How one startup is progressing toward commercialized nuclear fusion

In this episode of Decoding Innovation, Scott Krisiloff shares Helion Energy’s journey so far in creating electricity from nuclear fusion and the subsequent plans to commercialize this form of energy.

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Fusion — the inverse of fission — is a process where energy is created when two lighter atoms are combined to form a new atom. Established in 2008, Helion Energy is aiming to use nuclear fusion for producing electricity and meeting the global energy demand.

Scott Krisiloff, Chief Business Officer of Helion Energy, details how the company has taken an unconventional approach to its fusion reactions, so that more energy is generated from the reaction than is put into it. Helion’s sixth prototype, completed in 2020, was able to reach a temperature of 100 million degrees. Without such high temperatures, bulk fusion reactions cannot begin. By showing that it can achieve commercially relevant fusion conditions, Helion Energy was able to raise US$500m at the end of 2021.

Scott also talks about Helion Energy’s future goals. The company expects to demonstrate the ability to produce net electricity by 2024. But for nuclear fusion to replace fossil fuels, society will need to be educated about the safety profile and risk characteristics of fusion. 

Nuclear fusion may completely transform the global energy industry and help tackle climate change. However, it will need a lot more experiments, advancements and investments. 

Key takeaways:

  • Helion Energy uses deuterium and helium-3 as the fuels. Enough deuterium exists on Earth to produce fusion energy for billions of years, whereas helium-3 is a by-product of deuterium-deuterium fusion.
  • The sixth-generation Helion prototype is small enough to fit in a shipping container, and is able to create an ideal combination of temperature, density and time — the three fundamentals that govern fusion reactions.
  • The US$500m raised by Helion Energy in 2021 came from its group of existing investors, who were impressed by the results of the sixth prototype and the future potential of this form of energy.

For your convenience, full text transcript of this podcast is also available.

Presenters

Podcast

Episode 16

Duration

25m 51s