Helion Energy

Summary

Helion Energy, Inc. is an American fusion research company, located in Everett, Washington.[1] The company focuses primarily on the production of low-cost-clean-electric energy and are working towards being the first commercial power plant that is derived exclusively from water.[2] They are developing a magneto-inertial fusion technology to produce helium-3 and fusion power via aneutronic fusion.[3][4]

Helion Energy Inc.
TypePrivate
IndustryFusion power
Founded2013; 9 years ago (2013)
FoundersDavid Kirtley, John Slough, Chris Pihl, George Votroubek
Headquarters,
Key people
  • David Kirtley, CEO
  • Chris Pihl, CTO
  • George Votroubek, Principal Scientist
Websitewww.helionenergy.com

TechnologyEdit

The company's Fusion Engine technology is based on the Inductive Plasmoid Accelerator (IPA) experiments[5][6] performed from 2005 through 2012. This system theoretically operates at 1 Hz, injecting plasma, compressing it to fusion conditions, expanding it, and directly recovering the energy to produce electricity.[7] The IPA experiments claimed 300 km/s velocities, deuterium neutron production, and 2 keV deuterium ion temperatures.[6] The pulsed-fusion system that is used is able to run 24/7 for electricity production. Due to its compact size, the systems are able to replace the current fossil fuel infrastructure without major needs for investment.[8]

Helium-3 fuelEdit

As of 2015, Helion intended to produce and use a combination of deuterium and helium-3 as fuel. This mix allows mostly aneutronic fusion, releasing only 5% of its energy in the form of fast neutrons. The helium-3 is produced by D-D side reactions and is captured and reused, eliminating supply concerns. Helion has a patent on this process.[9]

The IPA experiments used deuterium-deuterium fusion, which produces a 2.45 MeV neutron in half of the reactions. Helion and MSNW published articles describing a deuterium-tritium implementation that is the easiest to achieve but generates 14 MeV neutrons. The fuel is deuterium-deuterium, which produces helium-3, potentially for use in fusion reactors and medical imaging.[citation needed]

ConfinementEdit

This fusion approach uses the magnetic field of a field-reversed configuration (FRC) plasmoid (operated with solid state electronics derived from power switching electronics in wind turbines) to prevent plasma energy losses. An FRC is a magnetized plasma configuration notable for its closed field lines, high Beta and lack of internal penetrations.[10]

CompressionEdit

To inject the target plasmoid into the fusion compression chamber two FRC plasmoids are accelerated to high velocity with pulsed magnetic fields and merge into a single target plasmoid at high pressure.[10] Published plans target compressing fusion plasmas to 12 Tesla (T).[11]

Energy generationEdit

Energy is captured by direct energy conversion that uses the expansion of the plasma to induce a current in the magnetic compression- and acceleration- coils and it translates high-energy alpha particles directly into a voltage. This eliminates the need for steam turbines, cooling towers, and their associated energy losses.[10]

HistoryEdit

The Helion team published peer-reviewed research demonstrating D-D neutron production in 2011.[6] The company was founded in 2013 by David Kirtley, John Slough, Chris Pihl, and George Votroubek.[12] They detailed D-D fusion experiments producing neutrons in an October 2018 report at the United States Department of Energy's ARPA-E's annual ALPHA program meeting.[13] Experiments that year achieved plasmas with multi-keV temperatures[14] and a triple product of 6.4·1018keV·s/m3.[15]

The management team won the 2013 National Cleantech Open Energy Generation competition and awards at the 2014 ARPA-E Future Energy Startup competition,[10] were members of the 2014 Y Combinator program,[16] and were awarded a 2015 ARPA-E ALPHA contract, "Staged Magnetic Compression of FRC Targets to Fusion Conditions".[17]

In 2018, the 5th prototype, had magnetic fields of 7T and at high density, an ion temperature of 2 keV.[8]

In 2021, the firm announced that its sixth prototype, Trenta had reached 100 million degrees C after a 16-month test cycle with more than 10,000 pulses. Magnetic compression fields exceeded 10 T, ion temperatures surpassed 8 keV, and electron temperatures exceeded 1 keV.[18][19] The development of Trenta came about after a 16-month evaluation of the fusion process.[8]

Helion's seventh-generation prototype, Project Polaris is under development, with completion expected in 2023.[20] The device was expected to increase the pulse rate from one pulse every 10 minutes to one pulse per second for short periods.[21] This prototype is the first of its kind to be able to heat fusion plasma up to temperatures greater than 100 million degrees celsius.[22] Polaris is expected by 2024 to be able to produce more energy than the amount of energy needed to be taken in to work.[23]

In 2022, the company was one of five finalists for the 2022 GeekWire Awards for innovation of the year, specifically for fusion energy start up category.[24]

An eighth iteration, Antares, is in the design stage.[25]

FundingEdit

Helion Energy received $7 million in funding from NASA, the United States Department of Energy and the Department of Defense,[26] followed by $1.5 million from the private sector in August 2014, through the seed accelerators Y Combinator and Mithril Capital Management.[27] Investors include Y Combinator. In September of 2020, the company was valued at 1.25 billion dollars.[2] Mithril Capital Management, and Capricorn Investment Group.[28][29] As of late 2021, investment totaled 77.8M.[30] In November 2021, Helion received $0.5 billion in Series E funding, with an additional $1.7 billion of commitments tied to specific milestones.[31] The funding was mainly led by Sam Altman.[32]

Revenue modelEdit

Helion Energy’s strategy is to generate revenue based on a royalty model of electricity produced with projected electricity prices of 40–60 $/MWhr (4 to 6 cents per kwh). Penetration of the new capacity market is estimated at 20% of market growth (2.5%) per annum eventually reaching 50% of new power generation worldwide – $52 B/yr. Gradual displacement of existing supplies enables continued growth to 20% of world electrical generation after 20 years with a net return of over $300 billion.[33]

CriticismEdit

Retired Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory researcher Daniel Jassby mentioned Helion Energy in a letter included in the American Physical Society newsletter Physics & Society (April 2019) as being among fusion start-ups allegedly practicing "voodoo fusion" rather than legitimate science. He noted that the company is one of several that has continually claimed "power in 5 to 10 years, but almost all have apparently never produced a single D-D fusion reaction".[34] However, Helion published peer-reviewed research demonstrating D-D neutron production as early as 2011[6] and according to the independent JASON review team, VENTI, a sub-scale prototype Helion developed partially for the ALPHA program, achieved initial results of 8·1022 ions/m3, 4·10−5 seconds energy confinement time and a temperature of 2 keV in 2018.[15]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Helion Energy Says It Will Offer the World's First Commercial Fusion Power". Interesting Engineering. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Fusion Energy Startup Helion Energy Closes Latest Funding Round at $1.25B Valuation". Helion. Retrieved 2022-04-30.
  3. ^ "Helion". Helion. Retrieved 2021-06-24.
  4. ^ Virgin, Bill (2018-04-16). "Redmond's Helion Energy Looks to Nuclear Fusion As the Next Big Thing in Power Generation". Seattle Business Magazine. Retrieved 2021-06-24.
  5. ^ Votroubek, G.; Slough, J.; Andreason, S.; Pihl, C. (June 2008). "Formation of a Stable Field Reversed Configuration through Merging". Journal of Fusion Energy. 27 (1–2): 123–127. doi:10.1007/s10894-007-9103-4. ISSN 0164-0313.
  6. ^ a b c d Slough, John; Votroubek, George; Pihl, Chris (2011-05-01). "Creation of a high-temperature plasma through merging and compression of supersonic field reversed configuration plasmoids". Nuclear Fusion. 51 (5): 053008. Bibcode:2011NucFu..51e3008S. doi:10.1088/0029-5515/51/5/053008. ISSN 0029-5515.
  7. ^ Svoboda, Elizabeth (2011-06-21). "Is Fusion Power Finally For Real?". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 2021-06-24.
  8. ^ a b c Emilio, Maurizio Di Paolo (2021-07-21). "EETimes - Helion Energy Achieves Key Fusion Milestone". EETimes. Retrieved 2022-04-30.
  9. ^ EP 3103119, Slough, John Thomas; Kirtley, David Edwin & Pihl, Christopher James, "Advanced D-3He fuel cycle for a pulsed fusion reactor", published 2021-03-24, assigned to Helion Energy Inc. 
  10. ^ a b c d Wang, Brian. "Helion Energy Raised $10.9 Million". Retrieved 2021-06-24.
  11. ^ Wang, Brian (2018-10-02). "Helion Energy got funding for possible breakeven fusion device this year". NextBigFuture.com.
  12. ^ "Helion Energy". Helion Energy.
  13. ^ "Staged Magnetic Compression of FRC Targets" (PDF). ARPA-E. October 2018.
  14. ^ Kirtley, David; Milroy, Richard; Votroubek, George; Slough, John; McKee, Erik; Shimazu, Aki; Hine, Andrew; Barnes, Daniel (2018-11-05). "Overview of Staged Magnetic Compression of FRC targets". Bulletin of the American Physical Society. 2018: BM9.005. Bibcode:2018APS..DPPBM9005K.
  15. ^ a b Long, Gordon (2018-11-01). "Prospects for Low Cost Fusion Development" (PDF). ARPA-E.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ "Summer 2014 Companies (YC S14)". Y Combinator Universe. 2010-07-21.
  17. ^ "Compression of FRC Targets for Fusion". arpa-e.energy.gov. Retrieved 2021-06-24.
  18. ^ "Helion passes 100 million degrees Celsius". World Nuclear News. World Nuclear Association. June 23, 2021. Retrieved 2021-06-25.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ Wang, Brian (June 23, 2021). "Nuclear Fusion Startup Helion Energy Surpasses 100 Million Degrees Celsius". Next Big Future. Retrieved 2021-06-25.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. ^ "Helion prepares to build seventh fusion prototype : New Nuclear - World Nuclear News". world-nuclear-news.org. Retrieved 2021-08-20.
  21. ^ NRC (January 26, 2021). "Developing a Regulatory Framework for Fusion Energy Systems" (PDF). Nuclear Regulatory Commission.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. ^ "Why did OpenAI invest in a nuclear fusion startup?". Analytics India Magazine. 2022-04-19. Retrieved 2022-04-30.
  23. ^ Podsada, Janice (2022-02-02). "Can fusion-powered Helion Energy change the world — from Everett?". HeraldNet.com. Retrieved 2022-04-30.
  24. ^ "Innovation of the Year: 5 technology breakthroughs named finalists in GeekWire Awards". GeekWire. 2022-03-31. Retrieved 2022-04-30.
  25. ^ Helman, Christopher. "Fueled By Billionaire Dollars, Nuclear Fusion Enters A New Age". Forbes. Retrieved 2022-01-08.
  26. ^ Halper, Mark (30 April 2013). "The nearness of fusion: The materials and coolant challenges facing one fusion company mirror fission". The Alvin Weinberg Foundation.
  27. ^ Russell, Kyle (14 August 2014). "Y Combinator And Mithril Invest In Helion, A Nuclear Fusion Startup". TechCrunch.
  28. ^ "Y Combinator and Mithril Invest in Helion, a Nuclear Fusion Startup". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2021-06-24.
  29. ^ Medrano, Kastalia. "The Search Is on for (Cheap) Nuclear Fusion". Inverse. Retrieved 2021-06-24.
  30. ^ "Helion Energy - Pitchbook Company Overview". Pitchbook. Retrieved 2021-07-21.
  31. ^ Conca, James. "Helion Energy Raises $500 Million On The Fusion Power Of Stars". Forbes. Retrieved 2021-12-19.
  32. ^ "Helion secures $2.2B to commercialize fusion energy". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2022-04-30.
  33. ^ Wang, Brian (August 18, 2015). "Helion Energy Raised $10.9 Million | NextBigFuture.com". Retrieved 2021-06-25.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  34. ^ Jassby, Daniel L. (April 2019). "Voodoo Fusion Energy". APS.org. Retrieved 2020-09-09.

External linksEdit

  • Official website