Canada’s particle accelerator centre, TRIUMF and General Fusion, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that provides a framework for scientific and technical collaboration. Canada’s General Fusion in August announced plans to build a new Magnetised Target Fusion (MTF) machine at the company’s new Richmond headquarters. This new MTF machine, Lawson Machine 26 (LM26), is designed to achieve fusion conditions of over 100m degrees Celsius by 2025, and to progress toward scientific breakeven by 2026.
Under the agreement, TRIUMF and General Fusion will collaborate on projects in key areas including neutron diagnostics and a state-of-the-art ion temperature diagnostic for LM26. The information from these diagnostics will be critical in verifying that LM26 achieves fusion conditions, reaching temperatures of more than 100m degrees Celsius, or 10 keV. General Fusion says it will also provide important inputs into confirming the costs and size of a commercial scale machine, putting the company on course to bring clean fusion energy onto the electricity grid by the early to mid-2030s.
This diagnostic work builds upon the existing relationship between TRIUMF and General Fusion that began in 2022. Incorporating TRIUMF’s expertise into General Fusion’s development of innovative technologies, from initial concepts to final design and manufacturing, will help to ensure the technology deployed is practical for commercial power plants. General Fusion will also leverage TRIUMF’s experience with large-scale physics machines to develop interfaces that efficiently analyse and interpret information for operators of LM26.
General Fusion explains that MTF “uniquely sidesteps challenges to commercialisation that other technologies face. The game-changer is a proprietary liquid metal liner in the commercial fusion machine that is mechanically compressed by high-powered pistons. This enables fusion conditions to be created in short pulses rather than creating a sustained reaction.”
LM26 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. The plasma injector has already achieved the temperature and energy confinement times required by LM26. It is one of the world’s largest and most powerful operational plasma injectors, having already demonstrated plasma temperatures of 5m degrees Celsius, along with 10 millisecond self-sustaining energy confinement time.
The results from LM26 will validate the company’s ability to compress magnetized plasmas in a repeatable manner and achieve fusion conditions without requiring expensive superconducting magnets, or high-powered lasers. The data gathered from LM26 will then be incorporated into the design of the company’s planned commercial scale demonstration in the UK.
Image: Aerial view of the TRIUMF research centre in Vancouver, Canada (courtesy of TRIUMF)