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Investors are still betting on the 'Holy Grail' of nuclear fusion


A fusion startup backed by Jeff Bezos just raised another $65 million

General Fusion, a nuclear fusion based startup, is among a handful of fusion startups that have been backed by prominent venture capital funds, such as Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Ventures.

  • Fusion is a promising technology, but inventing a power plant that produces more energy than it uses is incredibly costly. But if successfully commercialized, fusion could provide a clean source of energy without many of the drawbacks of nuclear fission, like the production of hazardous waste.

  • Creating a commercial device that generates a net gain in energy will likely require tens of billions of dollars. That's one reason why many private investors have been reluctant to fund fusion startups.

  • Large government programs and governments themselves are beginning to either directly or indirectly in programs that seek to commercialize nuclear fusion.

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General Fusion’s Magnetized Target Fusion system uses a sphere filled with molten lead-lithium pumped to form a vortex.  A pulse of magnetically-confined plasma fuel is then injected into the vortex. Around the sphere, an array of pistons drive a pressure wave into the centre of the sphere, compressing the plasma to fusion conditions. This process is then repeated, while the heat from the reaction is captured in the liquid metal and used to generate electricity via a steam turbine.

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  • Nuclear Energy
  • Clean Energy
  • Explanations

    Nuclear Fusion

    Nuclear fusion is a reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei fuse to form different atomic nuclei and particles. When the final product has lower mass than the reactants, the difference in mass between the products and reactants is manifested as the release of energy.

    Fusion is the process that powers the sun: The nuclei of hydrogen atoms crash into each under extreme heat and pressure, causing them to fuse together and form the nuclei of another, heavier element - helium. This results in a loss of mass and a huge surplus of clean, safe energy.

    For decades, scientists have been trying to find a commercially feasible way to fuse hydrogen atoms here on earth. The most common approach involves using two forms of hydrogen atoms, called deuterium and tritium. They fuse together relatively easily, but the process still requires a tremendous amount of pressure - and a temperature as high as 150 million degrees Celsius.

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    Inside a General Fusion Power Plant

    Look inside a General Fusion power plant and learn about their unique approach to creating clean energy, everywhere, forever from fusion. General Fusion's magnetized target fusion (MTF) approach uses compression to heat hydrogen plasma fuel to the 150 million degree Celsius temperatures. required to release energy from fusion. This approach draws on new technologies such as additive manufacturing and high speed electronics to remove the traditional barriers to commercial fusion energy, opening a pathway to clean energy, everywhere, forever.

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    Zero-emission, safe power on-demand using existing grid infrastructure - General Fusion’s Approach

    General Fusion’s approach is designed from the ground up to enable a practical, commercially viable power plant. Electricity is generated from the fusion plant by pumping the hot liquid metal through a heat exchanger to heat water, which then turns a steam turbine – the same as existing infrastructure used in power generation today. General Fusion power plants will also be modular, allowing multiple units to be deployed to power large cities or heavy industry.

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    Approaches to Fusion

    Fusion energy technology has developed a variety of different ways to create and maintain the extreme temperatures required for fusion.

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    Why Bezos and Microsoft are betting on this $10 trillion energy fix for the planet

    That start-up, General Fusion, isn’t like the up-and-coming companies you hear about in Silicon Valley, with eccentric founders, rapid growth and millions in revenues, though it does count Jeff Bezos, Microsoft and many others as investors and partners.

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    General Fusion - Technical Update

    Take a tour of the General Fusion labs and learn about recent technical advances with this video update from Michael Delage, VP of Technology at General Fusion.

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    Rethink Fusion: An introduction to General Fusion

    Take a peek behind the curtain at General Fusion.

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    Search key words

  • Fusion energy
  • How practical is fusion energy
  • General fusion timelines for commercialization
  • Magnetic confinement fusion
  • Magnetized target fusion
  • Inertial confinement fusion
  • Fusion energy commercialization timelines

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    ITER, a way to new energy

    ITER is an experimental fusion reactor facility under construction in Cadarache, South of France to prove the feasibility of nuclear fusion for future source of energy. In southern France, 35 nations* are collaborating to build the world's largest tokamak, a magnetic fusion device that has been designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy based on the same principle that powers our Sun and stars. The experimental campaign that will be carried out at ITER is crucial to advancing fusion science and preparing the way for the fusion power plants of tomorrow.

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    5 Big Ideas for Making Fusion Power a Reality

    Over the past several years, more than two dozen research groups—impressively staffed and well-funded startups, university programs, and corporate projects—have achieved eye-opening advances in controlled nuclear fusion. They’re building fusion reactors based on radically different designs that challenge the two mainstream approaches, which use either a huge, doughnut-shaped magnetic vessel called a tokamak or enormously powerful lasers.

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