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Overview of fusion startups in the world
Material posted : Administrator Publication date: 28-01-2018

I think will be very useful to make a survey of start-UPS working in the field of fusion energy. Why startups, not University research teams, say? A startup is a form of project organization with clearly defined practical purpose, and this form allows for maximum rigidly and accurately test a variety of ideas and practice. At that time, as the task of science in General — is the extraction of knowledge without any special sorting into “useful” and “useless” (useless once the knowledge that the current in the wire causes the magnetic field define our lives today).

I will try to list not only startups, but also to assess their “progress” on this main road — the idea of a working fusion power plants, built on the basis of this idea. In addition, I will give a brief characterization of the attitude of the expert community to which a concept fusion reactor. In order to assess the technological maturity, offer to put points from 1 to 7 in accordance with such a sign


Well, let's start with something well known

1.Organization:ITER.
Technical level:6.1.
The year of the start of the project: One thousand nine hundred ninety two

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Key person: Dr. Bernard Bigot, Dr. Robert Aymar, academician Evgeny Velikhov, Dr. Gunter Janeschitz, Dr. Osamu Motojima, Dr. Won Namkung.

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Description of the concept: Classical tokamak — toroidal chamber for magnetic confinement of fusion plasmas. On this concept have reached the maximum Q (the ratio of heating power to fusion power), far outstripping other ideas. ITER is the most advanced fusion reactor, allowing to obtain sustained burning of fusion plasma. However, the project is actually a startup aimed at practical use, which makes it comparable with the other participants in this list.

Expert position: Tokamaks have shown themselves as the most successful idea of the fusion reactor, but it has fundamental limitations, practically does not allow to work with other than DT thermonuclear reaction, and today one can see big engineering challenges to create an industrial reactors on the basis of this concept (the power density on the divertor, disruption, structural stability under neutron radiation, etc.).

2. Organization:Tri Alpha Energy
Technical level:4.0
Year of project: 1998

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Key person: Dr. Michl Binderbauer, Sergei Putvinski, Norman Rostoker.

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Description of the concept: Beam driven FRC — containment of a plasma vortex, called FRC using tangentially injected into the beams of neutrals. The neutral beams also provide a portion of the synthesis. The concept has a very good physics, which theoretically allows to master not only the DT and DD reaction, but pB11. In turn pB11 is nearly complete (compared to DT) no radioactive waste, widespread and cheap fuel, the engineering simplicity of the reactor. Another advantage is smaller in comparison with tokamaks the power at which “converges” reactor. To the downside can be attributed to much less scrutiny and possible pitfalls. (my article on the project).

Expert position: The idea of Norman Rostoker from the mid-90s was reviewed by a team TAE in the 2000s and were working. In particular, the retention of FRC was raised from hundreds of microseconds to tens of milliseconds, find scaling. Currently, TAE has gained ~500 million investment, has a team that includes many of the “stars” of controlled thermonuclear fusion.

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Scalings TAE show very significant progress and the possibility of achieving defined goals.

3.Organization :Hellion Energy
Technical level:2.5
The year of the start of the project: Two thousand five


Key person: Dr. John Slough, Chris Pihl, Dr. George Votroubek

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Description of the concept: The idea, again, of Norman Rostoker two FRC vortex dispersed magnetic system face, turning kinetic energy into heat, and compressed (another) magnetic system to the fusion parameters. Pulse reactor.

Expert position: Considered to be an energy reactor of this concept to build is very difficult both from the point of view of physics, and from the point of view of engineering. However, the founders of Hellion Energy full of optimism, and in recent years has moved from the study of the elements of the plasma machines to create reactor to test the scalability of ideas. One of the dark horses of the market.Humorous rating the complexities of this concept from the author of the other concepts in this list.

4.Organization:General Fusion
Technical level:2.1
The year of the start of the project: Two thousand two

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Key person :Dr. Michel Laberge, Michael Delage

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Description of the concept: The idea is similar to the previous adiabatic compression of the two facing the FRC. Here, however, the compressive environment stands a giant drop of molten metal in which steam hammers(!) excited by a converging spherical wave. (my article on the project).

Expert position: This concept has a long history of technology development “implosion metal lanarama magnetized plasma targets”, and her legs are growing from project LINUS in 1972. Not a bad idea on paper, but little studied experimentally. This is evident by General Fusion, a startup is already ~10 years very well funded (collected more than $ 130 million), and had plans to reach the technical level of ~3 4 years ago. However, almost every element of the machine is difficult and the chain of R & d, the problems are multiplying and the future becomes more uncertain. Currently, the achievement of the technical level 3 is planned in 2021.

5.Organization:Compact Fusion Reactor (Lockheed Martin)
Technical level:2.1
The year of the start of the project: Two thousand ten

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Key person :Dr. Tom McGuire, Mr. Charles Chase

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Description of the concept: Open trap with vnutripuzyrne dipoles. Allows, as with all open traps to achieve a high amount of pressure of the magnetic field (in contrast to tokamaks), and thus the available reaction DD, DHe3.

Expert position: In fact, this type of magnetic traps conceptually goes back to the 60s, and are studied both theoretically and experimentally. But it seems that the CFR team does not know the history, therefore, fills a bumps on their own. Interestingly, the original plans to create a reactor “which is placed in the truck” have been dropped and the minimum reactor rose to 7х22 meters. If you continue to extrapolate the experience with this concept at the team of CFR, soon they have to know that to place superconducting coils directly inside the running thermonuclear reactions to put it mildly “not engineering” and from the laboratory this concept is not likely to be able to get out this time.

6.Organization :Tokamak Energy
Technical level:3.2
The year of the start of the project: Two thousand nine

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Key person :Jonathan Carling, David Kingham, Michael Graznevitch

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Description of the concept: Spherical tokamak — geometric “rounded” conventional tokamak, physics which favors more simple obtaining a thermonuclear reaction. Is fairly well developed concept in the world 22 research spherical tokamak, the largest of which is the condition Q~0.1 (my article on the project).

Expert position: Spherical tokamak promises the ignition in simpler terms and smaller size, and at first sight of it much easier and cheaper to make industrial reactor. However, the compressed geometry means an engineering nightmare and more strenuous working conditions of the structure, in particular in the Central column, which could mean a simple and fast technical progress to level 5 and complete standstill on.

7.Organization:Applied Fusion Systems
Technical level:2.2
The year of the start of the project: Two thousand fifteen

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Key person: Richard Dinan, Dr. James Lambert

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Description of the concept: Also the spherical tokamak.

Expert position: Recently a startup with uncertain prospects and have not yet showed any iron. One of the creators — TV-star.

8.Organization:EMCC
Technical level:2.1
The year of the start of the project: One thousand nine hundred eighty seven

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Key person: Dr. Jaeyoung Park Dr. Paul Sieck, Dr. Robert W. Bussard

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Description of the concept: Elektrostaticheskie retention type Polywell — in the center of the chamber is created and retained by a magnetic field a cloud of electrons, which are attracted to ions of deuterium are accelerated and collide with a thermonuclear reaction. Ideologically, it's fusor with a virtual cathode.

Expert position: There are strong doubts that such a design is workable in the sense of positive energovod, but it is attractive among fans of the simplicity of implementation, and “outsizing” Polivanov usually similar to the method of scientific spear. Firm EMCC many decades sucking money out of us Navy for such activities, showing zero progress.

9.Organization:Convergent Scientific Inc
Technical level :1.5
The year of the start of the project: One thousand nine hundred eighty seven

Key person :Mr. Devlin Baker, Dr. Joel Rogers, Dr. Matt Moynihan

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Description of the concept: Polywell also, like the previous start.

Expert position: At the moment, this firm seems to have died, although officially it is not announced.

10.Organization :Fusion One
Technical level: 1.5
The year of the start of the project: Two thousand fifteen

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Key person: Mr. Randal Volberg, Dr. Scott Cornish

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Description of the concept: Polywell also, like the previous start.

Expert position: The startup with the most dubious prospects — both on the chosen concept, and the competence of the founders. But there are pictures of the “gigawatt polywell size 5.5x5.5x5.5 meters” (i.e. shoot density fusion energy is proposed to 16.1 MW/m^2 is several times steeper ITER).

11.Organization:Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Fusion
Technical level: 2.8
The year of the start of the project: One thousand nine hundred ninety eight

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Key person: Eric Lerner, Dr. Syed Hassan, Dr. Robert Terry

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Description of the concept: Plasma focus is one of the first ideas of a nuclear reactor. At the end of a coaxial electric discharge instability cause much compression of the plasma column, leading to the achievement of fusion conditions.

Expert position: Plasma focus has long been used as the technology of producing thermonuclear neutrons, including such devices used as pulsed neutron sources in nuclear bombs. The technical level of the “plasma focus”, made in military research centers in the United States and Russia is much higher than LPPX shows. In particular, the total current military installations is much higher. Hence, we can conclude that there are no prospects on creation of thermonuclear reactor start-up no, otherwise this would have been used by experts for UTS on the state salary.

12.Organization:First Light Fusion
Technical level :1.1
The year of the start of the project: Two thousand fifteen

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Key person: Paul Hoolligan.

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Description of the concept: The collapse of a spherical target of fusion fuel passing high-speed shock wave in the liquid.

Expert position: At the moment it is almost unsubstantiated bare concept, however, received some money for experimental testing.


This classic startups, developing their ideas to private investors and grants end, but there are still a few projects, which in any moment can become a startup, and worth mentioning:

Project :CT Fusion (Dynomak)
Technical level: 2.0

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Key person: Dr. Tom Jarboe, Dr. Aaron Hossack, Mr. Derek Sutherland

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Description of the concept: Magnetic trap, where the plasma keeps himself hard spun frozen-in magnetic field. According to the creators of this concept can be brought to thermonuclear parameters. (my article on the project).

Expert position: A University project that was trying to become tokamak, and was drawing rapid progress to power. The advantage of the concept is the lack of large and heavy magnetic system, minus, apparently, the uncertain prospects for scaling.

Project:Hyper-V + The PLX
Technical level:2.0
Key person: Dr. Scott Hsu, Dr. Doug Witherspoon,

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Description of the concept: Another option for compression of a magnetized target with a liner, in this case a plasma of heavy noble gases. Something similar to General Fusion. Spherical DT target plasma should be compressed coming from all directions plasma beams, which are generated by plasma guns.

Expert position: A moderately interesting concept, which is already about 10 years to find money for experiments in nuclear laboratories of the USA. Of all the concepts of pulse has the advantage of fully the gas target and drivers that allows not to care of making a new target and cleaning the wreckage of the old 10 times per second. On the other hand, in terms of compression settings, this experiment has 5-7 years is not showing much progress, but shows the progress on the complexity of the planned reactor — a path that often leads to the cemetery of fusion concepts.

Project: MIT ARC
Technical level :2.5

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Key person :B. N. Sorbom, J. Ball, T. R. Palmer, F. J. Mangiarotti

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Description of the concept: Another variant of the tokamak with a strong field. Increasing the magnetic field in 2 times (that engineering is very difficult) you can get power gains in the same plasma volume by 16 times. Conceptually, this exacerbated the problem with the first wall and divertor, however, the payoff is visible to the eye. Unfortunately, in the world worked a little tokamak with a strong field, and this field still requires its own intermediate launchers. (my article on the project).

Expert position: ARC from the plasma lab of the famous MIT University is an alloy of bright ideas — high field tokamak with a demountable high-temperature superconducting magnets, jinkosolar blanket reduction maintenance current, etc. unfortunately, all this beauty allows you to draw very nice car, easy cladoosby ITER on the blades, but in reality it can take decades of R & d and finding problems that will lead the tokamaks with the strong field to a standstill exactly in the same way as traditional. So, for example, not so long ago it was discovered that conducting the fluid across the pump to strong magnetic fields may form a reverse pumping flow, such findings make it necessary to reconsider the idea of creating a simple molten-salt blankets.

Project:NumerEx
Technical level :1.5

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Key person :Dr. Scott Hsu, Dr. Doug Witherspoon

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Description of the concept: Another representative concepts with the compression of a magnetized plasma, in fact a resuscitation of the ideas of LINUS 1972. In a rapidly rotating hollow cylindrical shape is filled with liquid metal (molten NaK or Li), which is scattered by centrifugal force along the walls and there is an empty channel in the center. Channel is injected in a magnetized plasma target, and by means of gas pistons, the metal is displaced closer to the center, Khlopina channel and compressing a plasma target.

Expert position: The concept of LINUS and its development at NumerEx from the point of view of physics is pretty good. However, even basic experimental setup require complex engineering of — record on several parameters of the gas valves, large rotating machines, the integration of all this with a high vacuum and sensitive plasma injectors. The path to the proof of concept on scaling is not cheap and not fast. From this point of view, creative rethinking and engineering optimization, conducted by General Fusion looks very correct work, which is very difficult to surpass.

Project: HTML
Technical level:3.5

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Key person: A. A. Ivanov, P. A. Bagryansky, A. D. Beklemishev

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Description of the concept: Open traps represent the simplest version of magnetic confinement fusion plasma reactors continuous action. Over its long history they had several UPS and downs, and the achievement team from Novosibirsk INP is very encouraging about the possibility of a sudden release of OL in the favorites. (my article on the project).

Expert position: The project GDML combines the already proven experimentally and still remains theoretical ideas, which together are estimated to allow you to collect one of the best (from the point of view of the economy and available thermonuclear reactions) reactors among all possible. At the moment the emphasis INP — on verification of the additional ideas that, if implemented, allow you to make a minimum GDML-reactor size of about 30h3 meters. While it is surprising only that in the world there is no startup which I would have stated as the concept of an open trap, probably for the reason that to repeat the experience and experimental base INP is too expensive for a startup.

Project :MagLIF
Technical level:3.1

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Key person: A. B. Sefkow, S. A. Slutz, J. M. Koning

The link to the review

Description of the concept: Another representative systems, compressible magnetized plasma targets. A small cylindrical target with DT gas is heated and ionized through the end of the pulse of a powerful laser. In the ionized plasma by an external coil induced a strong seed field (~10T), after which the target is skipped longitudinal current in the 25 megaampere. The magnetic field of the current compresses the target radius is about 100 times, at the same time heating the fuel to thermonuclear parameters, then there is the ignition. (a more detailed description in Russian).

Expert position: MagLIF is one of the most beautiful fusion concepts that have emerged over the last 10 years (its roots, however, stretch back to 1982), and demonstrated in 2014, very good experimental results (full agreement with the theory prevented to achieve unaccounted for "driving" inside of a plasma window for transmission of laser radiation). Apparently, physically this concept can reach high energovod — if you create the installation for the pulse current of 70 megaampere, energovod will be 1000 times higher energy consumption.

However, as in any pulse systems in that there are two important difficulties that impede the implementation of power plants based on the concept. Is the ability to collect complex high-tech target about once per second, and introduce them into the working chamber and the working chamber, in which will explode somewhere one ton of TNT every second. For these reasons we hardly ever see a plant with a pulsed thermonuclear reactor, however, interesting physics here…

Project :Wendelstein-7X
Technical level:4.1

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Key person: Dr. Thomas Klinger, Dr. C Nührenberg, R. C. Wolf, J. Kisslinger

The link to the review

Description of the concept: Stellarator one of the first concepts of closed magnetic traps, peers and competitors tokamaks. In tokamaks to keep the plasma on a circular orbit is used a cunning combination of external and internal induced magnetic fields, which generates a certain class of instabilities. In addition initially tokamaks — pulse machines, though they have learned to maintain the plasma current indefinitely. In an attempt to get rid of these problems, invented stellarator — toroidal trap with hydrocarbonyl magnetic field.

Expert position: Stellarator was one of the concepts that are actively invested in the 1960s (along with open traps). However, a detailed study of the physics of stellarators led to the conclusion that they are not fit to hold high-temperature plasma. In addition, the production fiendishly complicated magnets were technological madness even for fusion science. However, after sunset, the concept was followed by Swan song in the form of project Wendelstein 7-X. the calculation of the optimum magnetic field and the synthesis of the magnets using a computer in the 80s made it possible to remove the above problems. However, tokamaks are far ahead and decided the main part of the problems that were forced into the stellarator alternative. Stellarator are too complex and low-tech, to claim a place in a fusion power plant. Thus W-7X is a terrific sverkhvysokochastotnykh the tomb of one of the concepts of fusion reactors.


In conclusion, we note that all of these startups are in the US, Canada and the UK. Although the most favorable market for the development of fusion power plants — probably China, Southeast Asia, and continental Europe (replacing coal-fired power plants). We can conclude that for investors from other countries in this direction so far seems too risky and long. And in arriving at this conclusion we can go further — once we see the first of the Taiwanese, South Korean, Japanese and Chinese startups colatitudinal on the subject, we can with great confidence say that the time of fusion energy come.

Source :https://geektimes.ru/post/297461/

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