Helion Energy achieves 100 million degrees Celsius fusion fuel temperature

24 June 2021

US-based Helion Energy said on 22 June that it had become the first private company to announce exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius in its 6th fusion generator prototype, Trenta. “Reaching this temperature is a critical engineering milestone as it is considered the ideal fuel temperature at which a commercial power plant would need to operate. Helion will be presenting these operational results at the 63rd Annual Meeting of the APS Division of Plasma Physics.

Helion also announced that the Trenta prototype had recently completed a 16-month testing campaign, which pushed fusion fuel performance to unprecedented levels and performed lifetime and reliability testing on key components of the fusion system. Helion will be presenting these results at the 2021 IEEE Pulsed Power Conference & Symposium on Fusion Engineering. 

Helion said reaching these temperatures and confirming system reliability are vital milestones that validate Helion’s plans to develop a cost-effective, zero-carbon electrical power plant using its unique pulsed, non-ignition-fusion device. "These achievements represent breakthroughs with major implications for how the world meets its expanding future electricity needs while dramatically reducing climate impact on a relevant timescale," said Helion Founder and CEO Dr David Kirtley.

Helion Energy’s Trenta prototype merged and compressed high-Beta Field Reversed Configuration (FRC) deuterium plasmas to fusion conditions, reaching 9 keV total bulk plasma temperatures with operation above 8 keV ion temperature and 1 keV electron temperature. Extensive calibrated chords of x-ray spectroscopy, 1055 nm interferometry, Bremsstrahlung optical emission detectors, and a wide array of magnetic separatrix and neutron diagnostics confirm extended and repeatable FRC operation at thermonuclear fusion conditions, the company said. Fusion reaction rates and particle confinement meet or exceed traditional modified-Lower Hybrid Drift (LHD) FRC energy confinement and overall configuration time is limited as expected by the onset of n=2 rotational instability.

The Trenta prototype recently completed a 16 month testing campaign, remaining under vacuum continuously with all fusion and diagnostic operations and system upgrades completed remotely. During this period, extensive MJ-class discharges were completed, including merging and compression of high-Beta Field Reversed Configuration (FRC) deuterium plasmas to thermonuclear fusion conditions with associated fusion product fluences.

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