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Fusion reactor technology edges closer to net energy generation

Business news |
By Rich Pell


As a leader in hydrogen-boron fusion research, the company claims that its non-radioactive approach represents the fastest, most practical, and economically competitive solution to bring abundant carbon-free energy to the grid. After achieving temperatures greater than 75 million degrees Celsius and demonstrating unmatched real-time control of plasma with its state-of-the-art fusion research reactor “Norman,” the company says that it has received investments from long-term partner Google, as well as Chevron, Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, and others to fund the construction of its sixth-generation research reactor, named “Copernicus.”

The Copernicus reactor, which will be constructed in a 100,000-square-foot facility in Irvine, Calif., is designed to demonstrate the viability of achieving net energy generation with the company’s advanced beam-driven field-reversed configuration (FRC) – the penultimate step on its path to commercialize clean fusion power. Its fifth-generation reactor, Norman, was unveiled in 2017 and was designed to keep plasma stable at 30 million degrees Celsius. After five years of experiments to optimize Norman’s capabilities, the machine has proven capable of sustaining stable plasma at more than 75 million degrees Celsius, 250% higher than its original goal, says the company.

The company’s proprietary advanced beam-driven FRC, a combination of plasma physics and accelerator physics, was developed to integrate into the grid with TAE’s preferred fuel source, hydrogen-boron, also known as proton-boron or p-B11. The company says it is committed to non-radioactive hydrogen-boron both for its abundance – in excess of 100,000 years supply globally – and because it is the cleanest, safest, most economical terrestrial fuel cycle for fusion, with no geopolitical concerns or proliferation risks.

“Through successful training of Norman’s state-of-the-art control system, paired with proprietary power management technology and extensive optimization of our machine learning algorithms, we have achieved a scale of control at an unparalleled level of integrated complexity,” says Michl Binderbauer, CEO of TAE Technologies.. “Our long-standing expertise in fusion, together with seminal advances in design and operational mastery, are paying off handsomely as we progress toward delivering an inexhaustible clean energy source that has the capacity to transform the human experience and sustain future generations.”

To date the company has raised a total of $1.2 billion for its commercial fusion development. In its recently closed Series G-2 financing round, it secured $250 million from investors in the energy, technology, and engineering sectors. Chevron, Google, Reimagined Ventures, Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, and TIFF Investment Management are among the company’s most recent investors, along with a large U.S. West coast based mutual fund manager and a big U.S. pension fund.

Google’s investment follows the success of the jointly developed Optometrist Algorithm, which deploys Google’s machine learning to optimize the operation of TAE’s research reactors, substantially advancing the rate of progress and ultimate performance achieved. Programmatic steps that used to take well over a month can now be achieved within one day. In addition, the companies have developed breakthrough capabilities in holistically post-processing and integrating a large set of independent diagnostic measurements to produce high fidelity insights into experimental data at record-breaking scale.

“The caliber and interest of our investors validates our significant technical progress and supports our goal to begin commercialization of fusion by the end of this decade,” says Binderbauer. “Global electricity demand is growing exponentially, and we have a moral obligation to do our utmost to develop a baseload power solution that is safe, carbon-free, and economically viable.”

TAE Technologies


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