Proxima Fusion, a Munich-based deeptech startup working on developing fusion power plants has extended its Pre-Seed round to €7.5 million, welcoming a host of unicorn founders, family offices, and industry leaders to the table.
Tech.eu first reported on Proxima Fusion in late May. Since that time, the company reports that a number of leading scientists and engineers from TUM, EPFL, Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Lilium, Tesla, and Google are relocating to Munich to work on what has the potential to be the world’s first commercial fusion power plant leveraging a quasi-isodynamic stellarator configuration of energetic ions at low plasma beta.
The holy grail of all energy production
While the casual observer of nuclear power is most probably familiar with nuclear fission, effectively, the binding energy at the centre of an atom is released by splitting that atom into smaller atoms.
Unfortunately, a typical nuclear fission reaction involves the splitting of atoms of heavy elements such as uranium, thorium, or plutonium, spent fuel results in the generation of unstable nuclei, some of which remain radioactive for millions of years
A fusion reaction, on the other hand, produces energy when two lighter atomic nuclei are heated to extreme temperatures and combine or fuse together, forming a heavier nucleus. The process creates no long-lived radioactive nuclear waste, merely helium, an inert gas.
There are two types of fusion reactions — uncontrolled, which is observable in the energy of stars, and man-made, thermonuclear weapons (i.e. a hydrogen bomb), and controlled, a process that involves the containment and channeling of this atomic reaction.
Fields of control
Because nuclei need to be heated to such extreme temperatures to fuse, they become plasma, a state of positively charged particles (ions) and negatively charged particles (electrons).
Whereas a hydrogen bomb detonation is an uncontrolled reaction, in confining plasma, fusion reactions occur at the point of particle collision.
The trick that has eluded scientists for decades is how to precisely contain and control plasma in order to achieve the intended outcome of clean, limitless power.
One approach is that of a tokamak, a device pioneered by Russian scientists in the 1960s. This doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber device leverages a magnetic field to confine plasma and energy is absorbed as heat through the walls of the device.
However, due to the nature of how particles are heated inside the tokamak, the necessary current is generated by a transformer, and can be difficult to achieve a steady state of operation due to fluctuations in current.
Proxima Fusion’s QI stellarators approach relies on the fact most of the magnetic field is generated outside of the containment structure, thereby eliminating the need for an inductive toroidal current to produce the magnetic field. By removing the transformer and potential current fluctuations, a greater certainty of a steady state of operation is achieved.
Networks of networks
On the additional capital raise and extended support via investors’ networks, Proxima Fusion co-founder and CEO Francesco Scortino commented:
“We are determined to make Proxima Fusion a European clean energy champion. Over the past 10 months, we have demonstrated quality of execution, again and again.
“We are thrilled at the unicorn founders, family offices and industry leaders who have now invested in Proxima, many of them via the Visionaries Tomorrow fund, and will support us along the way.”
Lead image: The Wendelstein 7-X reactor. Photo: Anja Richter-Ullmann/IPP.