Nuclear fusion – the clean energy technology that is always a decade away – may actually be approaching reality thanks to technological advancements and increased private investment. The development of enabling technologies combined with a focus on solving commercial challenges is opening a new horizon for the “holy grail” of clean energy. The CleanTech Alliance hosted a panel of CEOs from General Fusion, Helion Energy and TAE Technologies on February 14 as part of the CleanTech Breakfast Series sponsored by Perkins Coie.
The CEOs of each of these west coast companies has roots in the basic physics and engineering research that cultivated nuclear fusion in university and national labs decades ago. Nuclear fusion is the process of uniting two atoms under extreme pressure and temperature to produce energy. While fusion may be a much safer and more efficient form of energy than fission, fusion reactions are not easily controlled and require conditions that are expensive to create. However, technological advancement of the past decade in both the nuclear fusion process itself and enabling technologies, have taken fusion development out of the lab and into companies that can seek private investment and work towards commercialization.
“If we had started with private investment rather than federal funding for basic research into the fundamental physics at the root of fusion, we would have been in trouble,” said David Kirtley of Helion Energy. “Now that we have that basic knowledge, private investment allows us to focus on commercial-scale questions – how do we get this clean energy to consumers while also saving them money?”
Learn more about each group’s approach to fusion in this great write up from Geekwire, or by watching the full discussion below.