Optimism about the use of fusion (unlimited, safe, affordable, clean energy sources to power the sun and other stars) will drive investors to fund projects over the next decade, driving the world. It rekindled the dream of technological innovation to change.
According to the Fusion Industry Association, there are at least 35 private fusion companies around the world, including the United States, Canada, China, the United Kingdom and France. The 18 companies have received a total of approximately $ 1.8 billion in private funding. In recent years, many startups have also appeared, and the number is increasing rapidly.
“The problem with fusion is that it’s impossible to cause an accident. There’s no long-term waste and it can’t be used as a weapon,” said Christopher Morley. The Wall Street Journal.. He is the CEO of General Fusion, a Canadian startup backed by billionaire Jeff Bezos. “This solves the energy security problems that have plagued the world for over a century.”
How nuclear fusion works
Fusion is the combination of two light nuclei, binding them into one heavy nucleus, and releasing an enormous amount of energy four times that of a fission reaction. There is no carbon emission and the radioactivity level is very low.
These fusion reactions occur in plasma, which is a state of matter different from ordinary solids, liquids, and gases. Temperatures above 180 million degrees Fahrenheit are required for nuclei to overcome and fuse with each other during collisions.
In order for the attractive force to exceed the repulsive force, it is necessary to confine the nucleus in a small space. This essentially increases the likelihood of a collision. In the sun, extreme gravity provides the necessary conditions for fusion to occur.
Fusion reactions have the potential to form the basis of future power plants. According to scientists, first-generation fusion reactors use a mixture of the two isotopes of hydrogen, deuterium and tritium. If successful, a few grams of these reactants can produce terrajoules. This is enough energy for an individual to last for more than 60 years in developed countries.
Reach the temperature threshold to power the energy plant
Until now, no company has been able to generate more energy than it consumes in a self-sustaining reaction with fusion technology. Several challenges remain, such as mastering the density and pressure required to trigger the process. However, private investors seem confident in the promises of fusion, and they are beginning to fund nuclear start-ups.
Helion Energy, a private fusion company, announced on November 5 that it has raised $ 500 million in its latest round. Helion claims that the generator has achieved the temperature threshold of 180 million degrees Fahrenheit required to power the energy plant.
The company’s next step is to achieve and become self-sufficient in net production, which means it produces more energy than it consumes. Helion aims to reach this stage by 2024. Investors promised an additional $ 1.7 billion if the company could reach a particular benchmark.
Michl Binderbauer, CEO of TAE Technologies, based in California, said: New York Times.. TAE has raised about $ 900 million. This is the largest funding ever raised by a Fusion startup.
The company says it will be commercially viable by 2030, but the technology is still in its infancy and difficult for traditional investors to understand. As a result, Binderbauer has relied on selling the technologies it has developed so far on its path to energy self-sufficiency for nuclear startups. A subsidiary of TAE is working on a project to treat cancer using particle beams.
MIT’s Commonwealth Fusion Systems announced a breakthrough in September after successfully testing a high-temperature superconducting electromagnet that produces a magnetic field strength of 20 Tesla. A strong magnetic field increases the rate of fusion energy generation by improving plasma confinement.
Commonwealth Fusion Systems believes that by the early 2030s it will be able to produce fusion-powered electricity and reach net energy generation by 2025.
The British government has set an ambitious goal of becoming the first country to commercialize fusion energy. The government has invested approximately $ 248 million in reactors that will be operational by 2040. This will change how energy production and consumption are perceived by the industry and around the world.
Currently, the largest fusion program is the ITER program based in Southern France. A $ 22 billion multinational government-funded project, ITER is designed to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion technology, not to produce electricity.
Similar to MIT technology, ITER features a larger machine called a tokamak, which uses a magnetic field to confine and squeeze the plasma, causing a fusion reaction. According to scientists, ITER will supply superheated plasma by the end of 2025 and will fully merge by 2035.
Large investors are expected to participate in the fusion energy business when scientific progress occurs. David Harding, founder of an investment management company, with an estimated $ 36 million in holdings and a key supporter of fusion technology companies, said: “There aren’t many fusion projects in the world, but there are many investors.”
Proponents argue that the technology is worth pursuing, even if the benefits of investing in fusion technology remain suspicious, especially in the short term. You can’t rely on wind or sunlight to power climate-independent places and times. They say there aren’t many options left.