A few months ago (LSS 18August 2021) we published a piece entitled Nuclear Fusion: Is this a case of jam tomorrow? It was a bit sniffy and pessimistic. We noted current progress and astute readers will have sensed that we were still less than carried away by the whole thing. Nuclear fusion offers the promise of cheap abundant green energy which will transform the world. But people have been making these promises for more than sixty years. We remember the rocket of cold fusion soaring and falling back to earth in 1989. And anyway-isn’t there a free fusion reactor called the Sun handily close? All you need is a few photovoltaic panels.
But greater minds than our own think differently. We refer to that superb publication Nature Briefings, and will always pay attention to what they say. Today they run a review of latest commercial progress on the various efforts to tame the power of colliding nuclei. Nature puts its faith in advances in both materials and the supporting information technologies which should allow better designs of the reaction technologies, and hopes that these finally get researchers over the line.
It’s not that we’re against fusion, goos readers. We hope that our pessimism is unfounded. Read the article in that light, and keep your fingers crossed
The start-ups chasing fusion energy
Long derided as a prospect that is forever 30 years away, nuclear fusion seems finally to be approaching commercial viability. There are now more than 30 private fusion firms globally, attracting billions in private investments. Advances in materials research and computing are enabling technologies other than the standard designs that national and international agencies have pursued for so long. “Sooner or later this will be cracked,” says Chris Kelsall, chief executive of the fusion firm Tokamak Energy in Culham, UK. “And it will be transformative.”Nature | 15 min read
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