General Fusion has successfully closed USD$65 million with a Series E round led by Temasek (Singapore fund). There was US$38 million (C$50 million) released from the Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund. The total funds recently made available to General Fusion is over US$100 million.
They will use the money to design, construct, and subsequently operate its Fusion Demonstration Plant. This prototype facility is intended to confirm the performance of General Fusion’s magnetized target fusion technology in a power plant relevant environment.
In addition to Temasek, the Cleantech Practice of Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), the DLF Group, Gimv, I2BF Global Ventures, Disruptive Technology Advisers (who also assisted the Company in the financing), Hatch, and several individual impact investors have become new investors in General Fusion. They were joined in this financing by many existing international investors in the Company, including Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, Bezos Expeditions, Khazanah Nasional Berhad, Braemar Energy Ventures, Entrepreneurs Fund, and SET Ventures.
About 20 months ago Nextbigfuture interviewed Christofer Mowry the CEO of General Fusion. Mowry said the next step is to make a 70% scale pilot plant that will prove out the viability of generating electricity from General Fusion’s magnetized target nuclear fusion.
The pilot system will prove three things:
1. Fusion conditions will be repeatably produced
2. There will be a kill chain from neutrons to electrons
3. Economics will be validated.
Simulation will be used to validate the economics and design specifics to move to a 100% system.
The next system after the 70% scale system will be a full commercial system.
The Demo system will cost several hundred million dollars. The $100 million is not enough to complete the Demo System.
General Fusion now plans to have the demonstration plant up in the 2025 time frame. This was consistent with the 2018 Nextbigfuture interview which indicated 5 years to make the Demo. They needed to raise enough money to begin serious development. It will take about $300 million to complete the project. They will need another $200 million to get the Demo completed and likely another $1 billion or $2 billion to make the 100% scale system.
The plasma injector component built so far is a 2-meter plasma injector. It will be a 3-meter injector for the pilot plant.
Titanium fabrication is with GE Additive as a partner.
The current component for has 14 pistons and was not to achieve plasma compression but to work out other engineering issues.
The demo system will have several hundred pistons. Perhaps around 500.
The next system could have more or fewer pistons depending upon how experiments inform the design and how smoothly the plasma will need to be compressed.
It will be deuterium fusion.
The demo plant will not add tritium. Addition of tritium is a well-understood process and would have a predictable impact.
Tritium will be added in the follow up commercial system.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
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39 thoughts on “General Fusion Has Over US$100 Million to Make a Fusion Demo Plant”
Sure, that works too, but you’d like many small fission plants rather than a few giant multi-GW reactor complexes for use in district heating. For remote communities you need even smaller reactors, like the SLOWPOKE.
The key disadvantage of small reactors is that the red-tape per MWth increases as the reactor size shrinks and many other obligations stay about the same size (e.g. plant security). So in theory a 2-10 MWth SLOWPOKE does not need to be attended very often, but in practice you may need armed guards with machine guns outside so no bugger will kill themselves trying to steal the fuel.
OK, I thought from past posting that their commercial grade plant would produce 100MW. If that’s the case, then their plants will $10 per Watt which is insanely expensive.
One reason waste heat is a big deal is it requires cooling which entails the use of fresh water (which is scare enough as it is.)
I think it woud be better to put lasers instead of pistons,also why not stop trying to use the fail ones and fund Andrea Rossi’s E-cat that works already? so we can start using fusion already.
Interesting idea about the CO2 as a buffer to temps changes. I have a fear that in the shorter term our “Holocene” is stable (to our great benefit!) simply because the ice is melting, which, as we know, stays the same temp until it is gone. Uh oh!
The shades, diffusers actually, are far better than aerosols, at least the Sulfur ones, which acidify the ocean. Ocean acid seems to be the constant factor in big die offs. And such large scale areas seem easier to create in Space than Earth surface albedo changes, altho both would/could help.
I also strongly agree that robots will be first to Space, not humans digging with shovels or such.
But the Earth is not as good as Space, once we get started, for living and working as *civilized* humans. It will be great for Nature, after we effectively quit messing with it, but we accept all sorts of problems just because we are used to them, not because we have a choice to live where the gravity is right for whatever, the earthquakes don’t kill, the hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, tsunami and asteroid strikes don’t happen, the rain, sun and temp is just right for whatever, and there is NO overcrowding anywhere. Those who stay will also face great economic and social pressure to leave stuff alone!
On a larger concept, we have self domesticated using our *System* of unconscious and involuntary ritual for 7 million years, nothing like normal evolution of all other Earth creatures. We do not fit in anymore. Time to go!
I’m usually very sceptical of the people who claim carbon dioxide levels are very low compared to the full span of earth’s prehistory, and also of the let’s all go to space crew, but in the future they might both have a point. The sun has been gradually heating up over the last 4.5 billion years, but earth’s temperature has stayed within a fairly narrow range all that time. Climate scientists claim that the long-period CO2 feedback is the main tool for homeostasis of the biosphere – when it’s warmer, plant growth and marine life speed up, more carbon is locked away in limestones, coal, and oil, and the planet’s blanket gets thinner. If it gets icy for too long, CO2 from volcanoes eventually builds up with nothing packing it away, and we heat up again. If CO2 levels are getting down to levels near the bottom of the range for plants, during the glacial periods – much longer than the interglacials – maybe Gaia is reaching the limits for her air conditioning system. Whether the extra heat is coming from gradually stronger sunlight, our profligate venting of CO2, or eventually just waste heat from too many people’s energy, at some stage humans will have to actively manage the climate. Space shades might be easier to tune, and have less unwanted side effects, than aerosols or albedo enhancement. I just think we can use space without having to live there – robots can be bred to thrive out there, but us mammals evolved to live on this planet. Don’t settle for inferior substitutes !
I don’t know what the vapour pressure of liquid lithium-lead eutectic at four or five hundred C is, but not zero. That, and any splashed droplets, would be tens of millions of degrees cooler than a fusion capable plasma would have to be – like trying to light a match in a hailstorm. Still, fun to watch…
Slight correction – ‘ put the fission plant near houses and use district heating.’ As is already being done.
I think these are very important scientific questions, but the answer does not change the practical response, from the human short term perspective. From Wright Flyer to jets was an instant geologically, as will be the wait for Space Solar and O’Neill Space. Unless we fail and destroy *everything* first. No reason to wait!
We can point to likely populations over a scale of decades. Probably several decades.
But we’ve got no real idea what population is going to do over centuries. The demographic transition is an interaction between culture and technology and wealth levels. Change all of those by 200 years and who knows?
In my view, current continental configuration is a good theory for susceptibility to glaciation. Astrodynamics may be responsible for variations, but that alone does not explain the sudden shift in climate 2MBP. Every 100K years for the past 2M years we have been having these brief interglacials. If humans are responsible for ending that cyle, I will be very happy- but that is not very likely IMO. I am betting on shorter growing seasons and mass starvation very soon (in the geological sense). Until it happens, and can be observed, we have only theories.
Yes, very important. But orbital mechanics explanation seems pretty good overall. Endless details. Climate is a problem solved only by going to O’Neill Space. Climate cooler, hotter or the same, still a BIG problem.
I am inclined to believe that the cycles started with the formation of the Ithsmus of Panama, and that the imminent end of the phenomenon is wishful thinking in service of the AGW agenda.
There is a theory that the 80,000 year ago glaciation caused the coastline to recede so fast that our ancestors had to move so often that they developed concepts of “when” and “where” to do this. Thus modern language and efficient hunting and bad news for nature. We can pay our way by stopping the next big asteroid or even better, expanding all life into O’Neill Space.
In terms of human impact, reversed as possible. The glacial periods you refer to are parts of a longer *ice age* that is slowly ending, unless we have already killed it off. Let the ice age proceed without further interference, which is to bounce around for a while yet after our current interglacial. (edit: 70,000, not 7,000)
Ah, you do realize that, 70,000 years ago, a good deal of North America was under a mile of ice, right?
Maybe you meant 7,000 years ago?
I was bringing up the sort of things that will never succeed in the long run. My definition of success is most of the Earth being like it was 70,000 years ago.
We’re currently about 4 orders of magnitude below Kardashev I. Energy production may become an issue at a few percent of that, so roughly 2 orders of magnitude above current production.
At just 3% compound growth per year, 2 orders of magnitude takes about 160 years. But bump it up to just 5%, and it’ll take less than 100 years. Either way, not quite “a few hundred”.
But Brett Bellmore does have a point. Currently we’re making ~2 kW per person, on average. If the population peaks around 10 billion, it’s hard to imagine what we would do with 100+ kW per person. On the other hand, that may just be a shortage of imagination.
“And for unintended consequence, putting panels on water stops C capture by the micros who are now in the dark!”
Not really an issue for large areas of the ocean, that are essentially abiotic due to lack of trace elements such as iron. But I was only quibbling; Not all the Earth has a higher albedo than a solar panel.
From the numbers I have seen, they are very far from fusion demo, far behind other fusion projects.
Solar shades cut a small amount from a huge number, insolation, which is far larger than total nuke power would be even if all on Earth.
I agree with the specific point, as our energy use is puny compared to insolation(which is the *current* problem, when it is trapped whether we use it or not). Cost and the C emergency (call C “climate as is or changing” if you dispute CO2 heating) justifies move to Space. So do many other independent factors.
Of course, the cost is the important difference. Earth solar only makes sense if you already need a solid cover, such as a roof, which can double as a solar panel. Dedicated panels are way more difficult than in Space, which includes lunar surface for these purposes (vacuum, not wind).
And for unintended consequence, putting panels on water stops C capture by the micros who are now in the dark!
Space Solar is a cash cow for getting Space started. It is low hanging fruit for Space projects, but not the only goal, as you state, actually moving the whole process into Space.
Alternatively, if you assume there’s a maximum amount of energy per capita that is actually needed, it won’t happen.
I’m having a hard time envisioning what people are doing, on Earth, with that much energy. Not heating their homes, obviously. Computing is getting more efficient.
I could see just capping energy use per capita on Earth, and if you want to live the terrawatt lifestyle, move off planet.
A world where access to space is very cheap is a world where we can cheaply create solar shades to fine tune Earth’s temperature.
It’s actually unlikely to become that big of a problem ever, because thanks to the demographic transition, it doesn’t appear we’re ever going to have a large enough population on Earth for it to become a problem.
“Earth solar cells absorb more than sand, keep it on Earth”
Just for the sake of argument, you could float them on the ocean, in areas where the albedo is already very low.
But, yes, I’m on board with moving industry into space, and turning the Earth back into more of a garden planet. The amount of energy we really need to use on Earth to live here isn’t all that great if the manufacturing is done off planet.
In fairness to LPP, they’re operating on a tiny budget. With GF-level money they could probably cycle a lot faster too.
They didn’t go straight to that. They’ve already done a bunch smaller-scale experiments with pistons driven by explosives.
I tried to explain this to a math professor last summer and he flat out would not consider it!
We could already be getting there if we had started 40 years ago, instead of dreaming about Mars.
Well, yes, you can build shades, esp if you are also doing other ISRU. I think diffusing the light to barely miss the Earth is easier than reflecting it, which would create a light sail.
Generally, Space Solar delivers the power locally, to many rectennae, and the same tech can go Earth to Earth to replace transmission lines, not rely on them.
H economy is growing much faster than Space Solar, so may not need to try to go to grid at all, as the early customers have no grid now.
Space Solar is a way to get to Space thru profit.
See Criswell for cost and scale info of a specific plan. Compare to human controlled fusion, much harder than existing fusion. Sol.
Here is an interesting idea to at least mitigate the problem.
I don’t think this is quite true for at least 2 reasons.
The first is that if it is economical to send solar power into geostationary orbit then it is much economical to send up a thin flat mirror to block incoming sunlight in LEO; or even better, just some sulfate dust particles that don’t even need to be in orbit. Power emitted on earth won’t be the limitation for fusion.
Space solar uses the microwave window to send power to a spot on Earth (ok; a Chernobyl-exclusion-zone-sized spot, but still a spot).
You have some losses in the atmosphere. I don’t know what they are; much better than visible light; maybe 5%?
The reciever will not be made large enough to capture anything more than the central bump of the airy disk pattern, which contains 84% of power, (and probably closer to 75% is even worth building rectenna to capture); it’s definitely not worth it to make the area of reciever several times bigger to capture the last 16%.
Then you have conversion losses of maybe 15% (very high quality rectenna) to high frequency low voltage in the reciever.
From HF low voltage you go to HVDC because your reciever is definitionally out in the middle of nowhere. That’s another 10% losses.
Because you’re in the middle of nowhere, transmission lines are long. That’s another 5% losses. HVDC to AC is another 3% losses or so.
That’s 0.95*0.75*0.85*0.90*0.97 = 0.53. That’s not so much better than the 0.4 of a good steam plant. Put the fusion plant near houses and use district heating.
It all becomes waste heat eventually. Tidal slows the orbit/rotation, turns it to heat. Geotherm releases heat faster than normal. On and on. Earth solar cells absorb more than sand, keep it on Earth. Space solar dumps the first conversion loss into space, a big difference. And the same tech can build really cheap glass diffusing screens to short term relieve some of the heat, but getting almost everything humans do off the planet is the only long term solution. And we are doing it!
When Space Solar Power is mentioned, “waste heat” introduced into the Earth enviro is often mentioned as a problem. Such is far worse for Earth based nuke. Or geothermal, for that matter. SSP dumps the conversion loss in space. Nuke (heat engine) dumps it on Earth. Now, this is small until it is big enuf to matter, say 20-200 tW.
This system is definitely not KISS. Proof of concept (a shot) does not require the steam pistons, but could instead use rupture disks and pneumatics or high/low explosives (sub-gram quantities of TNT/cordite). As much as I want to see it fire, they are not keeping the organization small and lean; it appears to be a Vancouver jobs program. Nothing wrong with that, but don’t get your hopes up. The fact that they are going straight to 500-piston “70% commercial scale” is a red flag. You may dislike my opinion, but many practiced mechanical engineers should agree. I couldn’t even begin to comment on the electrical/plasma components… not qualified.
So much funding is wasted on ineffectively alleviating climate change when instead, the funding could be used for projects like this General Fusion work, some of which will eventually hugely alleviate climate change.
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