Proxima Fusion captures a stellar €7 million raise to fund the design of fusion power plants

The Munich-based Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics spin-out targets a first-of-a-kind fusion power plant within the 2030s
Proxima Fusion captures a stellar €7 million raise to fund the design of fusion power plants

Munich-based Proxima Fusion has raised €7 million in Pre-Seed funding to fuel the development of a high-performance stellarator in a step towards building a first-of-a-kind fusion power plant within the 2030s.

The start-up is a spin-out of Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics and was founded by former scientists and engineers from the Max Planck IPP, MIT, and Google-X

Harnessing star power, that is 'actual' star power as fusion is the process that powers the stars, via stellarators the game plan is to create a fusion power plant - only, stellarators have long been affected by major drawbacks: poor plasma confinement at high temperatures, high losses of fusion products and challenging construction tolerances, so you can see this is quite the challenge. 

Best to hand you over to what the experts said before I butcher this anymore, and accidentally invent an entirely new technology! 

“Fusion is the challenge of our time. Our task will be to make it a commercial reality. Over the next 12 months, in collaboration with its academic and industry partners, Proxima will focus on completing its initial fusion power plant design,” says Martin Kubie, co-founder of Proxima Fusion. 

Modern magnetic confinement devices can already routinely reach plasmas at more than 100 million degrees - 10 times the temperature at the centre of the Sun. The opportunity to leverage fusion as a safe, clean, and abundant energy source has motivated academic research in this domain for decades.

The Proxima Fusion project stands on the shoulders of IPP’s Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X), which is by far the most advanced stellarator in the world. Although more complex in design than tokamaks, stellarators present compelling features for a fusion power plant: they can operate in a steady state, with smaller operational challenges, and present an attractive solution to manage excessive heat loads on material surfaces. 

Figure: triple product of ion density, ion temperature and energy confinement time as a function of the time the triple product was sustained. Adapted from Refs. and .

"Experimental progress from W7-X and recent advances in stellarator modelling have radically changed the picture," says Francesco Sciortino, co-founder and CEO of Proxima Fusion. “Stellarators can now remedy the key problems of tokamaks and truly scale up, radically improving the stability of the plasma and reaching high performance in steady state.”

“We are building on decades of visionary investment by the German government in stellarator technology. It is this investment that created the opportunity for Proxima to be a European champion for fusion. Now, it is up to us to bring fusion energy to the grid,” says Jorrit Lion, a co-founder and expert in the modelling of stellarator power plants.

The fundraising was led by Plural and UVC Partners, and includes High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) and the Wilbe Group.

“Stellarators offer the most robust and clearest path to fusion energy. The Proxima team has the energy and the speed that we need. They are ecosystem players, with a thrilling sense of ambition building on top of the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator - a masterpiece of German leadership. Europe needs the audacity of this team and their willpower to take on the fusion challenge,” says Ian Hogarth of Plural Platform.

“In the coming years, the energy issue will be one of our most existential ones. We already know today that we need a clever mix of different energy sources. Proxima’s efforts for fusion leverage the massive investment made on stellarators in Germany. We are convinced that the team is ready to change the picture - for the world, and particularly for Germany and Europe, which are in urgent need of reliable sources beyond wind and solar,” says Benjamin Erhart, General Partner at UVC Partners.

Kikuchi and Azumi, Frontiers in Fusion Research II, Springer, Berlin, 2015
Wolf et al., Physics of Plasmas 26, 082504, 2019.

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