Nuclear Fusion Startup Helion to Produce 7th Generation Prototype Upon Receiving US$2.2 Billion Fund

US nuclear fusion startup Helion Energy recently completed a Series E funding of US$500 million, which will be used to establish the prototype for the 7th generation reactor Polaris that is expected to become the first piece of nuclear fusion equipment in showcasing net power generation in 2024 as scheduled.

The Series E funding is led by Sam Altam, former president of largest global incubator Y Combinator and current CEO of OpenAI. Altam is also the executive chairman of Helion. In addition, Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, Jeff Skoll, former president of eBay, and Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook, had all participated in the investment. Helion will receive an extra US$1.7 billion upon attaining key performance milestones.

Helion had broken ground for Polaris in July 2021, and has a promising prospect. The 6th generation Trenta prototype of Helion completed more than 10,000 times of high energy pulses in 2020, and had been operating everyday ever since for 16 months. Helion is also the first private business that has achieved a plasma temperature of 100 million °C from nuclear fusion equipment, as well as an achievement of maintaining the plasma for 1 millisecond in a compressed field of more than 10T.

The nuclear fusion technology of Helion is identical to that of a tokamak and a stellarator, which adopt magnetic confinement fusion, and is primarily associated with deuterium from water and deuterium atomic fusion product “helium-3”.

An impact and fusion between the high beta plasma of deuterium and helium-3 would release energy and inflate the plasma. Helion pointed out that inflation would render changes to the magnetic flux of the plasma, and push back the magnetic field generated by surrounding magnets at the reaction chamber, where the interaction effect would generate induced current and better capture current.

The prototype for the 6th generation Trenta was able to execute one nuclear fusion pulse every 10 minutes in the past, and the team hopes to accelerate the speed to one pulse every second for the prototype of Polaris. Helion estimates Polaris to generate a small level of net power by 2024, which means that power generation is larger than energy consumption.

Helion CEO David Kirtley commented that the company hopes to construct nuclear fusion reactors that are similar to wooden transportation boxes in dimension, with a capacity of roughly 50MW for each reactor that can provide electricity for approximately 8,200 households in the US.

As for the cost of power, Helion is expected to generate power with the lowest price of US$10/MWh without the need of extensive production, carbon credit, or any government incentives to reach economies of scale, making nuclear fusion one of the most affordable power generation methods at only 1/3 the cost of coal-firing or PV.

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