General Fusion (Canadian magnetized target nuclear fusion) has completed its US$19.5 million Series B funding round providing the financing necessary to complete the first phase of its development and demonstration program.
The investors include Cenovus Energy, through its Environmental Opportunity Fund, Bezos Expeditions, the personal investment company of Jeff Bezos, together with existing investors Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, GrowthWorks, Braemar Energy Ventures, Entrepreneurs Fund, Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), and SET Venture Partners.
This was the steam punk or piston engine approach to nuclear fusion. Large pistons around a sphere strike at the same time and cause a compression which wave which then fuses plasmoids.
The goal is to build small fusion reactors that can produce around 100 megawatts of power. The company claims plants would cost around US$50 million, allowing them to generate electricity at about four cents per kilowatt hour.
If there are no funding delays, then in 2010-2011 for completion of the tests and work for an almost full scale version (2 meters instead of 3 meter diameter).
The third phase for General Fusion is to raise $50 million for a net energy gain device with a target date of 2013 if the second/third phase are roughly on schedule.
If they get $300-500 million for commercialization, the first commercial scale unit could be 2016-2018.
It appears they have had no problems raising the money that they need.
Our generator will operate in a repeating cycle, with each cycle culminating in a burst of fusion energy.
Each cycle will involve:
• creating plasma of deuterium and tritium,
• trapping the plasma within a magnetic field,
• compressing the magnetic field and the plasma within it to thermonuclear conditions, and
• capturing the heat that results from the fusion reaction and using it to generate electricity and power the next cycle.
Physically, our generator will consist of a spherical tank filled with a liquid mixture of lead and lithium. The liquid will be spun by tangential injection to create a vertical cylindrical vortex cavity in the center of the sphere.
A plasma injector will be mounted on each end of the vortex cavity. Each plasma injector will heat a puff of deuterium-tritium gas to 1 million degrees using a high-voltage electrical discharge from a bank of capacitors. Each puff of gas will form in the midst of magnetic fields that will cause it to form a closed, toroidal (doughnut) shape and to peel off the end of the injector somewhat like a smoke ring.
The outside of the spherical tank will be studded with approximately 200 pneumatic pistons. These pistons will impact the tank, inducing a spherical acoustic compression wave in the liquid metal that will travel to the centre of the sphere. As the acoustic wave travels through the lead and focuses towards the centre, it will become stronger and evolve into an intense shock wave. When the shock wave arrives in the centre, it will rapidly collapse the vortex cavity and the plasma confined within it, creating thermonuclear conditions in the process.
The pneumatic pistons will be controlled by a system that times their impacts precisely to create a symmetrical compression shockwave in the cavity. The control system will adjust the timing of individual piston impacts to control the shape of the cavity as it collapses; compensate for physical and thermal effects and variations within the generator; and, adjust for changes over time as equipment wears and parameters vary.
Other nuclear fusion projects funding
Paul Allen and Venrock has put funding into Tri-Alpha Energy $60+ million
EMC2 Fusion has $8 million from the Navy and US Government
Lawrenceville Plasma Physics – various small funders about $3+ million raised