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General Fusion Announces New Fusion Demo Machine

August 11, 2023

Canadian private fusion developer General Fusion has announced plans for a new Magnetised Target Fusion (MTF) machine designed to achieve fusion conditions of over 100 million degrees Celsius by 2025, and progress toward scientific breakeven by 2026.

The existing operational PI3 plasma injector (Image: General Fusion)

Called Lawson Machine 26 (LM26), the MTF demonstration is designed to be cost-efficient and produce results quickly using General Fusion's unique approach to fusion. To be built at the company's Richmond, British Columbia headquarters, LM26 will validate the company's ability to symmetrically compress magnetised plasmas in a repeatable manner and achieve fusion conditions at scale.

The machine will integrate General Fusion's existing operational plasma injector (PI3) with a new lithium liner compression system. PI3 is the culmination of 24 predecessor prototypes and over 200,000 plasma experiments. General Fusion said it is one of the world's largest and most powerful operational plasma injectors, having already demonstrated plasma temperatures of five million degrees Celsius, along with 10 millisecond self-sustaining energy confinement time. Both are critical stepping stones to achieving LM26's target of fusion conditions in 2025 and equivalent scientific breakeven in 2026, it noted. LM26's plasmas will be approximately 50% the scale of a commercial fusion machine.

Over the next two to three years, General Fusion will work closely with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to validate the data gathered from LM26 and incorporate it into the design of the company's planned commercial-scale demonstration in the UK.

"This machine represents a significant new pillar to accelerate and de-risk General Fusion's Demonstration Programme, designed to leverage the company's recent technological advancements and provide electricity to the grid with commercial fusion energy by the early to mid-2030s," the company said.

"Our updated three-year Fusion Demonstration Programme puts us on the best path forward to commercialise our technology by the 2030s," said General Fusion CEO Greg Twinney. "We're harnessing our team's existing strengths right here in Canada and delivering high-value, industry-leading technical milestones in the near term."

General Fusion's MTF approach involves injecting hydrogen plasma into a liquid metal sphere, where it is compressed and heated so that fusion occurs. The heat from the fusion of the hydrogen atoms is transferred into the liquid metal. This enables fusion conditions to be created in short pulses rather than creating a sustained reaction. This "avoids the pitfalls of other approaches that require expensive superconducting magnets or high-powered lasers," according to the company.

General Fusion plans to construct its Fusion Demonstration Plant (FDP) at the UKAEA's Culham Campus near Oxford, England. The plant will be used to prove the viability of the MTF technology and is a 70%-scaled version of the commercial pilot plant. However, the plant will not be used to produce power. The FDP will cycle one plasma pulse per day, and will use deuterium fuel, whereas the commercial pilot plant will use deuterium-tritium fuel and will cycle up to one plasma pulse per second. The FDP is expected to be commissioned in 2026 and fully operational by early 2027.

The company has also completed the first close of its Series F raise for a combined USD25 million of funding. The round was anchored by existing investors BDC Capital and GIC. It also included new grant funding from the Government of British Columbia, which builds upon the Canadian government's ongoing support through the Strategic Innovation Fund.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News