Canada’s General Fusion announced that it had achieved several aggressive performance goals of a prototype system for its Fusion Demonstration Plant (FDP).
The company’s plasma compression prototype, located at its Vancouver, Canada laboratory, is being used to demonstrate a critical element of its proprietary Magnetised Target Fusion (MTF) technology. General Fusion said this “marks another significant step toward’s goal of creating practical and commercially viable fusion power”.
The FDP, commissioned in early 2021 drives a forceful, but precisely shaped, symmetric collapse of a large liquid vortex cavity in tens of milliseconds. The forces involved in the full-scale FDP compression system will be immense, pushing the limits of material science, fluid dynamics, and mechanical design.
The company said: “Achieving this milestone with the prototype significantly reduces engineering and technical risks forGeneral Fusion’s FDP. It will use a collapsing liquid metal cavity to heat and compress plasma fuel to fusion conditions at 100 million degrees Celsius.”
The idea of using a collapsing liquid metal cavity to create fusion is not new, but General Fusion has brought new enabling technologies such as high-speed digital control systems, additive manufacturing, and advanced composite materials to make the concept viable and to de-risk its implementation in the FDP. Driving a rapid, smooth, and spherically shaped collapse of a cavity created inside a rotating liquid has been a difficult engineering challenge that General Fusion has now demonstrated in this prototype machine. It is the pathfinder for a larger prototype being built in 2022 to validate further refinements to various engineering aspects of this technology.
“Net energy production is essential, but not really the ultimate goal of commercialising fusion energy, which is building economical, carbon-free fusion power plants,” said General Fusion CEO Christofer Mowry. “Our unique technology, two decades in the making, solves the long-standing challenges of building practical fusion power plants for the world’s energy markets struggling to move away from fossil fuels. The successful performance of this important prototype validates we are on the path to success.”
General Fusion’s MTF technology overcomes several key challenges of creating practical fusion energy. The company says it will economically create fusion conditions, efficiently convert fusion energy into carbon-free electricity, protect the fusion machine from burning fusion plasma, and produce enough fusion fuel for its own use. General Fusion’s prototype compression system validates one of the most critical parts of its MTF technology because a mechanically collapsed liquid cavity is a cornerstone for MTF overcoming all these challenges.
General Fusion is based in Vancouver, Canada, with locations in London, UK, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA. The company was established in 2002 and is funded by a global syndicate of leading energy venture capital firms, industry leaders.
General Fusion’s PI3 plasma injector (Credit: General Fusion)