The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has increased its funding for Jacobs’ research into lithium, a key ingredient for fusion power reactors.

Under its Fusion Industry Programme, UKAEA has awarded £1.46 million for Phase 2 of the project to extend the liquid lithium testing facility at Jacobs’ Technology & Innovation Centre at Birchwood Park in Warrington, U.K.

It was one of 18 projects which received initial Phase 1 funding at the end of last year and has now been selected among a handful of these to progress to Phase 2.

Jacobs Managing Consultant Ryan Morris said: “Based on the work we did under Phase 1, UKAEA has recognized why a facility like this is needed. “Our research aims to fill many knowledge gaps surrounding the properties of lithium, an alkali metal critical for breeding the hydrogen isotope tritium, an essential fuel for fusion reactors. Its use presents several challenges though, including material compatibility and interactions of lithium with tritium.

“We will continue to develop our ability to handle lithium safely and we will also be able to test materials for fusion reactors at high temperatures and with known impurities. The facility and associated know-how will provide important groundwork for future projects, including fusion reactor design and will be a new and exciting capability for us at Birchwood Park, complementing existing fusion capabilities.”

Phase 2 will involve the acquisition of a new glovebox, a lithium purification system and a series of new test vessels and includes testing of materials under fusion relevant conditions.

The UKAEA funding program is designed to tackle specific challenges linked to the commercialization of fusion energy, from novel materials and manufacturing techniques through to innovative heating and cooling systems.