Nuclear Fusion Startup Zap Energy Makes Progress and Gets $160 Million

Zap Energy creating the first plasmas in their FuZE-Q prototype. They achieved Q=1 where the process of nuclear fusion inside a plasma yields more energy than was consumed to create the plasma. In 2021, Zap Energy used sheared-flow stabilization to extend the lifetime of Z-pinch plasmas at 500 kiloamps (kA) of current. Zap’s sheared-flow-stabilized Z-pinch…
Nuclear Fusion Startup Zap Energy Makes Progress and Gets $160 Million


Zap Energy creating the first plasmas in their FuZE-Q prototype. They achieved Q=1 where the process of nuclear fusion inside a plasma yields more energy than was consumed to create the plasma.

In 2021, Zap Energy used sheared-flow stabilization to extend the lifetime of Z-pinch plasmas at 500 kiloamps (kA) of current. Zap’s sheared-flow-stabilized Z-pinch technology might be a fast path to commercially viable fusion. It requires orders of magnitude less capital than traditional approaches. Zap Energy has over 60 employees based in Seattle, Everett and Mukilteo, Washington.

Following a $27.5 million Series B in May 2021, Zap Energy’s oversubscribed $160 million Series C funding round was led by Lowercarbon Capital with participation by a new set of investors that includes Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Shell Ventures, DCVC and Valor Equity Partners. Existing financial and strategic investors who have backed the new raise include Addition, Energy Impact Partners (EIP) and Chevron Technology Ventures.

Zap Energy’s technology does not require any superconducting magnets or high-powered lasers.

The conceptual basis for the technology was developed at the University of Washington (UW) together with collaborators from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. UW professors Uri Shumlak and Brian A. Nelson teamed up with entrepreneur and investor Benj Conway to co-found Zap Energy in 2017 to accelerate and ultimately commercialize the research. The company now h

FuZE-Q is the fourth generation of Z-pinch device that Zap Energy has built.

AIP – Physics of Plasmas – Thermonuclear neutron emission from a sheared-flow stabilized Z-pinch

ABSTRACT


The fusion Z-pinch experiment (FuZE) is a sheared-flow stabilized Z-pinch designed to study the effects of flow stabilization on deuterium plasmas with densities and temperatures high enough to drive nuclear fusion reactions. Results from FuZE show high pinch currents and neutron emission durations thousands of times longer than instability growth times. While these results are consistent with thermonuclear neutron emission, energetically resolved neutron measurements are a stronger constraint on the origin of the fusion production. This stems from the strong anisotropy in energy created in beam-target fusion, compared to the relatively isotropic emission in thermonuclear fusion. In dense Z-pinch plasmas, a potential and undesirable cause of beam-target fusion reactions is the presence of fast-growing, “sausage” instabilities. This work introduces a new method for characterizing beam instabilities by recording individual neutron interactions in plastic scintillator detectors positioned at two different angles around the device chamber. Histograms of the pulse-integral spectra from the two locations are compared using detailed Monte Carlo simulations. These models infer the deuteron beam energy based on differences in the measured neutron spectra at the two angles, thereby discriminating beam-target from thermonuclear production. An analysis of neutron emission profiles from FuZE precludes the presence of deuteron beams with energies greater than 4.65 keV with a statistical uncertainty of 4.15 keV and a systematic uncertainty of 0.53 keV. This analysis demonstrates that axial, beam-target fusion reactions are not the dominant source of neutron emission from FuZE. These data are promising for scaling FuZE up to fusion reactor conditions.

SOURCES- Zap Energy, AIP Physics of Plasma


Written by Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

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