pave the way for commercial reactors. Nuclear fusion has the potential to provide a new source of unlimited energy, but the materials engineering challenges are significant due to the extreme conditions inside the reactor. STEP is part of a wider project ('Design by Fundamentals') addressing the significant lack of relevant data on the materials response to yet unchartered, extreme, fusion environments The fellowship will apply the latest breakthroughs in materials modelling to simulate the behaviour of irradiated engineering alloys to help guide the design of STEP and contribute to making fusion energy a reality.

Professor Tarleton, UKAEA / Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research Fellow in Materials Modelling for Fusion Energy, says of the award “This fellowship will allow me to apply my expertise to help design a fusion reactor. Fusion is a really exciting technology: it’s the natural power source for the universe as it powers the stars. If we can harness it on Earth, it will have a huge positive impact on the world”.

Focusing on industry-relevant research across the full range of engineering disciplines, the Academy’s Research Chairs and Senior Research Fellowships scheme enhances links between academia and businesses, with each of the prestigious five-year positions co-sponsored by an industrial partner.

Each awardee will establish a world-leading research group in their engineering field and deliver ‘use-inspired’ research that meets the needs of the industrial partners.

Dr Chris Hardie at UKAEA adds, “The collaboration between UKAEA and Oxford will develop predictive models that will provide engineering relevant material property predictions through service. This will provide a degree of confidence to structural integrity assessments in the design phases and critically provide a means of calibration/validation through service by the testing of surveillance samples.”

Professor Karen Holford CBE FREng FLSW, Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor, Cranfield University and Chair of the Academy’s Research Committee, says: “It is very encouraging that one of the Academy’s longest established funding programmes—now in its 35th year—received among its strongest set of applications to date and the number of awards we have made this time reflects this. I remain endlessly impressed at just how creative engineers are at investigating solutions to real-world problems and these projects will deliver societal benefit not only in the UK but also globally. The partnerships that support innovative engineering like this are vital to our future health and prosperity and the Academy values them very highly.”

A full list of the five Research Chairs and three Senior Research Fellowships can be found here.