General Fusion

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General Fusion
Founded 2002
Headquarters Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
Key people
Nathan Gilliland, CEO; Michel Laberge Ph.D. (physics), Founder, CSO
Products Nuclear fusion development
Website General Fusion home page

General Fusion is a Canadian company based in Burnaby, British Columbia, which was created for the development of fusion power based on magnetized target fusion (MTF).[1][2][3] As of 2015 they were developing subsystems for use in a prototype to be built later.[4] The company is funded by a variety of investors, including Chrysalix venture capital, the Business Development Bank of Canada—a Canadian Crown corporation, Bezos Expeditions, Cenovus Energy, GrowthWorks Capital, Khazanah Nasional—a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, and Sustainable Development Technology Canada.[5]


Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, a Vancouver-based venture capital firm, led a C$1.2 million seed round of financing for General Fusion in 2007.[2][6][7] As of 2011 General Fusion remained in Chrysalix' portfolio.[8] Other Canadian venture capital firms that participated in the seed round were GrowthWorks Capital and BDC Venture Capital.

In 2009 a consortium led by General Fusion was awarded C$13.9 million by Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to conduct a four-year research project on "Acoustically Driven Magnetized Target Fusion";[9] SDTC is a foundation established by the Canadian government.[10] The other members of the consortium are Los Alamos National Laboratory and Powertech Labs Inc.[9]

As of 2013, General Fusion had received $45 million in venture capital and $10 million in government funding.[11] In May 2015 the government of Malaysia invested $27 million.[12]


Diagram of the General Fusion Reactor

General Fusion uses a ~3-metre diameter spherical tank filled with liquid metal (lead-lithium mixture). The liquid is spun to open up a vertical cylindrical cavity in the centre of the sphere (vortex). This vortex flow is established and maintained by an external pumping system; the liquid flows into the sphere through tangentially directed ports at the equator and is pumped out radially through ports near the poles of the sphere.

The two five-metre-long conical injectors are attached to opposite ends of the tank. They use nearly 200 capacitors that were “recycled” from an old laser fusion experiment in Los Alamos. They are used to inject a few milligrams of hydrogen gas at a time.[13] The gas forms spheromaks (self confined magnetized plasma rings) composed of the deuterium-tritium fuel.[14] They have reached 200 eV, and expect ultimately to exceed 600 eV.[13] The spheromaks merge in the centre of the sphere to form a single magnetized plasma target.[14]

The outside of the sphere is covered with 300 pneumatic rams.[13] The rams use compressed gas to accelerate their associated pistons to ~50 m/s. These pistons simultaneously impact a set of stationary anvil pistons at the surface of the sphere, which collectively launch a high pressure spherical compression wave into the liquid metal. As the wave travels and focuses towards the centre, it becomes stronger and evolves into a strong shock wave. When the shock arrives in the centre, it rapidly collapses the cavity with the plasma in it.[15]

At maximum compression the conditions for fusion are briefly met and a fusion burst occurs releasing its energy in fast neutrons. The neutrons are slowed down by the liquid metal causing it to heat up. A heat exchanger transfers that heat to a standard steam cycle turbo-alternator to produce electricity.[15]

Some of the steam is used to run the rams. The lithium in the liquid metal finally absorbs the neutrons and produces tritium that is extracted and used as fuel for subsequent shots. This cycle is repeated about one time per second.[15]

In 2015, the company paid a $20,000 prize for a crowdsourced “robust seal technology” capable of withstanding extreme temperatures and repetitive hammering, so as to isolate the rams from the liquid metal that fills the fusion reactor.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "This machine might* save the world", Josh Dean, Popular Science, 23 December 2008
  2. ^ a b "Looking for a net gain in the energy sector", Tyler Hamilton, Toronto Star, 20 April 2009
  3. ^ "Garage scientist aims to thwart OPEC", Nathan VanderKlippe, Financial Post, 16 November 2007
  4. ^ "General Fusion | Rethink Fusion". Retrieved 2015-08-22. 
  5. ^ "Company/Investors". Retrieved Sep 18, 2015. 
  6. ^ "More money for fusion energy", Michael Kanellos, CNet, 5 September 2007
  7. ^ Chrysalix is funded by a number of investors including several energy firms; its investors are listed on Chrysalix' website"
  8. ^ "General Fusion". Retrieved Nov 9, 2011. 
  9. ^ a b Sustainable Development Technology Canada. "Round 13 Funded Projects". Retrieved 9 Nov 2011.  Press release.
  10. ^ "Media Backgrounder: Sustainable Development Technology Canada". SDTC website. Retrieved 9 Nov 2011. 
  11. ^ Bartel, Mario (Jan 2, 2014). "Where Are They Now? General Fusion gets closer to the sun". Burnaby NewsLeader. Retrieved Jan 1, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Next Big Future: Malaysia invests $27-million in Canada's General Fusion startup who will begin building full scale prototype in 2017". Retrieved 2015-08-22. 
  13. ^ a b c d "Next Big Future: General Fusion successfully crowdsourced an engineering solution to a problem on their nuclear fusion project". Retrieved 2015-08-22. 
  14. ^ a b Brown, Mark (2011-11-30). "Canadian firm General Fusion plans prototype nuclear fusion test for 2014". 'Wired'. 'Wired'. Retrieved 2015-03-02. 
  15. ^ a b c "General Fusion's Approach". Archived from the original on Mar 8, 2010. Retrieved Dec 9, 2009. 

External links[edit]