Saturday, May 19, 2012

General Fusion Gets New Funding to Pursue Unconventional Fusion Power Approach


For all its promise, the quest for net gain fusion has been a time consuming and costly endeavor. The ITER reactor is projected to take 10 years and 13 billion euros to construct. That doesn’t count the 25 years and counting since the project began and the millions poured in by contributors so far. Even when built, ITER’s super conducting magnets and other components would require 50 MW worth of input power to start and maintain the reaction. Similarly, costs for Laurence Livermore’s National Ignition Facility are estimated at upwards of $850 million and its reactor requires 500 trillion watts of laser light to kick-start fusion reactions.

Where General Fusion’s magnetized target method stands apart is in its relatively low-tech, low-cost mechanical means of compressing the plasma. “As an energy storage medium, compressed gas is orders of magnitude less expensive than capacitors,” Delage explains, “but it’s hard to release this energy quickly.”

...“Our sphere is in fact full of holes, like a Wiffle ball,” he explains. “Each hole is plugged with an ‘anvil’ and compressed gas is used to accelerate a 100 kg ‘hammer’ piston. This acceleration takes about 80 milliseconds. When the hammer piston impacts on the anvil piston, it moves a small amount and transfers the energy into the liquid metal in about 80 microseconds. That’s a timescale shorter than the lifetime of the magnetized target and an increase in power of 1000 times.” _Canadian Manufacturing _via_NBF

General Fusion has secured a new round of funding (PDF) and is prepared to take their unconventional approach to fusion as far as they can take it. No one needs to tell the General Fusion team or their investors that they are pursuing a long shot.

But then, the same applies to all the other small-scale fusion startups, who are trying to do an end-run around the huge multi-billion dollar approaches taken by ITER and Lawrence Livermore, etc.

The General Fusion website contains much more information about the science, technology, and the people behind this dark horse candidate to develop commercial fusion power.

Brian Wang provides a library of NextBigFuture articles devoted to the General Fusion effort

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