Burn Water! Save the Planet! Startups Boldly Take Fusion Power to New Heights

Fuel for Fusion Reactors Is Literally WATER

“Steampunk Fusion” — Steve Jurvetson at General Fusion — Wikimedia CC

Believe it or not, these reactors use water as fuel. It is technically called heavy water, and the subject of an upcoming article.

The world of electric power production from thermonuclear fusion has been heating up for the last few years. Recently, it has shifted into high gear. Here are notes on progress by three leading companies.

General Fusion

Signed an agreement this month to move toward a net-zero future. This was with a power firm in Ontario, just north of the Great Lakes in the United States, and the Nuclear Innovation Institute. They are clearly aiming at providing fusion power to the most energy hungry area of Canada.

During the 4th quarter 2021, General Fusion raised over $130 million new capital. This included investments from the following.

Jeff Bezos
Tobias Lütke
Kam Ghaffarian
Temasek
GIC
Jameel Investment Management Company (JIMCO)
Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)
Segra Capital

This company is based in Burnaby, B.C., near Vancouver. It’s distinctive approach uses liquid metal to compress a hydrogen plasma to reach temperatures and pressures that fuse the nuclei. They call this Magnetized Target Fusion. Link to my concise article on the company

This company is driving toward commercialization, with a demonstration plant in 2025.

TAE (formerly Tri Alpha Energy, Inc.)

Located in Foothill Ranch, near Los Angeles. Founded in 1998 by Dr. Norman Rostoker, they have so far raised $880 million. Their approach is a linear arrangement where plasmas are formed at opposite ends of a cylindrical chamber, then accelerated to the center where they collide and are held by magnetic force (with far smaller magnets than in Tokamak designs) and megawatt level neutral ion beams to produce burning fusion.

TAE continued to apply AI software received from Alphabet/Google to help analyze what is occurring during each trial of the system and to model changes to be incorporated for the next trial. This has significantly reduced development time. While this is not controlling the system in real time, it is clearly is assisting TAE with it ambitious plans. Link to Google Blog with details

Commonwealth Fusion

Commonwealth Fusion just raised $1.8 billion to fund further development.

They are working with MIT northwest of Boston. They delivered the world’s most powerful superconducting magnet last fall. This is one of several to be used in the process of confining hydrogen plasma to initiate and sustain fusion. The energy from this reaction will be used to provide electric power. To the degree that they are successful, this will replace power plants that are fueled by non-renewables such as coal, gas, and even uranium.

The list of investors sends a message: this technology is on the move!

Here’s the partial list.
Bill Gates
Coatue Management LLC
DFJ Growth
Emerson Collective
Footprint Coalition
Google
JIMCO Technology Fund
John Doerr
JS Capital
Marc Benioff’s TIME Ventures
Senator Investment Group
Breakthrough Energy Ventures
The Engine
ENI
Equinor Ventures
Fine Structure Ventures
Future Ventures
Hostplus
Khosla Ventures
Lowercarbon
Moore Strategic Ventures
Safar Partners
Schooner Capital
Soros Fund Management LLCStarlight Ventures
Temasek

Mainstream media included a few short articles last December about this company. Could there be bias due to the owners of these media companies having major investments in fossil fuels and related industries?

Potential Investments

While these ventures could be outstanding investment opportunities, especially in the currently vacillating market, they are not available to us as regular investors. They are privately funded, with the exception to ITER which is financed by a broad spectrum of governments including the U.S., China, and Japan. However, as these private firms achieve milestones such as sustained burning fusion and exceeding energy breakeven, they might launch IPOs. Although still extremely high risk for an average investor, they could be worth evaluating at that time as high growth investments.

Takeaway

These private companies are really serious about creating working fusion power plants. I will continue watching and reporting. They might just change the future for us all.

My next fusion article will focus on the second largest project in Europe: JET — the Joint European Torus — where a fusion milestone was achieved recently.

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Writer, inventor, maker. Member of startup. Applied physics, electronics, microbiology.

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Mark Senninger

Mark Senninger

Writer, inventor, maker. Member of startup. Applied physics, electronics, microbiology.

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