Venture Capital: Bill Gates And Bezos-Backed MIT Startup Edges Closer To Energy’s Holy Grail

Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) and MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) succcessfully tested a powerful magnet for use in a fusion energy machine.

CFS and MIT’s PSFC announced Wednesday their successful test of a powerful magnet constructed from high temperature superconductors (HTS); the magnet can later be used in a “tokamak,” a fusion machine that could be scientists’ Holy Grail because it produces more energy than it consumes. (MIT News)

Superconducting magnet could make fusion energy a reality

On September 5, researchers at CFS and MIT were able to generate a magnetic field measuring 20 tesla using a large high-temperature superconducting electromagnet.

This is claimed to be the most powerful magnetic field of its kind ever created on Earth.

This is a highly significant development and brings into the realm of possibility the creation of “net energy” from a fusion process – something scientists have sought for decades.

“This record-breaking magnet is the culmination of the last three years of work and will give the world a clear path to fusion power for the first time,” said Bob Mumgaard, CFS CEO, in a statement. “The world needs a fundamentally new technology that will support efforts to decarbonize on a timeline that can mitigate climate change. This test of our magnet proves we have that technology, and we’re on our way to producing clean, limitless energy for the entire world.”

Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS)

Startup CFS is backed by marquee investors including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the high-profile sustainability investment fund launched by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Ray Dalio, and others.

CFS has raised over $250 million since its founding as a spin-off from MIT.

Its mission – to bring fusion energy technology to market.

Fusion, the ultimate clean energy source

“Fusion in a lot of ways is the ultimate clean energy source,” said Maria Zuber, MIT’s vice president for research and E. A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics. “The amount of power that is available is really game-changing.”

“The fuel used to create fusion energy comes from water, and the Earth is full of water — it’s a nearly unlimited resource. We just have to figure out how to utilize it,” she added.

“The challenges of making fusion happen are both technical and scientific,” says Dennis Whyte, director of PSFC. Once proven, “it’s an inexhaustible, carbon-free source of energy that you can deploy anywhere and at any time. It’s really a fundamentally new energy source.”

The way forward

The magnet now makes it feasible to demonstrate fusion in a lab on earth. The demonstration device, dubbed SPARC, will “create and confine a plasma that produces more energy than it consumes.”

SPARC is scheduled to complete by 2025.

CFS announced in March plans to build a 47-acre commercial fusion energy campus in Devens, Massachusetts.

The campus (rendering below) will be the birthplace of the commercial fusion energy industry, according to CFS, and home to the compact fusion device SPARC that will demonstrate fusion can work as a power source.

CFS plans to build HTS magnets for SPARC and future fusion power plants at this campus in a 160,000ft2 manufacturing facility.

Related Story: AI Could Help Realize the Holy Grail of Nuclear Fusion

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