The Fusion Race is On

There is another breakthrough discovery that no one in society is talking about or prepared for: clean, safe, and superabundant fusion energy.

Teams in China, Germany, both coasts of the US, and the UK are running the fusion race. They are getting their billions of dollars in backing from governments, universities, billionaires, startups and large companies. And whoever wins will become as wealthy and as powerful Standard Oil’s Rockefellers.

The Teams in The Race

Here is a rundown of the biggest teams in the fusion race.

China

China has no oil. They have a ton of coal but they know burning it all would mean ecological disaster. Fusion for China means fossil fuel independence and that means geopolitical energy dominance. They have strong motivations to be the first across the fusion finish line.

Inside a classic donut-shaped tokamak

International — ITER

If Elon Musk renamed ITER, he would call it “The Big Ass Tokamak” because that’s what it is.

ITER is… Huge.

Germany — W7-X Stellarator

The Germans are doing what they do best to win the fusion race: sophisticated engineering. Nothing could be more sophisticated than their “Stellarator” fusion reactor W7-X. Here’s what it looks like:

The W7-X Stellarator uses artificial intelligence to design its curvy electromagnetic “bottle” (blue) that contains fusion plasma (yellow) more efficiently than the standard donut-shaped Tokamak.

USA—MIT — SPARC

In 2018, MIT launched a fusion project that is arguably the most cutting edge and to me looks like the most likely to succeed. They called their little baby—SPARC.

Here’s a rendering of Umpa-Loompas working on the MIT SPARC reactor.

UK—STEP

Next up is the ol’ daddy of the USA—the United Kingdom. Just a week ago, they announced a $280M investment in a new fusion reactor called STEP—Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production. As its name suggests, STEP uses a spherical Tokamak where the plasma sits in an orb in the center of a field of electromagnets.

Inside a spherical tokamak

USA—Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin’s skunkworks just filed a patent for a smaller reactor called a Compact Fusion Reactor (CFR) that uses SPARC-like high-temperature superconducting magnets, but instead of the standard donut-shaped Tokamak is a cylinder. We’ll see.

USA—TAE Technologies (Formerly Tri Alpha Energy)

TAE Technologies is based in California and they are using silicone Valley tech, talent, and money to build what they think is the fastest way to fusion. A cylindrical reactor. Other investors in this private company are Goldman Sachs and the Russian Government. Nothing to see here folks.

Canada—General Fusion

General Fusion is a Canadian company that is using a process called Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) to achieve commercial fusion energy. Below is a picture of General Fusion’s reactor. Those big tubes are huge electromagnetic pistons that pump synchronously increasing the pressure of plasma in the reactor to produce fusion.

Who Will Win?

The race is just beginning and fusion is just at the bottom of the Gartner Hype Cycle. As expectations grow, so will investment dollars and public excitement about this new and amazing technology.

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Braus

Braus

Educator, Founder, Engineer. Interested in Evidence Based Education and Solving BIG Problems.