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Non-Profit Group Establishes Florida Fusion Center

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by Staff Writers
Melbourne FL (SPX) Dec 06, 2010
As Brevard County, FL, home to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, prepares for the end of the space shuttle program, the Aerospace Research and 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 and 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 and 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.

For more information, please visit For more information about ARES Institute and its programs, visit our website at

Research Specifics
SphereLab will advance work in CO2 laser electrodynamics, advanced rocket propulsion, alternative energy, semiconductor vapor deposition, and other fields and heavily utilize presently dormant facilities and equipment. It will create proprietary "signature instruments" - a unique research apparatus sufficiently advanced and desirable in its capabilities as to attract top talent from across the country and around the world.

In giving a university or private sector partner a piece of equipment able to draw prestigious investigators to use it, this program will also attract graduate and doctoral students of the highest caliber to work with them.

The laboratory will place emphasis on investigations into the potential aerospace applications of IEC fusion. Along the way, it will help advance the goal of achieving Earth-based fusion power production and the holy grail of producing more power from the reaction than is required to sustain it.

Additionally, SphereLab will undertake difficult, high-risk/high-reward investigations in a variety of disciplines, the relative activity and prominence of each dependent upon the degree of external funding that can be developed in that program area. Targets for study include High Performance Aerospace Power and Propulsion; Controlled Nuclear Fusion and Alternative Energy; Pollution Control, Waste Remediation and Resource Recovery; Mineral Refining, Materials Science and Industrial Processing; Next Generation Radiofrequency Antenna Architectures; and Advanced Laser/Maser Systems Development.

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