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.
There are several anti-nuclear fusion critics. Interestingly, two of the more prominent ones worked on nuclear fusion projects. They were paid with a career trying to develop nuclear fusion on the Tokomak projects. They have left and only after leaving do they choose to criticize nuclear fusion. They hate the newer companies the most. They like the Tokomak projects more. They use old Nextbigfuture articles that reported on what the nuclear fusion companies said they were doing and the target dates. Somehow, the nuclear critics seem to think that Nextbigfuture should have validated all science and technology claims and questioned every assertion made. Yet, they with physics degrees and engineering degrees did not question joining failed Tokomak projects before or while they were working their for years.
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.
Advanced nuclear fission is also being developed which appear likely to start first reactor completions in 2025-2030.
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.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.