Nuclear Fusion is an area of science that I receive way too little attention for the potential impact it could make on the world. If humans are ever able to generate sustained fusion reactions, the technology would be parallel to other revolutionary general-purpose technologies (the semiconductor, electricity).
When I look at the current Gartner hype cycle fusion is not placed on the chart. This may be the result of analyst assessments that weight the possibility of the technologies emergence as highly unlikely. With this consideration, the technology’s ability to create an exponential utility gain, through unlimited renewable energy, would make me think the topic would receive more media and VC attention.
Earlier today I found a great video from Linus Tech Tips that covers the topic in decent depth while keeping the discussion at a level where most should be able to understand. Linus discusses the two techniques currently being experimented with.
Firstly, Tokamaks’ which use magnetic field confinement to heat plasma to temperatures required for fusion. This is the technique being used by ITER, a leading fusion development group funded through public research dollars. Unfortunately, the tokamak method requires massive input power generation (50 MW) to initiate the reaction. This has placed this method out of practicality for private researchers.
The second branch of fusion research is called inertial confinement fusion (ICF). This process attempts to compress a small piece of deuterium (heavy hydrogen) using powerful lasers. In theory, the compression raises the temperature of the deuterium and initiates the reaction.
In the video linked below Linus toured the facilities of General Fusion. They are a privately funded research center, backed by billionaires such as Jeff Bezos, that is making progress in the practical commercialization of fusion. General Fusion is currently attempting a hybrid technique that uses both ICF and magnetic field confinement. Linus has a balanced assessment of the technology and where current progress is for practical reactors.
Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPpYQFtyO98