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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Development of a High-Flux Fusion Neutron Source for Academic and Industrial Applications

This project has the potential to transform UW plasma research and the field of neutron sources. This project seeks to demonstrate magnetic plasma confinement, for the first time ever, using high temperature super conducting magnets. It also will generate an advanced conceptual design for a deuterium-deuterium Mirror-based neutron source that is useful for industrial and academic applications and create an academic/industrial partnership that could be used to seek venture capital to fund the construction of a proof-of-principle facility that leads to a neutron factory.

Neutron sources are extremely valuable but costly to build. There are many commercial applications for neutrons, including neutron radiography, neutron diffraction for residual stress analysis, semiconductor doping, medical isotope production, and fission actinide transmutation. There are also academic research applications, including neutron activation analysis, fusion and fission reactor materials testing, biological imaging, and protein structure formation. Today, nuclear fission reactors and spallation neutron sources serve these markets.

Both of these technologies require massive facilities that are extremely expensive to build and maintain. Fission reactors also face severe regulatory challenges in the United States, causing shutdowns of some of the few remaining facilities that provide neutron irradiations services. This has caused many in the marketplace to utilize reactors in Canada and other foreign countries. Two Wisconsin companies, SHINE Medical Technologies and Phoenix Nuclear Labs (PNL), are working to commercialize a fusion-based technology to provide a high-yield neutron source. Many commercial applications have been identified that can be served by the PNL/SHINE technologies, but others will require even higher neutron outputs to be economically viable.

Principal Investigator

  • Cary Forest
    Professor of Physics


  • Vladimir Mirnov
    Senior Scientist in Physics
  • John Sarff
    Professor of Physics


  • David Larbalestier
    Professor Emeritus of Material Science and Engineering, National High Field Magnet Laboratory
  • Greg Peifer
    President of SHINE Medical Technologies
  • Ross Reidel
    President of Phoenix Nuclear Labs
  • Jim Yeck
    Senior Special Advisor for Large Research Infrastructure Projects, Office of University Relations at UW–Madison