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Professor Tom Scott appointed RAEng Research Chair in Fusion Energy

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Press release issued: 24 March 2021

Professor Tom Scott has been appointed as Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair in Advancing the Fusion Energy Fuel Cycle.

As Director of the Interface Analysis Centre (IAC) in the School of Physics, his research expertise centres around the detection and characterisation of nuclear materials, to aid prediction of their behaviour in engineered and environmental scenarios. This includes a specific strand of activity relating to nuclear robotics and sensors. He works closely with the nuclear industry in the UK and overseas to deliver characterisation and decontamination solutions for nuclear decommissioning.

Professor Scott’s work focuses on tritium – the gaseous radioactive fuel component for fusion energy. This project aims to advance, develop and deploy technologies for breeding, handling, separation and safe storage of tritium. Working in partnership with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), he aims to establish the UK as an international leader in tritium fuel cycle technologies.

This award coincides with the initial phases of UKAEA’s Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) programme; an internationally significant endeavour to design and build the world’s first fusion power station by 2040. The development of a well-established fuel cycle is a critical step towards this goal.

He said: “Being involved with the STEP, via this award, is a hugely exciting prospect for myself, for the University of Bristol and also the Royal Academy of Engineering. The realisation of fusion energy will be truly transformational for the world.”

Focusing on industry-relevant research across the full range of engineering disciplines, the Academy’s Research Chairs and Senior Research Fellowships enhance the 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 field of engineering.

From improving the sound quality of digital musical instruments to advances in materials engineering that will offer clean, adaptable and affordable energy solutions, the Academy has announced four new joint industry–academia research partnerships that will develop transformational technologies and tackle some complex engineering challenges.

Commenting on the appointments, Professor Karen Holford FREng CBE FLSW, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Cardiff University and Chair of the Academy’s Research Committee, says: “Every year I find myself amazed and encouraged by the ingenuity and engineering excellence shown by our awardees and the sheer range of challenges that they are helping to address to improve so many aspects of our daily lives. Fostering collaboration between expert engineering researchers and industry is something to which the Academy has always been committed and the internationally renowned centres of research excellence developed over the past 20 years of this scheme are testimony to its importance for UK engineering research and innovation.”

Further information

Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chairs 

Research Chairs and Senior Research Fellowships aim to strengthen the links between industry and academia by supporting exceptional academics in UK universities to undertake use-inspired research that meets the needs of the industrial partners. Awardees are expected to:

  • Establish or enhance a world leading engineering research group
  • Deliver 'use-inspired' research that meets the needs of their industrial partners
  • Disseminate the outcomes of their research for appropriate academic impact
  • Become a self-sustaining research group by the end of the award (by securing substantial external grant income: RCUK, EU, industry, charities, etc.)
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