Helion Energy will provide Microsoft (MSFT.O) with electricity from nuclear fusion in about five years. It is the first purchase power agreement for commercial nuclear fusion energy.
Announcing Helion’s first customer: Microsoft.
We expect to start producing electricity in the world’s first fusion power plant by 2028, dramatically shortening the timeline for commercially viable fusion energy.
Read more: https://t.co/KLBWrcjU4o
— Helion (@Helion_Energy) May 10, 2023
This is a huge announcement for us and there is *so much* work ahead!https://t.co/L1CHoB2euo
— Scott Krisiloff (@Skrisiloff) May 10, 2023
Wow! I am incredibly proud to announce that we’ve secured our first customer: Microsoft! pic.twitter.com/mX67VPq4Mj
— David Kirtley (@dekirtley) May 10, 2023
.@Microsoft has agreed to purchase electricity from @helion_energy’s first fusion power plant. We expect this first-of-its-kind power facility to come online in 2028 with support from @ConstellationEG as our power marketer. pic.twitter.com/ZbXGNeLeYY
— David Kirtley (@dekirtley) May 10, 2023
More than 100 capacitors are on the racks and connected to the coils on the Polaris Formation Test! Once switches are installed, our team will start experimenting with and optimizing FRC plasmas to better inform the final formation section builds for Polaris. pic.twitter.com/oftAGaoD0B
— Helion (@Helion_Energy) May 4, 2023
Helion Energy (based in Washington State near Microsofts head office) agreed to provide Microsoft with at least 50 megawatts of electricity from its planned first fusion power plant, starting in 2028. Fifty megawatts is enough electricity to power a data center or factory, said David Kirtley, Helion’s CEO.
Founded in 2013, Helion has launched a multi-billion-dollar effort to produce electricity from fusion, the nuclear reaction that powers the sun and stars.
Helion Energy has received over $570 million in funding and commitments for another $1.7 billion to develop commercial nuclear fusion.
Helion has performed thousands of tests with their sixth prototype called Trenta. In 2021, Trenta reached 100 million degrees C, the temperature they could run a commercial reactor. Magnetic compression fields exceeded 10 T, ion temperatures surpassed 8 keV, and electron temperatures exceeded 1 keV. They reported ion densities up to 3 × 10^22 ions/m3 and confinement times of up to 0.5 ms.
Before its final operations, we gave exclusive access to @TheBrianMcManus to share Trenta with the world for the first time.
Learn more: https://t.co/9qNqc3ZCrF
— Helion (@Helion_Energy) December 15, 2022
7th prototype Polaris
Helion’s seventh-generation prototype, Project Polaris was in development in 2021, with completion expected in 2024. The device was expected to increase the pulse rate from one pulse every 10 minutes to one pulse per second for short periods. This prototype is the first of its kind to be able to heat fusion plasma up to temperatures greater than 100 million degrees C. Polaris is 25% larger than Trenta to ensure that ions do not damage the vessel walls.
Helion’s plan with Polaris is to try demonstrate net electricity from fusion. They plan to demonstrate helium-3 production through deuterium-deuterium fusion.
The plan with Polaris is to pulse at a higher repetition rate during continuous operations.
Big shipment in this week – Polaris’ capacitor storage containers are arriving in Everett! As we build Polaris, these panels will be assembled into boxes and filled with high-voltage pulsed capacitors used to control the fusion process in our machine. pic.twitter.com/FUDQliqQZs
— Helion (@Helion_Energy) February 24, 2023
Interior Ursa update: Foundation work for Polaris is ongoing. Support structure is in place and a concrete pour is happening next week. pic.twitter.com/R4FA2zyfdG
— Helion (@Helion_Energy) February 3, 2023
Divertors are being installed on the ends of our Polaris FRC formation test this week. Once all divertor magnets and the two quartz tubes are installed, the system will be fit together, pulled to vacuum, and we can start forming FRC plasmas! pic.twitter.com/nNh1iHCSMy
— Helion (@Helion_Energy) February 15, 2023
8th prototype Antares
As of January 2022, an eighth prototype, Antares, is in the design stage.
New crane installed inside Antares. Polaris crane install happening this week! pic.twitter.com/CPHLAOowRn
— Helion (@Helion_Energy) April 4, 2022
Helium-3 is an ultra-rare isotope of helium that is difficult to find on Earth used in quantum computing and critical medical imaging. Helion produces helium-3 by fusing deuterium in its plasma accelerator utilizing a patented high-efficiency closed-fuel cycle. Scientists have even discussed going to the Moon to mine helium-3 where it can be found in much higher abundance. Helion’s new process means we can produce helium-3 on Earth.
Helion’s cost of electricity production is projected to be $0.01 per kWh without assuming any economies of scale from mass production, carbon credits, or government incentives.
Nextbigfuture has interviewed Helion executives a few years ago and has reported on Helion plans before. Helion and all other nuclear fusion companies have missed target dates in the past. The only fusion companies that have not missed target dates are those that are too new.
All current nuclear fusion projects are less capable than the first EBR-1 fission reactor from 1951. However, technological and scientific breakthroughs can happen. Breakthroughs often do not happen. Nuclear fusion projects might succeed or might not. Many normal large projects fail. Multi-billion dollar skyscrapers and building projects that fail not because of difficult science. Big companies and big projects can fail and they can be late and miss deadlines. The SLS rocket is an example of a project going massively over budget and behind schedule.
December 2022 Update on Helion Energy Science
Helion Fusion CEO, David Kirtley, presented an update on the work as of December, 2022.
They are working on their seventh-generation prototype system and they have had over 10,000 shots with the sixth-generation system. They create and form plasmas and accelerate two plasmas to merge at supersonic speeds. They do not inject beams and operate in pulse mode. they do not hold the plasma for long times like the tokamak approaches.
The VC-funded seventh prototype should generate electricity. They have $500 million in funding and commitments of another $2 billion if the seventh prototype achieves its technical goals.
6th system is working at about 10 kEV (10 thousand electron volts). Over 10,000 shots.
7th system will work at 20 kEV. Want to have it operating by the end of 2023.
8th or 9th systems to get to the ideal operating levels of 100 kEV.
It is taking about 2-4 years to make and start operating each new prototype.
They have computational models of their science work and computationally modeled the scaling of the system.
Nextbigfuture has monitored all nuclear fusion programs and advanced nuclear fission systems. Helion Fusion is one of the programs that is the most promising based upon my comprehensive analysis.
The Operation of Helion Fusion Summarized
Scaling and Science Foundation
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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