The issues of energy and climate change require us to develop sustainable energy on a global scale. This transition is one of mankind’s biggest challenges in this century and its success depends on our solving a score of scientific questions.
The Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research DIFFER wants to conduct leading fundamental research in the fields of fusion and solar fuels, in close partnership with academia and industry. To successfully transfer fundamental insights to society at large, we are actively building an energy science society through the formation of multidisciplinary networks.
Fusion energy has the potential to deliver concentrated, safe and clean energy from the process powering the sun and stars. DIFFER has two fusion research programs, which both address high priority topics in the European Fusion Roadmap. We explore the intense plasma surface interactions expected at the wall of future fusion power plants with our unique high-flux plasma generators Magnum-PSI and Pilot- PSI. In such reactors, control of the burning plasma is of crucial importance to efficient operation and in our second fusion program, we develop insights and control systems for the magnetohydrodynamic instabilities in a fusion reactor. DEMO: The step between ITER and a commercial power plant. DEMO will mark the first step of fusion power into the energy market by supplying electricity to the grid. DEMO will largely build on the ITER experience. The construction has to begin in the early 2030s to meet the goal of fusion electricity demonstration by 2050.
Solar fuels research
On the shorter timescale, the big challenge in the energy transition is to integrate fluctuating sustainable electricity in an infrastructure which demands predictable power production. This is closely connected to the issue of global energy storage and transport, and at DIFFER we aim to tackle this challenge by converting intermittent sustainable energy into fuels. For instance, DIFFER investigates the splitting of water into hydrogen or the activation of carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, and the processing of these products into a hydrocarbon fuel. The research involves the synthesis and design of novel materials and processes to obtain scalable, efficient and cost-effective systems.
Building an energy science society
The transition to a fully sustainable energy system is a global challenge, with players from all fields of science, industry and politics. For the Netherlands to participate in this task, it needs a strong and coherent national research program. A well-connected and collaborative network researchers is a promising soil for innovative breakthroughs in sustainable energy. DIFFER wishes to play a national role in basic energy research by helping develop a multidisciplinary community focused on science for future energy.