Eight Nuclear Fusion Companies Get a Total of $46 Million

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $46 million in funding to eight companies developing commercial fusion power plants. The companies funded by the DOE were: Commonwealth Fusion Systems (Cambridge, MA) Commonwealth Fusion is working on Tokomaks with higher power magnets. SPARC would be the size of existing mid-sized fusion devices but with a much…
Eight Nuclear Fusion Companies Get a Total of $46 Million

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $46 million in funding to eight companies developing commercial fusion power plants.

The companies funded by the DOE were:

Commonwealth Fusion Systems (Cambridge, MA)

Commonwealth Fusion is working on Tokomaks with higher power magnets.

SPARC would be the size of existing mid-sized fusion devices but with a much stronger magnetic field. SPARC plans to verify the technology and physics required to build a power plant based on the ARC fusion power plant concept. SPARC is designed to achieve this with margin in excess of breakeven and may be capable of achieving up to 140 MW of fusion power for 10 second bursts despite its relatively compact size. The resulting plasmas are expected to generate at least twice as much energy as is required to sustain themselves at high temperatures (200 million K), giving a fusion gain Q greater than 2, with an expected Q ≈ 11.

A 19 Tesla field is powerful enough to lift 403 Boeing 747s. Each of the SPARC demo systems would have 18 magnets and each magnet would have 166 miles of superconducting tape.

Commonwealth Fusion is trying to make a compact Tokomak with more powerful superconducting magnets. They wanted a commercial tokamak by 2033 but the current target is 2035 for a commercial tokamak. MIT spunout a tokamak fusion project into Commonwealth Fusion systems. They want to apply modular designs to high-temperature superconductors. They want to get to stronger magnets that will shrink the size and cost of the potential nuclear fusion reactor. Improved magnets would improve any nuclear fusion design that involves confinement of plasma. There is less science risk to this MIT approach but more technological risk. They are trying to accelerate the commercial use of high-temperature superconducting magnets and trying to contain their costs. Cost for superconducting magnets for past fusion projects have been $20 per watt but other applications have seen costs of $1.4 to $1.8 per watt.

They want to mass-produce superconducting magnets that are 2X the field strength of past strong magnets while bringing the cost per watt down.

Focused Energy Inc. (Austin, TX)

Focused Energy is using laser fusion.

Princeton Stellarators Inc. (Branchburg, NJ)

Princeton Stellarators (PSI) was founded in 2022 with a focus on leveraging recent breakthroughs in stellarator physics and engineering to create a faster, simpler approach to commercializing fusion energy. PSI is reinventing the stellarator using computer-controlled arrays of planar coils and replacing the intricate, complex modular magnets required in all other proposed stellarator architectures. Stellarators are inherently steady-state, stable magnetic configurations that eliminate potential disruptions, making it an optimal pilot plant architecture. PSI is building off foundational research and technology development that it spun out of Princeton University and Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, where the stellarator was first imagined in 1951.

Realta Fusion Inc. (Madison, WI)

Realta Fusion, a new startup in fusion energy, announced $12 million in financing to develop compact magnetic mirror fusion technology. The company raised a seed investment of $9 million led by Khosla Ventures and received an award of $3 million from the US Department of Energy’s Fusion Development Program. The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), through which Realta licensed its core technology, also participated in the seed round.

Realta was spun out of a $10 million ARPA-e funded project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, led by Professor Cary Forest who is also company co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer. It is targeting industrial heat and power as an early application for its fusion technology in which the ability to operate at a wide range of scales is a significant advantage. Realta’s compact magnetic mirror will produce net energy at smaller scales than competing toroidal systems and has the potential to be a lower cost and less complex generator of zero-carbon heat and power.

“We are applying next-generation superconducting magnets and major advances in plasma stability to the relatively mature concept of the magnetic mirror,” said Realta CEO Kieran Furlong. “This funding will enable us to build out our team and complete the physics design for our break-even class device, BEAM, which will be our last experimental step before designing industrial fusion energy systems.”

Tokamak Energy Inc. (Bruceton Mills, WV)

Tokomak Energy is working on compact spherical tokamak. They are also a global leader in High Temperature Superconducting (HTS) magnets. HTS magnets have high-tech applications in many other industrial sectors.

The aim is to have commercial fusion power plants deployed in the mid 2030s. ST80-HTS, with build completion planned in 2026, will be the world’s first high field spherical tokamak to demonstrate the full potential of high temperature superconducting magnets.

ST80-HTS will also demonstrate multiple advanced technologies required for fusion energy and inform the design of our fusion pilot plant, ST-E1. This in turn will demonstrate the capability to deliver electricity into the grid in the early 2030s, producing up to 200 MW of net electrical power.

Type One Energy Group (Madison, WI)

Type One Energy, fusion energy company with roots in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s College of Engineering, recently announced its first round of seed funding, raising $29 million from investors. The company also recently hired Christofer Mowry as CEO. Mowry is former CEO of General Fusion and former senior advisor on fusion for Breakthrough Energy Ventures. They are working on a Stellerator..

Xcimer Energy Inc. (Redwood City, CA)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced today that Xcimer Energy was selected for a $9 million award from the Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program, a groundbreaking and innovative public-private partnership initiative. Laser inertial confinement fusion is the only fusion approach that has reached scientific breakeven, achieved in December 2022 at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The Xcimer team will leverage this accomplishment and the significant progress made by the laser fusion community to advance IFE. Xcimer’s development plan in the federal milestone program is aimed at key milestones of demonstration of high fusion gain, and commercial energy breakeven. In parallel, the company will demonstrate the innovative laser approach and develop low-cost target fabrication, chamber and plant systems to enable FPP final design and construction in the early 2030s. The FPP will demonstrate extended operation of all integrated plant systems and deliver electricity to the grid, enabling construction of a series of full-scale commercial plants to follow.

Xcimer is leveraging laser technology originally pioneered for missile defense to build an economical 10+ megajoule class laser.

Zap Energy Inc. (Everett, WA)

Zap Energy has raised a total of USD 200m, including a USD 160m Series C in June 2022, led by Lowercarbon Capital, with participation from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Shell Ventures, DCVC, Valor Equity Partners, Addition, Energy Impact Partners (EIP) and Chevron Technology Ventures.

The award of $5 million in federal funding will contribute to the development of a pilot plant using Zap’s sheared-flow-stabilized Z-pinch fusion technology. Zap Energy is building a low-cost, compact and scalable fusion energy platform that confines and compresses plasma without the need for expensive and complex magnetic coils. Zap’s sheared-flow-stabilized Z-pinch technology provides compelling fusion economics and requires orders of magnitude less capital than conventional approaches.

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