Helion Energy has announced that its fourth prototype nuclear fusion system is operational. Previous prototypes demonstrated the breakthroughs that made possible a new path toward commercial fusion and yielded significant fusion yields with Helion’s design. This prototype will take Helion one step closer to commercial scale fusion.
Helion Energy also won a Clean Tech competition. Each regional finalist wins a prize package with a mix of seed investment and in-kind services worth up to $20,000. On November 19 two dozen winners from eight regions around the U.S. will convene in San Jose, CA to network with potential investors and vie for prizes as large as $200,000 in value.
Helion Energy Fusion Engine has received about $7 million in funds from DOE, the Department of Defense and NASA. The company hopes to raise another $2 million by next year, $35 million in 2015-17, and $200 million for its pilot plant stage.
The Fusion Engine is a cyclically operating fusion power plant technology that will be capable of clean energy generation for base load and on-demand power.
The Fusion Engine is a 28-meter long, 3-meter high bow tie-shaped device that at both ends converts gases of deuterium and tritium (isotopes of hydrogen) into plasmoids – plasma contained by a magnetic field through a process called FRC (field-reversed configuration). It magnetically accelerates the plasmoids down long tapered tubes until they collide and compress in a central chamber wrapped by a magnetic coil that induces them to combine into helium atoms. The process also releases neutrons.
The Fusion Engine provides energy in two ways. Like in a fission reactor, the energy of the scattered neutrons gives off heat that ultimately drives a turbine. Helion is also developing a technique that directly converts energy to electricity. The direct conversion will provide about 70 percent of the outgoing electricity according to Kirtley.
Helion Energy new plan is to build a 50-MWe pilot of its “Fusion Engine” by 2019 after which licensees will begin building commercial models by 2022.