Another American company claims it can build a nuclear fusion reactor. TAE Technologies claims its reactor can produce stable plasma that can reach temperatures of over 50 million degrees Celsius.
Reactors will need such hot plasma to achieve sustained fusion reactions to produce electricity. A TAE press release claims the company’s Norman reactor can sustain plasma at temperatures over 41 million degrees Fahrenheit.
TechCrunch speculates that TAE could build a commercial fusion reactor within 10 years. The Norman reactor’s plasma has reached temperatures of over 50 million degrees Celsius in several hundred test cycles over the past 18 months, TechCrunch claims.
Company raises $880 million for fusion reactor development
TAE Technologies claims to have raised over $880 million from investors. Those funds include $130 million raised in 2021, a TAE press release notes.
Those investors include Alphabet (GOOGL), the Kuwait Investment Authority, the Welcome Trust, and the family of investment pioneer Charles Schwab. Investors could give TAE an additional $280 million in funds because of the latest developments.
They will use that money to develop a demonstration reactor they call Copernicus. Copernicus could generate temperatures of over 100 million degrees Celsius. The hope is TAE Technologies could make money by licensing the fusion technology Copernicus demonstrates.
The late Norman Rostoker and current CEO Michl Binderbauer formed TAE Technologies in 1998 to commercialize Rostoker’s fusion theories. They named the Norman reactor for Rostoker.
Fusion technologies under development at TAE Technologies include power control mechanisms, feeder technology, and vacuum conditioning.
More than Fusion
TAE Technologies is developing other technology solutions. Those solutions include a fully integrated power management system that combines a controller, converter, and battery components into one scalable Power Module.
They claim they can configure the Power Modules into ACi-Power Power Packs that can deliver either AC (alternating current) or DC (direct current) electricity. The hope is that users could network the ACi-Power Packs to serve as a next generation electric grid.
The company is also developing a next generation powertrain for electric vehicles. TAE claims its powertrains could be more efficient, more reliable, and cheaper than current power trains. They claim the TAE power train will store more energy and charge faster.
Another product at TAE is a patented particle accelerator that is more flexible and adjustable than current devices. The hope is that there will be many commercial uses for the particle accelerator.
A subsidiary they call TAE Life Sciences is licensing the particle accelerator technology for medical and biological research. They have developed a radiation therapy they call Boron Neutron Capture Therapy.
In addition, TAE’s engineers hope to build Alphabeam a neutron source designed for clinical use. One use for Alphabeam could be cancer treatment. I suppose they hope to use Alphabeam to zap cancer cells with neutron radiation.
Neutron radiation can kill, that’s how the neutron bomb works. So I suppose you could adapt TAE’s particular accelerator technology to build a neutron ray gun.
The TAE Reactor Technology
TAE’s Norman reactor uses a different design from Commonwealth Fusion Systems’ tokamak reactors.
TAE claims its linear reactor design produces hotter and more stable plasma than tokamak reactors, such as the gargantuan ITER in France. In addition, TAE hopes to build a reactor that uses hydrogen-boron (B11) for fuel instead of rare and expensive helium. However, TechCrunch notes that the Norman Reactor uses Deuterium Tritium as its fuel source.
In addition, TAE claims the Norman Reactor can convert two megawatts of electricity from the grid and turn it into 750 megawatt shots for fusion research. Hence, TAE will not cause power outages in its home of Orange County, California.
The Norman Reactor is the fifth generation of TAE’s reactor technology. They built the Norman using machine learning; including Alphabet’s Optometrist Algorithm and computer-processing power provided by the US Department of Energy’s INCITE program.
The Importance of Fusion Research and Development
TAE Technologies’ shows the importance of fusion research and development. Although TAE has not built a fusion power reactor, it has developed other commercial technologies.
Even if fusion power never works, this research could lead to important scientific and technological advances that can generate trillions of dollars and create many jobs.
In theory, fusion could combat Climate Change by generating enormous amounts of electricity without the use of greenhouse gases. However, fusion could create some enormous problems.
The Dangers from Fusion
For instance, containing the super-hot plasma will be difficult. Currently, the only way to contain it is to create powerful magnetic fields. If the magnetic field fails, the plasma could get out and burn up everything in sight.
Plus, Daniel Jassby, the former principal physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab claims fusion could generate deadly neutron radiation and create radioactive waste. On the other hand, they could easily destroy the radioactive waste by burning it up in the fusion reactor.
One huge potential advantage to fusion reactors is that they could become the ultimate waste disposal machines. To explain, the super-hot plasma could burn up any waste material thrown into it.
I think we could see two or more commercial fusion reactors on the market within a decade. Hence, it is possible fusion could become a major industry in the 2030s. All investors and speculators need to watch fusion research because it could transform the energy industry beyond recognition.