Fusion research benefits from its wide variety of researchers and approaches. Not all of the ideas and concepts belong to EUROfusion. For several years it was mostly private companies even beyond Europe who were trying to bring fusion energy to life. Fusion in Europe introduces different approaches in series and explains precisely what is concealed behind a catchy claim to attract private investors.

1. Facts

Management Michel Laberge (Founder and Chief Scientist) and
Nathan Gilliland (CEO)
Funding General Fusion has received a total of $55 million from either governmental or private funding during passed years. Canada invested $10 million and $27 million came from Malaysia. In March this year, the company was awarded additional $12.75 million from the Canadian Government to continue doing research. Among the private investors are, for example, Chrysalix Venture Capital or Bezos Expeditions.
Headquarters Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Established 2002

2. Idea

Inside a spherical tank injectors shoot magnetised plasma into a vortex of rotating liquid. Picture: General Fusion

Inside a spherical tank injectors shoot magnetised plasma into a vortex of rotating liquid. Picture: General Fusion

General Fusion follows the Magnetised Target Fusion (MTF) approach. This concept is a hybrid between magnetic fusion and inertial confinement fusion. The goal is to form a compact toroid or spheromak plasma and compress it quickly. General Fusion uses a spherical tank ~3-metres in diameter and is based on LINUS which is a fusion power plant concept originating from the US Naval Research Laboratory back in the 1970s. Inside the tank, magnetised plasma is injected into a vortex of rotating liquid lead lithium. 200 pistons impact a shockwave which travels through the liquid. The wave compresses the plasma. Electric currents flowing in the plasma form the magnetic field. These are very short-lived (~500 microseconds). According to General Fusion’s CEO Nathan Gilliland, the current “is like a smoke ring, where the eddy currents in the air hold the smoke in a ring, but eventually they decay and the ring falls apart.” The centre of the plasma sphere releases neutrons which travel into the surrounding molten lead-lithium. The neutrons interact with lithium atoms and are absorbed. The lithium splits into helium and tritium and heats up. Neutrons that reach the steel wall have so little energy that they cause minimal structural damage. The hot lead-lithium is continuously pumped out of the tank through a heat exchanger system into a thermal energy conversion cycle. The cooled lead-lithium will then be pumped back again.

3. Opinion

Tony Donné visited General Fusion in 2015 and shares his opinion on the concept. Picture: EUROfusion

Tony Donné visited General Fusion in 2015 and shares his opinion on the concept. Picture: EUROfusion

“General Fusion attempts to be transparent and communicates widely within the fusion community. In attending international conferences and publishing papers in peer review journals, they are open to debate their research. Their concept is scientifically sound and seems plausible. Nevertheless, they face great challenges. For instance, they need to maintain a stable plasma state while accelerating and compressing it; and they also need to create a very smooth vortex without ripples. Also, the material used for the pistons must withstand very harsh conditions. The work is scientifically very interesting and it could well be that some of the work done by General Fusion will find its way into EUROfusion. Nevertheless, there are still so many hurdles for this concept to overcome that I am convinced that the time required to create a working reactor is much longer than what is currently being quoted.”