Nuclear Fusion Startup Helion Energy Surpasses 100 Million Degrees Celsius

Helion Energy is the first private company to announce exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius in its sixth fusion generator prototype, Trenta. The Trenta prototype recently finished a 16-month testing campaign, completing almost 10,000 high-power pulses. Helion will be presenting these operational results at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the
APS Division of Plasma Physics.

Nextbigfuture has had many articles covering Helion Energy and Nextbigfuture has interviewed Helion CEO Kirtley in 2014.

Helion Energy raised $30 million in 2018.

Crunchbase reports that Helion Energy has raised about $78 million over six rounds.

Competitive Advantage

Helion Energy is uniquely qualified to succeed in bringing the Fusion Engine to market:
* Helion’s technology is the only proven, practical, reactor assembly in existence with greater fusion output than any private competitor.
* The Fusion Engine was designed from the ground up to be a competitive commercial device, yet is based on demonstrated physics, technologies and Helion’s patented scientific breakthrough.
* The science of the Fusion Engine has been rigorously demonstrated and peer-reviewed.
* Helion has radically reduced risk by validating the technology with over $5 M in DOE funding.
* The Fusion Engine is compact (semi-truck sized) will be able to generate lower cost electricity than current baseload power sources.
* The management team won the 2013 National Cleantech Open Energy Generation competition and awards at the 2014 ARPA-E Future Energy Startup competition.

Revenue Model
Helion Energy’s long-term strategy is to generate revenue based on a royalty model of electricity produced with projected electricity prices of 40-60 $/MWhr (4 to 6 cents per kwh). Penetration of the new capacity market is estimated at 20% of market growth (2.5%) per annum eventually reaching 50% of new power generation worldwide – $52 B/yr. Gradual displacement of existing plants provides for continued growth to 20% of world electrical generation after 20 years with a net return of over $300 billion.

Everett, Washington-based Helion Energy said the 16-month testing campaign of Trenta “pushed fusion fuel performance to unprecedented levels and performed lifetime and reliability testing on key components of the fusion system”.

In 2020, they completed their 6th prototype, Trenta. Trenta runs nearly every day doing fusion. It has completed almost 10,000 high-power pulses and operated continuously for 16 months. With Trenta, Helion became the first private organization to reach temperatures of 100 million degrees Celsius.

Trenta compresses FRC plasmas to over 8 Tesla and reaches 9 keV (100 million degrees Celsius.) Ion temperatures over 8 keV and electron temperatures over 2 keV.

They estimate that Helion’s fusion power will be one of the lowest-cost sources of electricity.

There are four main components of electricity cost: 1) Capital cost 2) Operating cost 3) Up-time 4) Fuel cost. Helion’s fusion power plant is projected to have negligible fuel cost, low operating cost, high up-time and competitive capital cost because we can do fusion so efficiently.

Helion’s levelized cost of electricity is projected to be less than $0.04 per kWh without assuming any economies of scale from mass production, carbon credits, or government incentives.

The founders of Helion believe that fusion isn’t a physics problem, but an engineering problem that will be solved by building, testing, and iterating fusion systems and subsystems. By focusing on our true goal – clean, safe and limitless electricity – we can approach fusion from a new angle.

Their approach does three major things differently from other fusion approaches:

1) They utilize a pulsed fusion system. This helps us overcome the hardest physics challenges, keeps our fusion device smaller than other approaches, and allows us to adjust the power output based on need.

2) The system is built to directly recover electricity. Just like regenerative braking in an electric car, our system is built to recover all unused and new electromagnetic energy efficiently. Other fusion systems heat water to create steam to turn a turbine which loses a lot of energy in the process.

3) They use deuterium and helium-3 (D-³He) as fuel. Helium-3 is a cleaner, higher octane fuel. This helps keep our system small and efficient.

The company said reaching these temperatures and confirming system reliability are “vital milestones” that validate its plans to develop a cost-effective, zero-carbon electrical power plant using its pulsed, non-ignition-fusion device.

“These achievements represent breakthroughs with major implications for how the world meets its expanding future electricity needs while dramatically reducing climate impact on a relevant timescale,” said Helion Energy founder and CEO David Kirtley.

Helion says its approach to fusion energy differs in three main ways from other approaches. Firstly, it uses a pulsed fusion system, which helps overcome the hardest physics challenges, keeps its fusion device smaller than other approaches, and allows it to adjust the power output based on need. Secondly, its system is built to directly recover electricity, while other fusion systems heat water to create steam to turn a turbine which loses a lot of energy in the process. Thirdly, it uses deuterium and helium-3 as fuel, which helps keep its system small and efficient.

Thermonuclear Field Reversed Configuration plasmas in the Trenta prototype
Kirtley, D., Hine, A., Milroy, R., Pihl, C., Ryan, R., Shimazu, A. Votroubek, G.

Helion Energy’s Trenta prototype merged and compressed high-Beta Field Reversed Configuration (FRC) deuterium plasmas to fusion conditions, reaching 9 keV total bulk plasma temperatures with operation above 8 keV ion temperature and 1 keV electron temperature. Extensive calibrated chords of x-ray spectroscopy, 1055 nm interferometry, Bremsstrahlung optical emission detectors, and a wide array of magnetic separatrix and neutron diagnostics confirm extended and repeatable FRC operation at thermonuclear fusion conditions. Fusion reaction rates and particle confinement meet or exceed traditional modified-Lower Hybrid Drift (LHD) FRC energy confinement and overall configuration time is limited as expected by the onset of n=2 rotational instability. This presentation will describe newly-discovered high performance operating modes and expand traditional energy and particle confinement scaling to the thermonuclear temperature regimes. Further, a summary of diagnostics and operational results of the Trenta prototype operation through 2020 will be detailed.

Vacuum vessel and divertor design and results of 16 month operation of the Trenta MagnetoInertial Fusion prototype
Kirtley, D., Campbell, B., Hine, A., Milroy, R., Pihl, C., Ryan, R., Votroubek, G.
Helion Energy’s Trenta prototype recently completed a 16 month testing campaign, remaining under vacuum continuously with all fusion and diagnostic operations and system upgrades completed remotely. During this period, extensive MJ-class discharges were completed, including merging and compression of high-Beta Field Reversed Configuration (FRC) deuterium plasmas to thermonuclear fusion conditions with associated fusion product fluences. This presentation will detail vacuum vessel design and construction, operation and plasma-materials interface considerations for inductive, magnetically isolated, but high temperature (9 keV) and high fluence (1 MW/m^2) divertor plasmas. Furthermore, inductive systems require dielectric materials, traditionally SiO2 or Al2O3, that introduce unique interface challenges. Lastly, this presentation will phenomenologically discuss the operational results of the Mark-I scientific divertor with a focus on long-term operation.

SOURCES – Helion Energy
Written by Brian Wang,

151 thoughts on “Nuclear Fusion Startup Helion Energy Surpasses 100 Million Degrees Celsius”

  1. Because you could grow the food on the transport lines, if you were to use, say conveyor belts going through the same tunnels. Maybe even have the entire fields move, though I think just having the harvest move on a relatively narrow belt next to the plants might be better. But then imagine how cool it would be if you had a conveyor belt of tomato plants going through your local supermarket and you can just pick some tomatoes of those plants. Sort of a cool idea (I should patent that, hahaha) 😉

  2. Boring tunnels are currently used to drop transport costs and time. So with cheap fast transport, why not grow the food out of town and bring it in?

  3. The other one that stood out was the idea that a largely male mining town would develop strongly feminist culture because women, being rare, would be more highly valued.

    I've worked in mines and lived in mining towns. This is not completely accurate.

  4. you have to be a bit more imaginitive than that. It is good to incorporate a mix for redundancy and cost maximization such as many of: on-site reforming, on-site/ community geo, various forms of good ol' NG, roof/ yard PV, a few traditional fossil fuel back-ups, etc. Not sure we should be 100% electrical including heating, hot water, appliances, etc.

  5. Yeah, I think that was from back in 2016, when they participated in the Alpha program with their VENTI- prototype reactor. That was a relatively small device that surpassed their expectations in many levels. That is why they and their investors decided to move on to the much larger, Trenta prototype rather than continuing with Alpha Phase2 and VENTI.

  6. I call them *small world*. They (the ones we are talking about) have adopted the destruction of the planet as the boogy man that will happen if we don't submit entirely to their direction and control. Power addicts. Thus, anything that solves the destruction of the planet problem without their plan is a threat to their planned power and control. Power beaming, Space Solar and O'Neill are the enemy of their power, as is fusion. O'Neill especially.

  7. I think they are also looking to extract He3 from natural gas fields, which have a certain amount of Helium content (and He3 being a fraction of that).
    IIRC, most of the He3 is because some of the T that we made for nuclear weapons has decayed over time.

  8. Saw whole NSS Space conference. Lots of Space Solar, but mostly Mankins, except for an English plan that realizes multiple rectennae can be serviced per radar. Some O'Neill, but the following was cancelled at last minute. It is accurate as to O'Neill. Always starts with *the* question, then goes with current tech. NEO or lunar resources. Orbital factories unless you need to get some fuel to get off Moon. First people in O'Neill plan was 10,000 to build sats, Criswell sez ~500 with robots (on Moon!). O'Neill was on Moon ONLY to get resources.

  9. I think it is more money than anything else. Did you see the panic over ocean clean up. They turned on the idea as soon as it started to look like it would work.

  10. Hard to say. Helion does not release timelines anymore (and are generally rather reserved) after they got badly burned when things got delayed for years due to a lack of funding at the time (they are well funded right now, though).
    From the NRC presentation in January, we know that (at least back then) they are planning for at least one more prototype before the first grid connected plant. Their last prototype took a little over 2.5 years from build start to now (with 16 months of operation). We do not know if they will upgrade their current prototype first and do more tests or whether they will go straight to the next one. If they do the latter, then we can assume maybe 3 years until that one has had it's run. Add another 3 to 4 years for the first commercial plant and we get 2028 or so? Of course things could go faster if they get more funding, or it could take longer if there are significant challenges that get in the way. Overall, I think that 2030 is a good estimate for the first plant on the grid. That is also in line with some of the other well funded teams like ZAP, Tokamak Energy, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, TAE and General Fusion. Though these teams are currently a little behind. So we will see.

  11. Sure, to the extent anybody has any to sell.

    You've got to make tritium to have He3, and the He3 supply will always lag the tritium supply due to that half-life. Any significant market for He3, (Like, say, fusion reactors?) is going to cause the price of He3 to spike, because it's much more difficult to ramp up production to meet demand.

    Sure, the economically sensible move might be to sell the tritium, instead of holding onto it for decades to get He3. But even that situation says that you should have a lithium blanket, rather than throwing the neutrons away.

  12. Technically, if you use a lithium blanket, you get 2 Tritons and one Helion for every two D+D reactions.
    The thing is that He3 is selling for about half the price of Tritium right now (15,000 USD/gram vs 30,000 USD/gram).
    After the US has finally equipped all their radiation monitors at the borders with He3 to satisfy the idiotic security theater, the He3 supply is stabilizing and prices are likely to go down further.
    So in the beginning, my MO would be to sell the Tritium and buy He3. You even have some money left after that. Of course eventually, the price of He3 will likely go up as demand increases, but that will take a fair amount of time.
    At the same time, I am quite certain that the market for Tritium will actually increase due to all the DT fusion reactor projects that are currently in development. ITER alone will need at least 6 kg (or at least 180 million dollars worth of it).
    So selling your tritium and buying He3 instead will likely be a really good side business in the foreseeable future.

  13. Yeah, patents are absurdly tentative about everything, while attempting to cover every conceivable angle.

    Let's separate the long term steady state operation of this reactor, once they're all over the place and have been for many years, from the startup phase.

    To start the system up you need to accumulate a huge quantity of tritium, because you don't get nearly enough He3 directly out of the reactor, it is critically reliant on He3 derived from the decay of tritium, which has a half life of about 12.3 years. Which means you need to accumulate a decade worth of fuel in the form of tritium to supply this reactor on an ongoing basis. Give or take various details, but on that order.

    It's my position that the only practical way to do that is to run deuterium rich while using a lithium blanket to breed as much tritium as possible.

    Yeah, maybe after you'd reached steady state operation you'd decide the lithium blanket wasn't worth the trouble, though I kind of doubt it. (You've got the neutron flux anyway, SOMETHING is going to be hit by it. That something might as well be profit, not loss.)

    But to roll the system out, you need that blanket.

    Well, I suppose you could work out a deal where fission plant 'wastes' were mixed with lithium to create He3 factories. That would at least help, and at the price of He3 right how, I'm surprised nobody has done that.

  14. True Fact. Industrial, warehousing, truck-recharging… all can be re-scheduling to be non-grid destroying and also localized to the community powere system – a private, for-profit entity.

  15. agreed. local community sources could assist high demand areas – though I am not sure how day/night usage works with non-residential.

  16. Love your very informative comments
    Could you please give your best guess as to a timeline on the progress of fusion energy?

  17. Loved that book when I was a youf ! What are the other flaws ? ( Even Mycroft pointed out that one.)

  18. Hydrogen isn't as good a radiation shield as ordinary air, and a big gasbag is necessarily slow. A compact, unshielded fission reactor could power a robot tug towing current-tech jet airliners, probably for a year or so before needing refueling. They'd only need to burn fuel for take-off, rendezvous, and landing, with a reserve for unscheduled line breaks and such, plus an APU for power and air pressurisation on board. The towline would have drogues at each end, with automated systems to latch on near the jet's front landing gear. The turbines on the tug would give extra shadow shielding to a towed plane positioned above their wake turbulence. No need for oxygen could permit higher altitudes, to the point where cosmic radiation, rather than that from the tug, was the limiting factor.

  19. Lithium 6 is a poison for fission reactors, and Helium 3 is much worse. Why should U/Pu/Th plants cripple their own operation to make fuel for something that can replace them, when they can just get on with making power themselves ?

  20. I'm cool with that, neutron phobia in fusion research is mostly a product of sucking up to Greens who will turn on fusion power as soon as it's viable anyway

    It is funny, I have no doubt you're right that Greens will oppose fusion, but… why? Fusion is so much better than fission (and fission is already so much better than anything else), what could they possibly come up with to oppose fusion?

    IMO the real reason is that the greens are really Bolsheviks who just want to destroy anything they don't control.

  21. I think that cheap and abundant energy is beneficial for everyone. Saudi Arabia just commissioned a nuclear (fission) plant. Both China and Russia area also investing heavily into nuclear fusion. I believe that over the course of this decade we will see not just Helion's, but a bunch of other nuclear reactor concepts reach market maturity. There will be a massive buildout of low carbon energy. The energy market is big enough to support more than one fusion reactor design, just as we have a very diverse set of power plants right now already. I mean, we have wind turbines, PV, coal, oil and then several different designs of fission (from CANDU to BREST to GE, pressurized water, boiling water, liquid metal, fast breeders, etc, etc) and gas power plants (e.g. gas turbine, steam turbine and combined cycle). I think it will be similar with fusion plants. The important part is that coal and gas will likely be replaced by fusion.

  22. If this is successful, the US will get something more valuable than 1000 nuclear warheads 🙂 It will be a new geopolitical economic weapon. Cheap energy means cheap transportation (rail, ships, aviation), and cheap manufacturing. This means winning in competition with manufacturers producing the same thing, but with more expensive energy. The one who produces cheaper, gets rich. This will hit the foundations of PRC's economic prosperity 🙂 If the US makes this technology available to allies, contributing to their wealth, the PRC has little chance of beating the US in hegemonic competition. And this also means the collapse of countries based on raw materials (Russia, Middle East). Helion will have many enemies who will want to steal this technology or kill the creators to prevent the geopolitical scene from changing too dynamically. If I were Helion, I would apply for protection from the FBI 🙂

  23. This is great! Almost as good as pizza box size MIGMA. I have rejected all thermal electricity as too expensive, but this has a chance, even to compete with power beaming. Solar cells are not thermal electricity, and the light the sun produces is far hotter than the heat to boil water in such plants. But of course, it is free. But the big grid power market is not the only energy thing going. I wish this project well, and am excited. I may have heard of it several years ago, out of Washington the state? Thought I might have been dreaming when direct current collection was mentioned. Big news!

  24. Depending on the other energy source costs. Energy is all the same. Big machines are not free. Their own price estimate is way high compared to 80s tech radar power beaming costs, capturing *extra* wind and solar that is currently wasted.

  25. The Sun DOES always shine. Even at night! Reminds me of a joke. Rectennae seem to be about 200 MWe size, so that will supply the small grid you mention, but independent with power beam to it from where the Sun does shine.

  26. The blindness of the neurotic to our harm to the Earth is staggering. O'Neill offers our ONLY hope of actually leaving the Earth mostly to Nature, in the very near future. And, if we stop the next biggie 'roid, Nature may be pleased with us after all is said and done.

  27. Note the rampant planet chauvinism here in this line of comments. "Underground" is easy if the "ground" is in micr0g, such as a NEO, and is formed into "tunnels" with small gas jets. Like we do in O'Neill plans. Grow the food in Space!

  28. That is what I am thinking. They will not have a lack of funding for the FDR, when they have another working fusion reactor already.

  29. Careful there! You are reading a patent. Everything is "may" and "at least", etc in an effort to make things as broad as possible.
    I want to direct you to paragraphs 31, 33, 44, 45, 50 and 52 in this regard. P 52 also discusses whether to use a lithium blanket or not and whether it is worth the extra effort and cost, etc.

  30. "You conquer the future with the "Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist." you have, not the one you wish you had." Nope. I do it with all hands on board. Musk rockets if they pan out, Bezos rockets too unless he goes with Musk's also, unlikely. Musk has little to do with (non Mars) Space Solar unless someone buys launches from him. Another commenter brought him up as a topic. And that Musk eventually "lets go" of planets is my plan of action, for him. Now, THAT will make a difference, no?

    I have come to realize that many interpret O'Neill by his examples of the possible, meant to give hope to the general population, rather than his Physics. The question is about "expanding technological civilization(s)". Ask it every time. Is Space an aspect of a tech civ? Is a lunar base? A factory? The answer is almost always clear, unless you are a planet chauvinist. Then, it is invisible. To them.

  31. Bezos may understand O'Neill, but how many tons is he putting into orbit? You conquer the future with the "Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist." you have, not the one you wish you had.

    One thing you can say for Musk is, while he makes mistakes, he is willing to let go of them in the face of evidence. Giving up on carbon composite in favor of stainless steel, after investing a fortune in them. Switching from 301 to 304L.

    I believe he will, in time, turn around on solar power satellites. Once somebody actually demonstrates they work…

  32. I've always liked the concept of hot hydrogen balloons with reactors in the center to keep the hydrogen hot, and power the engines. The lift you can get with hot hydrogen is phenomenal, and a large enough gas bag qualifies as shielding.

    The problem with doing it using fission is that people keep envisioning it crashing for some reason. If the reactor providing the heat were fusion, they might be less worried.

    Of course, there is the issue that you can run the entire structure of a fission reactor hot, while parts of a fusion reactor need to be cryogenic…

  33. I tend to think that if they can get this one working, much of that knowledge gained will directly translate over to get the FDR working, too.

    Plus, if they do reach engineering breakeven with their reactor, it's not like they should lack for resources to get the rocket engine working.

  34. Nice patent. (Not sarcastic, I really like it.)

    Note this sentence: "The fusion reactor is pulsed to remove at least some of the tritium byproducts produced in the D-D reaction prior to a D-T fusion reaction."

    "at least some of"; They actually do anticipate losing some of the tritium to D-T reactions. It's unavoidable, given the much larger (100 times!) cross section at the temperatures they're proposing to operate. Sure, at low burnup fraction much of it will survive, but it's still going to be preferentially burned. That means the lithium blanket is genuinely needed if you're going to try to run at as high a fraction of D-He3 fusion as possible.

    Now, if they can get up above 110 keV, maybe they could dispense with it, but, again, why would they? Even then you've got neutrons, might as well get something out of them.

    Here's the lithium blanket I'm talking about. It absolutely is part of the plan.

    My pointing out the need for this blanket isn't a criticism, I'm just saying this reactor is more "reduced neutronic" than "aneutronic", which doesn't bother me a bit. I'm impressed with the way they're proposing to get their neutron flux at lower energy levels that are less damaging.

    And, yes, even after reading the patent, I think running D-D rich early on is part of their plan, to build up that tritium inventory. You're going to need an inventory of tritium equal to 10-20 years worth of fuel, at any given time, to get He3 out of it at an adequate rate.

  35. You don't need much shielding on a spacecraft. You just have the reactor at the end of a 1km long truss with a small disk shield that leaves the rest of the craft in the shadow.

    THough this assumes you aren't going to take the truss+reactor to land on any planets.

  36. You have brought up many issues! Several of them are removed completely with LSP link below. The Moon *is* a Solar Power Sat. Perfect in every way if the scale is large enuf to matter at all globally. Only downside is twice the radar expense, and ~3 times the cell area, but they degrade by production not time(?), so the extra cost of the cells will fade out. No light pollution, no junk, no station keeping, no sat construction, huge stable radar base, yet radar made of small, independent modules. So, solving global weirding can be seen as a cultural reason too. Big bucks too. Hey, a good plan!

  37. And yes, that is a possibility, but then the question is how much better it will work than say chemical propulsion. There are factors to consider here, like Thrust to Weight ratio, total system mass including shielding and cooling panels, etc. If all that does not add up, then your trip to Mars will only get longer instead of shorter.

  38. And that is the thing. Back when they first started up, the eager press presented forward looking statements with timelines and all that assumed perfect funding as "will happen like this, promised". Mind you, they made those statements back when they had very little funding and were looking for investors. It took them years to get the funds together and ever since they had that, their progress has (obviously) been very rapid.
    The problem was that in the years between those press reports and them finally having the funds, their progress was a lot slower. That then caused some critics to accuse them of "Voodoo fusion" and other things. Not quite fair. Anyway, because of that Helion has more or less been on a media block out ever since.
    This press release is the most they have said in years.

    I am sure they will report more details once they have everything in perfect order, with things like peer reviews and all that. They are serious guys and the last thing they want is to have their reputation tarnished because they were too eager to release some big news to the press. That is why I am convinced that when they DO say that something happened, it really did happen.

  39. Most of the food eating people will still be on Earth for a century or more. It's stupid to grow food in a tunnel on another planet when you can grow food in a tunnel 200m below you.

    (Just one of the basic flaws in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.)

  40. But if this one is working (or apparently on the verge of doing so) and the FDR is still a work in progress, then this one is the one to use.

  41. One idea is to build the Solar Power Sats in Earth orbit, whether from lunar material or launched material. Micr0g mfg has huge advantages for large flimsy structures over having to fold and launch. Then, tow them to Mars orbit, where there is plenty of sunlight. The rectennae would be far better than surface cells to put on the surface. I am saying that he *is* shooting himself in the foot, actually. Now, Bezos understands O'Neill, so compare the plans.

  42. Musk wants to colonize Mars but does not believe that fusion will be ready and compact enough any time soon. So he focuses on solar. On Mars that will be a major issue. If SBSP was a solution in his eyes, I am sure he would consider it. Plus SpaceX needs more payload and customers. So he would be shooting himself in the foot twice, if he was maliciously dismissing SBSP.

  43. Engineering breakeven isn't like a world record neutrons/pulse.
    Neutrons numbers only matter to those people who've been following fusion work closely. Thousands of people sure, world wide, but that's it.
    Fusion makes more electricity out than in, that's going to be big news to maybe a full billion people. Everyone gets the significance of that. (Indeed it's probably LESS significant to fusion fans who might now start demanding $/GW numbers.)
    I will grant that a careful group with no funding issues might repeat tests multiple times and get all their ducks in a row to make sure they aren't going to appear in the text books next to N-rays, Cold Fusion, and faster than light neutrinos.

  44. Please note that Musk sells batteries, and is the most pristine example of planet chauvinist imaginable. So, power beaming, whether Earth to Earth or Space Solar, is a total disruption of his grid battery plans, most *current* grid plans really. It totally solves intermittency and load variability of wind and Earth solar, with very little launched, just the redirectors of Criswell plans. Think of it as a low voltage dc superconductor of unlimited length. Also, see

  45. Yes, but those neutrons are only produced by a quarter of the reaction and make only 5% of the average energy released by the D+D and D+He3 reactions.
    Also, those neutrons from D+D "only" have an energy of 2.45 MeV vs 14 MeV from D+T.

  46. That just makes me more curious! ;-P

    Seriously – congrats to the team at Helion. Really excited about the future of fusion over the next one to five years. 🙂

  47. I am not sure what exactly you are buying there. At that price it might fuse your brain, but not with Deuterium 😉

  48. The DPF could theoretically be small enough for that IF they get it to work. I have been following their progress (and setbacks) for a long time. They are doing great work on a very small budget, but they still have ways to go.

  49. Yes you could. But then the same team (of Helion) also developed the Fusion Driven Rocket for a reason. The FDR has the advantage that the lithium liner increases the exhaust mass and carries the waste heat away from the space craft. Those two factors are quite important. Most fusion space drives suffer from really high Isp and relatively low thrust. For very long term missions that is OK, but if you say wanted to go to Mars it is better to have slightly less Isp and more thrust. Plus heat management is a bitch (pardon my french) in space.

  50. Anywhere and to be clear (since I might have been ambiguous there), I was talking about the vertical farms.

  51. Yep. Helion wants to their reactors to be essentially shipping container sized. Though I assume that would be an oversized shipping container.

  52. I don't disagree but it feels like a game of aneutronic 3 card monte. They are aneutronic except for the D-D reaction going on in the reactor. The neutrons aren't under the D-He3 card, but they are under the next card.

    Personally I don't care as i'm not worried about neutrons or Tritium and I hope that they are completely successful.

  53. EV grid comes in two parts:

    Big grid connecting distant areas and all the small grid connecting the city. The big grid is easy to maintain compared to the super local, buried parts of the grid.

    But to be VERY CLEAR: even with a 100% solar future you would need a grid. The sun doesn't always shine.

  54. I've been warning people about nighttime EV charging for the better part of a decade.

    If a fusion plant is basically 100% safe then you can put them in industrial parks. Heck they may be less dangerous than what is already in the industrial parks (petrochemical, etc).

  55. Ships for sure. Focus Fusion is small and light enough to power commercial airliners and extremely long duration balloons.

  56. "Tritium costs 30,000 USD/gram."

    $300 per gram if you get it from the guy on the street corner.

  57. I'm pretty sure you could modify it to run as a rocket engine. If it's running at substantial gain, you would just throw a parasitic coil on the power generating coils, and use that to dump the extra energy into a similar mechanism which heats and accelerates gas destined for a magnetic nozzle.

  58. It's worth it if they don't want to run out of He3. As you say, about half their reactions are D-D, which produces He3 either directly or indirectly. The other half consume He3.

    So, naively, you'd think they're in He3 balance. Nope!

    They're producing Tritium, and the cross section for D-T fusion is hugely higher than the cross section for either D-D or D-He3, at any temperature of interest. (And ESPECIALLY at the temperature they're aiming for!)

    This means most of the Tritium is going to be immediately consumed in D-T reactions.

    In order to achieve He3 balance, they have to use some of those neutrons to breed He3 from lithium. It's unavoidable. And you want something to soak up those neutrons anyway, why not do it productively?

    But, again, I point out that to make this work, they'll need a positively huge Tritium inventory, given that 12.5 year half life.

    And you can't ramp up D-He3 fusion without having that He3 on hand, which takes quite a while. So, early on their reactors are going to be relying mostly on D-T and D-D fusion, both due to a shortage of He3, and to maximize the neutron flux to build up their Tritium inventory.

  59. Ah, okay. Always good to cross your Ts and dot your Is when the claims are just this side of extraordinary( 'this side' thanks to the re-assessment of fusion gain in conventional Tokamaks published in 2014(?), one of those historic moments that pass unnoticed by the public at the time). No need for a repeat of lenr. Although the anticipation is probably killing them darn near as much as it is us on the outside!

    I did see a return of 95 percent listed on their site under accomplishments, but it doesn't state clearly that it was total energy round trip.

    If you can share it, in what capacity are you involved with Helion( if any; I simply ask because you speak like somebody who has information not yet released)?

  60. Well, space based solar power has the advantage of also working at night. The problem is to get that back to Earth efficiently and safely. There is a lot of debate about that being doable with today's technology. I know that even Elon Musk does not believe in it and he literally builds the cheapest rockets in the world and could use the extra payloads.

  61. There is information on their website about it (look in the technology and accomplishments sections). They might release more information on that in a few weeks or so, but some information releases are waiting for some other events to happen. I am sorry I have to be vague here.

  62. Skipjack, many thanks for the clarification. That is exactly what I have been trying to deduce from their recent publication and information available on their website.

    If I may ask, do you have a link to where Helion has stated this explicitly? Or, barring that, what set of information that they have shared adds up to that understanding?

    Between the advances of private fusion efforts, the promise of the 'Stable Salt Reactor', and the prospects for enhanced/advanced geothermal in the coming decade, it's exciting times indeed.

  63. Too soon dude…
    TAE is doing something very different with a very different goal. I think there is plenty of room in the market for several fusion reactor designs. It is not like we have just one nuclear fission power plant design…

  64. Also medical isotopes and of course nuclear fusion experiments. The demand from those will increase significantly in the coming years.

  65. This is for a press release intended for the general public. Most plasma physicists use keV, which Helion does in their abstract and publications.

  66. I've been doing O'Neill Space Solar activism since 1977, which is currently existing fusion, the Sun. Any delay is not my fault. Stating the ignorance of the overall popular plans is not a useful thing. I know about it.

  67. Degrees "kelvin" would be much better than "celsius". Obviously it makes no difference at such temperatures, but "celsius" is badly out of context here.

  68. Well looking at the plans in the EU and worldwide, gas and even coal plants will continue to be built for decades to come (unless we get fusion).

  69. I actually would put them underground underneath the big cities, where the food is consumed. Like say with Boring Company tunnels. That way they can be hermetically sealed (to avoid pests) and the tunnels could even serve to transport the goods to where they are consumed.

  70. FRC acceleration and merging was already demonstrated with IPA many, many years ago. See relevant peer reviewed publications by John Slough on IPA (inductive plasma accelerator) and LSX.
    They have since expanded the envelope significantly over a total of 6 prototypes.
    Their 5th prototype VENTI demonstrated 2 keV temperatures, ~1E23 ions/m3 plasma density (3 orders of magnitude more than any tokamak to date). VENTI achieved a triple product of over 1E19 keV*s/m3 and 1E11 neutrons per pulse. Those results were presented at the APS/TOFE meetings in 2018.
    Trenta has 30 times the volume of VENTI…

  71. Its a path to emissions-free vertical farming which could start to reverse the massive habitat loss / mass extinction event initiated by agriculture 10,000 years ago.

  72. Their magnets are 10 Tesla and future ones will be at least twice as strong.
    Also, this is not a fusor.
    The heating happens via adiabatic compression. So the magnets are heating the plasma. To be precise there are two sets of magnets. One for acceleration of the two plasmoids and one for the compression after they have merged in the middle. The plasma expands afterwards and induces a current in the magnetic coils per Faraday's law since the plasma itself is charged. Think of it as regenerative braking in a car. Only that this is much more efficient since there are no mechanical parts with friction and all that (this is a vacuum chamber after all).
    The metric is literally: They have 100 kWh in the capacitor bank before the shot and 95kWh back after that (assuming zero energy from fusion reactions, which would otherwise add to that). And that is first hand information!
    Tokamaks can not do that. For one the plasma pressure to magnetic pressure ratio is lower in Tokamaks than in FRCs. Second of all, they require much longer pulses to get the same gain (per the triple product) because their density is 3 to 4 orders or magnitude lower.

  73. Helion is well funded right now. They have a set of dedicated investors who are of course frequently updated on their progress. TAE also was completely silent for years, when they did not need funding for their next larger prototype(s).
    E.g. Helion could have made a huge press release about their record 1E11 neutrons per pulse back in 2018. Instead they just quietly presented that at the APS/TOFE meetings. Meanwhile companies like MIFTI claimed the record with just 1E10 neutrons per pulse (and made a lot of noise about it, despite knowing about Helion having beat them by an order of magnitude). Helion chose to not say anything and rather quietly keep working on making fusion reactors a reality.

  74. Excellent. Except not: if their definition of 95% recovery has to do with the fact that their fusor's magnetic field (3+ Tesla, remember?) is both oscillating and utilizing a tuned tank circuit (think L-C circuit), then of course the peak current of magnetic field can be largely recovered back to the capacitor bank (field reversed).  

    But that really isn't the invested energy, is it?

    The invested energy is that needed to pump up the plasma to 100 megakelvins; it is the energy to cool down the device, to keep the 3 T field oscillating. Doesn't matter one wee iota whether WAY more energy is temporarily 'borrowed' from a large capacitor bank to pulse up the magnetic field. And returned.  Mean pumping energy compared to mean recoverable power … that's the deal. 

    In other words, RoI energy wise.  

    If said reactor has a (let's face it … magical) ability to collect most of the fusion products in a charge-deceleration energy recovery scheme … well, that could be used for ITER too. Nothing no one else mightn't leverage.

    ⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  75. From the U.S. department of energy:

    Low and intermediate gain MIF (Magneto-Inertial Fusion) vs. High gain MIF

    High gain MIF is potentially an evolutionary
    improvement on conventional ICF. Low-gain MIF
    seeks a completely different strategy. It trades fusion
    gain in favor of non-cryogenic gaseous targets and
    high-efficiency low-cost drivers, so that the very high
    gains and high costs traditionally associated with ICF
    may not be needed.

    Electromagnetic pulsed power has lower power
    density than lasers or particle beams, but it has much
    higher wall-plug efficiency and much lower cost per
    unit energy delivered. By using both a magnetic field
    in the target and a lower-density target plasma, the
    required compression and heating power density is
    reduced to such an extent as to allow direct
    compression of the target by electromagnetic pulsed
    power. With considerably higher wall-plug efficiency,
    target fusion gain needed for economic power
    generation can be much lower than for conventional
    laser driven ICF.

  76. From

    Project Innovation + Advantages:

    Helion Energy's team will develop a prototype device that will explore a potential low-cost path to fusion for a less expensive, simplified reactor design. In contrast to conventional designs, this prototype will be smaller than a semi-trailer – reducing cost and complexity. The smaller size is achieved by using new techniques to achieve the high temperatures and densities required for fusion. The research team will produce these conditions using field-reversed configuration (FRC) plasmas, a special form of plasma that may offer significant advantages for fusion research. FRC plasmas are movable – they can be produced at one location and then moved into the fusion chamber, which prevents the hot fusion products from damaging the FRC formation hardware. FRC plasmas also have an embedded magnetic field which helps them retain heat. Helion’s reactor employs a pulsed heating technique that uses a series of magnetic coils to compress the plasma fuel to very high temperatures and densities. The reactor will also capture and reuse the magnetic energy used to heat and confine the plasma, further increasing efficiency. The smaller size and reduced complexity of the reactor’s design will decrease research and development costs and speed up research progress in developing the efficiencies required for fusion power production.

  77. So, my understanding is this:

    Helion is using a vacuum vessel to create and isolate a field-reversed configuration FRC plasma that is movable. Moving the magnetic field AND plasma around? Interesting.

    That means they can overcome a host of problems, the main one being damage to the containment and/or vessel walls. Interesting.

    They extract energy by using the plasma as a type of electromagnetic ‘pump’. As the plasma is pulsed, it contracts, then the pulse stops, and the plasma expands. Then the cycle starts all over again.

    Helion seems to claim to be able to harvest the electromagnetic energy during expansion AND contraction of the plasma. Yes, the density is lower than other fusion devices, but superior in cost per energy unit created.

    The last interesting bit is they say “their prototype completed a 16 month testing campaign, remaining under vacuum continuously with all fusion and diagnostic operations and systems upgrades completed remotely." Parse that as you will – I wish they had used less vague wording.

    So, they present their solution as solving most of the problems that ignition reactors have by (1) avoiding high ignition temperatures and (2) wall/containment degradation issues.

    Have they reached net gain?

    Have they completely mastered moving the plasma and magnetic field around?

    Are they truly confident they will have no wall/containment degradation, at least not to any significant extent?

    Is there something I'm missing? (sources: Arpa-E and DOE below)

  78. They can recoup 95% of the total input energy. And depending on certain factors, they can also capture 95% of the fusion energy (compared to maybe 30% for D+T Tokamaks). That makes a huge difference for the performance metrics of this reactor. E.g. they believe that they can get away with a Q of ~5 rather than 20+ for Tokamaks and they don't need to achieve "ignition" either.

  79. Hehehe, well if they could get their reactor small enough. I could totally see it powering ships, though.

  80. Their 4 cents KWh are cheaper than natural gas and there is plenty of that getting built right now.

  81. So, from what I know is that they can recoup 95% of the energy they put into the reactor (not accounting for additional energy created by fusion reactions). To the best of my understanding, the amount of energy they can recoup from the fusion reactions varies depending on fuel and I believe some other parameters.
    It also will depend on the final design choices for the commercial reactor. E.g. if they were to use a lithium blanket around the central burn chamber, they would get an additional 4.8 MeV of charged particles at the divertor for each neutron produced from D+D reactions. But the lithium blanket will add some complexity. So they might skip that.

  82. Things like peer review, for example. There are a few other factors that play into this as well.

  83. Yup. As they say there. At the end of the day what counts is how much energy you have back in the bank after each shot 🙂
    So without any added energy from fusion reactions, they get 95kWh back for every 100kWh they put in.

  84. Gain scales at B^2.4 and generic fusion output scales at B^3.73
    Helion are actually going to build stronger magnets, at least double of the 10 Tesla that Trenta has right now (I also remember them trying to get to 40 Tesla). They are aiming to do that with conventional copper magnets rather that super conductors. This is possible because they only need short pulses and not steady state like Tokamaks do.
    The huge advantage of using copper magnets is that their reactor can power up (almost) instantaneously. This would allow them to replace gas peaker plants (among other things), which is actually quite a big deal, since there will be a huge demand for those with all the renewable buildout.

  85. I think 'is very reserved' is kind of a crock of horsegak. Business 101 … is to announce as early as possible not just reassuring claims, but any competently reasonable projections of results to the Next Big Thing, just around the corner, for only 225% more venture funding. And we'll be only 18% the way to break-even, too! Yah! Get out your checkbooks, ladies. Belly up to the Bar. Drinks … on you.

  86. Helion's reactor is indeed doing He3 boosted Deuterium fusion. Yes that produces neutrons, but overall only 5% of the energy is released as neutrons and those neutrons are of a much lower energy than D+T neutrons are. That means that the chance of a neutron activation of many of the most common building materials is very low. So it is not just a PR- gimmick. It actually will affect plant life, maintenance and plant- decommissioning costs. As mentioned in my other replies here, they do not really need to use Lithium to make He3. The D+D reaction produces Tritium and He3 and they are aiming for about 50% D+D 50% He3 or somewhere around that.
    They could use the Lithium blanket to make extra Tritium for decay into more He3 (for future reactors) or to sell for profit. Tritium costs 30,000 USD/gram. That could be a huge business.

  87. Helion's reactors are producing their own He3 via D+D reactions.
    D+D-> He3 + n
    D +D->T + p.
    Half of the Tritium will decay into He3 within 12 years. You might
    actually want to sell it and trade it for He3 since Tritium costs a lot
    more than He3, right now anyway. They can breed even more Tritium if
    they surround the central burn chamber with a Lithium blanket. That will
    actually release some extra energy too.

  88. Dunno, goats.  

    The (as in THE) hard problem in fusion is scaling. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that for the last 40+ years (certainly since the 1980s), that just about every Grand Fusion Breakthrough has jumped on scaling metrics that are warmly encouraging and brilliantly straight-forward sounding. Every one. 

    But "something happens in scaling".  

    Mostly the investigators seem to forget that the parasitics-at-lower-and-smaller-energies scale rather horribly worse than the target 'product reaction' scales.  

    For instance, going from VENTI (2 keV) to TRENTA (9 keV) in theory will rather substantially beat the arithematically nominal 4.5× that T alone might naïvely imply.  Brett posted nice curves. Might be projectively linear, or not. 

    Anyway, the real gotcha are those parasitic losses. More ions, at greater density, bouncing into each other, causing more parasitic heating and bremsstrahlung losses, more wall-impacts, more X-rays and such. Sure, its going to scale with energy, but very likely given T⁴ relationship between 'heat' and 'radiation', the (⁴) business is just bad news. 

    Lets be positive though. 

    'F' the aneutronic route. Seriously, no one gives a rubber duck.  

    Produce 100s-of-megawatts of product energy, for 10s-of-megawatts of TOTAL input energy, and the world will beat a path to your better mousetrap. 

    ⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  89. Not this one. That would have been the Fusion Driven Rocket that the same team invented. This one would be quite useful for space power though since it produces so little waste heat and does not need a steam cycle. It might even make a decent rocket engine, but I think that the FDR would be better.

  90. They don't even need the Lithium blanket. Their reactor is more of Helium Catalyzed Deuterium Reactor (HelCat). About half of their reactions are D+D which produces either He3 or Tritium (50% chance for each). They CAN have a lithium8 blanket in addition to that, which adds about 4 MeV of additional energy and yields another Triton. I am not sure whether it is worth the extra effort though.

  91. Helion's reactors are producing their own He3 via D+D reactions.
    D+D-> He3 + n
    D +D->T + p.
    Half of the Tritium will decay into He3 within 12 years. You might actually want to sell it and trade it for He3 since Tritium costs a lot more than He3, right now anyway. They can breed even more Tritium if they surround the central burn chamber with a Lithium blanket. That will actually release some extra energy too.

  92. PVs don't work at night and storage is expensive. Germany had a Dunkelflaute (darkness and no wind) that lasted a week in November. That would need some 11 TWh of storage for Germany alone (and the power to put into that needs to come from overproduction). Thing is that the current world battery production is only 500 GWh a year for all purposes (including EVs and electronics). So not nearly enough. On top of that, night power use will increase due to people charging their EVs over night. The duck curve is real…

  93. This seems to assume that the world will continue to want primarily centrally-sourced and widely-distributed power (with all its joyous maintenance and upkeep) – rather than a slow taper to an on-site generation and off-the-grid mindset. Perhaps just the inner 100 square miles of the biggest cities — all else 50%+ PVs below 50-degN.

  94. power beamed to Earth seems like a logistical and politically-fraught nightmare:
    – scale and complexity of the beaming satelite constellation – have to be built in orbit – material from lunar? NEOs?;
    – concomitant conversion inefficiencies of wireless transmission;
    – vast size of the receiving antennas that would be necessary would still require large blocks of land and significant infrastructure;
    – service life of space-based collectors in the face of challenges from long-term exposure to the space environment;
    – waste heat disposal in space for craft just absorbing would be intractable;
    – maintenance inaccessibility for likely a highly complex, non-repair-automatable system
    – GEO is mostly spoken for, so it would seem more difficult to establish early models in other orbits.
    Seems like a system that would only be built for cultural reasons rather than economic or pro-growth objectives.

  95. I'm very impressed with their work, but they've chosen an absurdly hard nut to crack. Not only is PB11 fusion hard to ignite, it isn't a very energetic fusion reaction, either. 

    That's why they're messing with that X ray energy recovery: They haven't a hope of reaching engineering breakeven unless they can capture every bit of energy coming out of the reaction.

  96. From fusion reactors, basically. Or fission reactors.

    D-T and D-D fusion produces neutrons.

    Li6+n produces H3, tritium.

    H3 decays with a half life of 12.5 years to He3.

    If you were running fusion reactors like Helion's, with the proper mix of D-D and D-He3 reactions, you'd eventually achieve a steady state consumption of He3, your reactors would be eating Deuterium and Lithium6.

    The catch is that doing that requires a really large inventory of Tritium to be built up. REALLY large. And the only way to accomplish that is to manufacture Tritium in industrial quantities using neutronic fusion or fission. You can't switch to D-He3 reactors without first running D-D reactors at large scale, or inserting lithium rods in fission reactors.

    D-He3 fusion is something you can only do after you have spent many years building up a tritium inventory using other sorts of reactors.

  97. He3 fuel isn't easy to come by in industrial quantities. If you want to switch half of Earth's power production to He3 where do you get that much He3?

  98. It's a scarce resource only because they're not trying to make it. If you bombard lithium (6?) with neutrons, you get Tritium. Tritium decays with a half-life of 12.5 years to produce He3.

    There's very little question that if you did have commercial fusion reactors, there would be little difficulty providing enough tritium, you'd just have to capture the neutron flux with a lithium blanket. 

    He3, would be in shorter supply than Tritium, because of that half-life, but you'd be producing plenty of it if you maintained a Tritium inventory. It's just that with the only real use of tritium being nuclear bombs, and a small market for glow in the dark paint, nobody is mass producing it.

  99. 3He is a very scarce ressource.
    It used to come from the nuclear weapons programs and from heavy water reactors but its supply is dwindling. The current cost of 1 liter of 3He (gaz!) is about $2000.

    1 liter of 3He gaz contains 2.5E22 atoms.
    The fusion reaction produces 18MeV so that 1liter of gaz may produce 7.2E10 Joules which 20000 kWh.
    The fuel cost alone is thus $2000/20000 = 10 cents /kWh !

    Very serious efforts will be required to secure a new 3He supply chain.

    NOTA: I crossed checked the numbers but feel free to confirm the value.

  100. At 50-70 KeV they're right at the crossover point for D-D vs D-He3, so they'll be doing a mix of the two reactions. Unless, as I say, they run He3 rich.

    I'm hoping for the best, but let's not kid ourselves: This reactor would produce enough neutrons that it's only sorta-kinda aneutronic. And they're relying on that, they're talking about manufacturing their own He3.

    How do you do that? With neutrons. They're really over-selling the aneutronic aspect. It's mostly a PR gimmick. They're actually counting on producing neutrons, to make He3 via neutron bombardment of lithium. Which will, by the way, require building up a simply huge Tritium inventory, since the half-life is over a decade.

    I'm cool with that, neutron phobia in fusion research is mostly a product of sucking up to Greens who will turn on fusion power as soon as it's viable anyway, they're only supporting it as the best that's the enemy of the good. (Where fission is the good.)

    But He3 fusion is difficult enough that I really think we'd be better off just going with D-T fusion, and accepting that you have to deal with the neutron flux. At least that way you don't need the huge Tritium inventory, you can use it as you make it.

  101. Well, this reactor is basically designed to be usable as a rocket engine, that's one of the implications.

  102. As I said, 4 cents per KWh-e is ~5 times Criswell LSP estimate for 20-200 TWe delivered retail. And that estimate is with pre Musk expensive rockets, less robots and additive mfg than we have now. Far less for the owners. Of course, extra Earth collected solar is essentially free if you can move it, as with power beaming. See ppg 12-13 for details. Criswell LSP find searchanddiscovery link.

  103. Well, the SPARC project is going to use 20 T field, a factor of two higher than Helion. If fusion gain scales as B^3 for Helion as well, then they wound be 8 times better off with the higher field. Is that the case, do you know?

  104. 95% of what input energy? Do they count the energy to make the plasma "balls" in the ends, the energy to accelerate them to the middle and the energy produced by fusion reactions? Or only the latter energy source?

    If they really recoup 95% of the input energy, then Q>1, or what?

  105. What are these conditions? Does not make sense to me. If they have proof of Q>1, then the money would come poring in. Why hide it?

    What are these mysterious condition that you allude to?

  106. For my own edification: What percentage of the total energy produced – that is, minus neutrons and thermal energy – is in the form of plasma energy/charged particles? That is, they have demonstrated recovery of ninety five percent of what portion of energy output?

  107. It really starts to look like we'll have reasonably compact fusion energy available quite soon. Implications?

  108. Helion is very reserved. They originally were not going to publish anything new for a while longer. But then there were some badly researched articles in various news outlets that snarked at them for being so quiet for so long.
    So they decided to publish new information now.
    IF they have achieved a Q>1 (which me and many others assume), then they will not publish that until certain conditions are met. Publishing this prematurely could tarnish their reputation.

  109. Yeah, I think they are trying to play at high powered car engines that (used to?) use higher octane fuels. I agree that the metaphor may not be very good.

  110. From Helion's website:
    We estimate that Helion’s fusion power will be one of the lowest cost sources of electricity.
    There are four main components of electricity cost:
    1) Capital cost
    2) Operating cost
    3) Up-time
    4) Fuel cost. Helion’s fusion power plant is
    projected to have negligible fuel cost, low operating cost, high up-time
    and competitive capital cost because we can do fusion so efficiently.

    Helion’s levelized cost of electricity is projected to be less than
    $0.04 per kWh without assuming any economies of scale from mass
    production, carbon credits, or government incentives.

  111. I wonder what it means to say that

    Helium-3 is a …, higher octane fuel.

    Obviously this is a metaphor, actual octane numbers measure resistance to a chemical reaction, which helium is naturally just about infinitely resistant too. But that's not relevant to fusion.

    In more general terms, octane is resistance to undergoing an explosive reaction when the fuel mixture is highly compressed. But that's exactly what we want fusion to do! We want (metaphorically) LOW octane fuel.

    Unless they mean that they are using He3 precisely because it resists fusion, so they can do their development without radiation being developed, and then they can just change over to an easier fuel like H3 when it's ready to "go hot"?

  112. Like the direct current capture, but still 5-10 times too expensive compared to existing fusion collected in Space or power beamed in from sunny Earth climes.

  113. I would assume that if they DID get engineering break even they would have shouted this to the rooftops.

    So I guess that they have not.

  114. With PB11 and they have yet to demonstrate that.
    They also have to recover the X- rays, which will be much harder.
    Not trying to bash LPP. I like them for all the hard work they have been doing with very little budget.

  115. The focus fusion device shoots out a tight beam of charged particles with each pulse so harvesting the energy shouldn't be a huge issue.

  116. They are running at much higher densities than Tokamaks. They only need about 50 to 70 keV temperatures, depending on what neutron counts and D-D reactivity they want to achieve/accept/avoid. So they will likely need 5 to 7 times the temperatures they have in their current prototype. Mind you, they still have a LOT of means to get to that, including stronger magnets, which are currently on the lower end of what they are going for.
    Check their patent for more context.

  117. Only 5% of the energy is released as neutrons. Most of the energy will be released as charged particles.

  118. They can get back 95% of the plasma energy. That doesn't mean 6% energy production will get them there, because not all the fusion energy ends up in the plasma.

    Their recovery technique won't capture thermal radiation or neutrons. And, yes, there will be neutrons, because even at the optimum temperature a significant fraction of the fusion will be D-D, which is unavoidably neutronic. (They say a "trace", but it's going to be major.)

    I'm not saying it won't work. Just, that they'll need a return considerably better than 6%. And they won't really be aneutronic, though if they run He3 rich they might get most of the way there.

  119. 9Kev is a decent temperature for D-T fusion, it starts to permit D-D fusion. It's really inadequate for D-He3 fusion, you'd barely get any reactions. They're going to need about ten to fifteen times the temperature to get the same reaction rate with D-He3 they'd be getting with D-T at their current temperature.

    Of course, 10-15 times the temperature means 10,000 to 50,000 times the heat losses, since thermal radiation scales as T^4. Well, a bit worse than that, actually, because with the He3 they've increased the Z of the plasma.

    Really, people tend not to appreciate how much harder D-He3 fusion is than D-T fusion.

  120. That sounds very encouraging. If they were showing 1E11 neutrons per pulse before, do they have an estimate of how many they'll need to break even? If they've actually achieved engineering break even already, then they really should announce it.

  121. Still does not matter if they dont have any energy back in the capacitor bank after the shot. Helion gets 95% of the input energy back plus 95% of whatever fusion energy they produce.

  122. Duration is still a small factor, but they can get away with less than a ms of total plasma lifetime to achieve their goals.

  123. We can sort of extrapolate from the results published about their previous prototype, VENTI. Now their new prototype Trenta is much bigger and stronger than VENTI
    VENTI achieved:
    >10^19 keV*s/m3 triple product
    Density was ~1E23 ions/m3
    Ion Temperature was > 2 keV
    They produced 1E11 D-D neutrons per pulse.

    We know that Trenta achieved 9 keV. So over 4 times the temperature of VENTI and it should outperform VENTI in the other metrics as well.
    What is really significant and what is sort of missing above is that they can recoup 95% of the input energy. That completely changes the metrics for engineering break even since they essentially just need a gain of 6% to get to that and I am very much convinced that they achieved that with Trenta.

  124. I will show my ignorance here: If it is pulsed, and never reaches ignition, doesn't that suggest that duration isn't a huge factor? Wouldn't temperature and waveform/timing be more important?

    Just curious.

  125. "Secondly, its system is built to directly recover electricity"…

    Electricity Recapture
    As the plasma expands, it pushes back on the magnetic field. By Faraday's law, the change in field induces current, which is directly recaptured as electricity. This clean fusion electricity is used to power homes and communities, efficiently and affordably.

    Nice trick!

  126. Temperature doesn't matter. It's the triple product of temperature, density, and duration that matters. From what they've written, I can't tell whether they're doing well or not. Are they actually making progress? Are they getting results that suggest they'll succeed? How far are they from breakeven?

  127. LPP Fusion hit a billion, is that not over 100 million?

    Or is this a first for a FRC?

    (Not diminishing what they have accomplished, just saying)

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