Avalanche is a VC-backed, fusion energy start-up based in Seattle, WA. They are designing, testing and building micro-fusion reactors that you can hold in your hand. Their modular reactor design can be stacked for endless power applications and unprecedented energy density to provide clean energy and decarbonize the planet.
Avalanche is developing a 5kWe power pack called the “Orbitron” in a form-factor the size of a lunch pail. The unique physics of the Orbitron allows for its compact size which is a key enabler for development, scaling, and a wide variety of applications. Avalanche Energy uses electrostatic fields to trap fusion ions and also uses a magnetron electron confinement to reach higher ion densities. The resulting fusion reaction produces neutrons that can be transformed into heat.
The magnetron is a variation of a component in regular microwave ovens and the electrostatic base technology is a derivative of a product available from ThermoFisher Scientific, which is widely deployed for use in commercial mass spectrometry. They are taking two devices that exist already, things you can buy commercially for various applications. They are putting them together in a new interesting way at much higher voltages” to build a “recirculating beam fusion” prototype.
The unique approach enables rapid iterations of design, build, test, fix cycles for faster development and the rapid scalability that the planet needs.
They raised a $5 million seed round, secured a Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) International Patent. In February, 2022 Langtry and Riordan generated their first neutrons via fusion. They had 10 employees in March and expect to double that by the end of 2022. Avalanche Energy’s $5 million first round was led by Prime Impact Fund (now Azolla Ventures) and included Congruent Ventures, Chris Sacca’s Lowercarbon Capital, and nearly a dozen smaller investors.
Ultra Small and Lightweight
Avalanche’s reactor design is small enough to hold in your hand. This allows the use of conventional manufacturing tools and techniques for test and production, and a wider variety of applications from personal transportation to micro-grid power.
Scalable, Rapid Manufacturing
Avalanche’s small-scale power pack lends itself to high-speed production line manufacturing techniques, dramatically lowering the cost of fusion with economies of scale.
The Avalanche design can be packaged as a single cell with 5kW – 15kW capacity or grouped by the hundreds for megawatt-scale clean energy solutions.
CEO Robin Langtry told Canary Media in an interview. “It’s hundreds of little cells that we can mass-produce in a giga-fusion factory. You might need a few of them for a car, a dozen for a bus, maybe 100 for an airplane.”
No Giant Magnets or Lasers No Giant Magnets or Lasers
Avalanche’s reactor design avoids the dangers, expense and complexity of high-power magnets or lasers.
Avalanche’s reactor design is capable of fusing fuels like proton-boron-11 which practically eliminates internal neutron radiation, resulting in longer life and lower shielding requirements for a lighter power pack.
The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) has provided funding. The DIU objective is to launch a successful orbital prototype demonstration in 2027 with Avalanche Energy and another approach with radioisotopes.
DIU has awarded two Prototype Other Transaction (OT) contracts: one to the Ultra Safe Nuclear and a second to Avalanche Energy to demonstrate the next generation of nuclear propulsion and power capability for spacecraft. Specifically, these companies will be testing solutions that give small spacecraft the ability to maneuver at-will in cislunar space and enable high-power payloads that will support the expansion of Department of Defense (DoD) space missions.
“Advanced nuclear technologies will provide the speed, power, and responsiveness to maintain an operational advantage in space,” said U.S. Air Force Maj Ryan Weed, Program Manager for the Nuclear Advanced Propulsion and Power (NAPP) program at DIU. Ryan Weed used to be CEO of Positron Dynamics which worked on an appraoch to animatter propulsion.
Avalanche Energy has developed a device called an “Orbitron,” which utilizes electrostatic fields to trap fusion ions in conjunction with a magnetron electron confinement scheme to overcome charge density limits. The resulting fusion burn then produces the energetic particles that generate either heat or electricity, which can power a high-efficiency propulsion system. Compared to other fusion concepts, Orbitron devices are promising for space applications as they may be scaled down in size and enable their use as both a propulsion and power source.
High-Level Concept: High-speed ions are electrostatically confined in precessing elliptical orbits around a negatively charged cathode. The ion density is increased by the co-confinement of high temperature electrons trapped by an external weak magnetic field perpendicular to the electrostatic field in a “crossed field” configuration similar to a magnetron microwave device. Crossing elliptical paths of ions provide millions of chances of fusion-relevant collisions before the ion loses energy and is moved out of the interaction space as it falls into the cathode and is removed from the chamber.
History: The Orbitron configuration was invented in 2020 and is under development in Washington State.
Challenges: The interaction space for Orbitron plasma is extremely small for fusion devices, and requires extremely high voltages to trap the ions at fusion relevant speeds. Managing dielectric breakdown and flashover in such a small space is an engineering challenge, and the plasma interactions for glancing beam-beam configurations are not well understood.
From Talk Polywell discussion board:
Flashover issues start to appear in vacuum over 50kV. Under this limit the issues are mainly related to dielectric breakdown (current flow).
ZAP Energy stays safely in the 15/20kV range, so they are far from flashover (voltage) related issues and this should not effect them at all.
Focus Fusion on the other hand is working right at the threshold of that limit (45kV), and that’s why they are having a much more hard time.
Flashover issues are mainly focused in the connection point between the electrode and the insulator and are not current dependent but are voltage dependent (similar to a mechanical seal on a pump shaft that is not effected by the pump flow (current) but by the pressure head (voltage)).
Avalanche Energy is aiming for 600 kV.
Avalanche Energy is gunning for 300 kV very soon. Highest electrostatic fusion device they are aware of was “ Homer” at UW-Madison which achieved 190 kV.
We are gunning for 300 kV very soon. Highest electrostatic fusion device we are aware of was “ Homer” at UW-Madison which achieved 190 kV.
— Avalanche Energy (@AvalancheFusion) June 24, 2022
Finished our first radiation vault. Unlocks the tech. tree for testing at voltages >100 kV in our lab! pic.twitter.com/hFi0DirGW1
— Avalanche Energy (@AvalancheFusion) June 24, 2022
Robin Langtry, CEO at Avalanche Energy, shared on Linkedin that they finished their first radiation vault. This unlocks the tech. tree for testing our prototypes at voltages at over 100 kV and increasing fusion rates.
SOURCES Avalanche Energy, Geekwire, Linkedin
Written by Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com
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.
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