Sign up FAST! Login

General Fusion: the secretive, billionaire-backed plans to harness fusion


Stashed in: #TED, Peter Thiel, Energy!, Jeff Bezos, Paul Allen

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

Yay fusion?

I wonder if Paul Allen will use fusion to cook food, and too bad for him "fusion cuisine" is already taken.

Unclear it can be used well for cooking. 

Inside a laboratory near Vancouver in British Columbia, an alarm is blaring. In the middle of the industrial warehouse stands what looks like a cannon from a spaceship, about five metres long and festooned in wires.

None of the lab's red-coat-wearing technicians seem fazed by the noise. The siren, which alerts workers to don protective earmuffs in case of a blown fuse, precedes every test “shot” on this prototype nuclear fusion reactor – and these engineers have performed well over 50,000 shots over the past five years.

That speed – currently, 50 to 100 tests a day – would not be possible within the bureaucracy of a public lab, where the most prominent research in long-awaited fusion energy is being conducted. But this is a little-known company called General Fusion – funded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and free to pursue technological revolution at its own, breakneck pace.

General Fusion is just one of a pack of private fusion firms to catch the attention of physicists and investors. Unencumbered by red tape, these venture-backed companies believe that they can find a faster, cheaper way to fusion than government-sponsored projects, and some very influential people agree: besides Bezos, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel are also backing firms at the forefront of fusion development. Some of these enterprises have operated almost entirely under-the-radar until recently: the company Allen is invested in, Tri Alpha, didn’t even have a website before last year.

The combination of wealthy moguls and fusion is curiously reminiscent of the 2012 Batman movie ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, in which Bruce Wayne’s company builds a fusion reactor behind closed doors. The movie wouldn't win any awards for scientific accuracy, but it got at least one thing right: this world-changing technology may indeed be ushered into existence by a moonshot-minded magnate.

Michel Laberge TED Talk from 2014: