TAE Technologies, reputedly the world's largest private fusion energy company, has entered into a partnership with Japan’s National Institute of Fusion Science enabling the two organisations to test the effects of hydrogen-boron (p-B11) fusion reactions in the NIFS Large Helical Device (LHD).
The results of this research have the potential, says TAE, to unlock a new milestone in its objective of developing commercial fusion power with p-B11, the cleanest and most affordable fuel for fusion cycles.
Most fusion efforts around the world are focused on combining hydrogen isotopes deuterium-tritium (D-T) to use as fuel; the doughnut-shaped tokamak machines commonly used in fusion concepts are limited to D-T fuel.
TAE’s linear design uses a beam-driven field-reversed configuration (FRC) that can accommodate all available fusion fuel cycles, including D-T and deuterium-helium-3 (D-He-3), a benefit that enables the company to licence its technology on the way to its ultimate goal of connecting the first p-B11 fusion power plant to the grid by the end of this decade.
TAE is developing commercial fusion power plants using p-B11 because it believes it is the most economical and environmentally friendly fuel cycle for fusion. P-B11 eliminates the need for breeding tritium, thus offering cleaner, safer operations while maximising the durability and lifetime of the fusion plant. The boron in p-B11 is ubiquitous in nature, found in vast quantities in the earth’s crust and in sea water. The partnership between NIFS and TAE represents the first public-private fusion research using this advanced fuel.
The three-year joint research project, which began in September, calls for the technical teams to install sensors inside the NIFS stellarator to detect benign helium nuclei, also known as alpha particles, which are produced by p-B11 fusion reactions to monitor the internal effects of the fuel on the containment walls in order to produce the best plasma confinement and strongest, most resilient machinery for fusion power plants.
“Our partnership with NIFS is a significant opportunity to offer proof of concept for TAE’s preferred fuel cycle and accelerate commercialization of p-B11 fusion, which represents the cleanest, most elegant and abundant energy source on earth,” said Michl Binderbauer, CEO of TAE Technologies. “We expect this research to yield new insights that will help us further optimize our fusion platform for global adoption and long-term sustainability.”