Helion Energy

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Helion Energy Inc.
Industry Nuclear fusion
Headquarters Redmond, Washington, United States
Key people
  • Dr. David Kirtley, CEO; Dr. John Slough, CSO
  • Chris Pihl, CTO
  • Dr. George Votroubek, Principal Scientist
Website www.helionenergy.com

Helion Energy, Inc. is an American company in Redmond, WA developing a magneto-inertial fusion power technology called The Fusion Engine.[1] Their approach combines the stability of magnetic containment and once-per-second heating pulsed inertial fusion.[2] They are developing a 50 MW scale system. [3][4]


Helion Energy was founded in 2013 by Dr. David Kirtley, Dr. John Slough, Chris Pihl, and Dr. George Votroubek.[5] [6] Helion Energy is a spin-off of Redmond company MSNW LLC[7] that now develops space propulsion related technologies. Investors in Helion include YCombinator, Mithril Capital Management, and Capricorn Investment Group. [8][9] The management team won the 2013 National Cleantech Open Energy Generation competition and awards at the 2014 ARPA-E Future Energy Startup competition [2] and were members of the 2014 YCombinator program.[10]


The Fusion Engine technology is based on the Inductive Plasmoid Accelerator (IPA) experiments[11][12] performed at MSNW LLC from 2005 through 2012. This system theoretically operates at 1 Hz, injecting plasma, compressing it to fusion conditions, expanding it and directly recovering the energy to provide electricity.[13] The IPA experiments claimed 300 km/s velocities, deuterium neutron production, and 2 keV deuterium ion temperatures.[12]


Helion intends to use helium-3/deuterium fuel. This fuel allows essentially aneutronic fusion, releasing only 5% of its energy in the form of neutrons. The helium is captured and reused, eliminating supply concerns.[2]

Fusion reaction: 2D + 3He4He + 1p + 18.3 MeV

The IPA experiments used deuterium-deuterium fusion, which produces a 2.4 MeV neutron per reaction. Helion and MSNW published articles describing a deuterium-tritium implementation which is the easiest to achieve but generate 14 MeV neutrons.


This fusion approach uses the magnetic field of a Field Reversed Configuration (FRC) plasmoid (operated with solid state electronics derived from power switching electronics in wind turbines) to prevent plasma losses. An FRC is a magnetized plasma configuration notable for its closed field lines, high Beta and lack of internal penetrations.[2]


To inject the plasmoid into the fusion ‘burn’ chamber two plasmoids are accelerated at high velocity with pulsed magnetic fields and merge into a single plasmoid at high pressure.[2] Their experiments achieved plasmas of 1.5 Tesla and 2 keV temperatures. Published records show plans to compress fusion plasmas to 12 Tesla.[14]

Energy Generation[edit]

Energy is captured by direct energy conversion that translates high-energy alpha particles directly into a voltage. This eliminates the need for steam turbines and cooling towers (and the associated energy losses).[2]


Helion Energy received $7 million in funding from NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Defense,[15] followed by $1.5 million from the private sector in August 2014, through the seed accelerators Y Combinator and Mithril Capital Management.[16] The company raised an additional $10.6 million in July, 2015.

Revenue Model[edit]

Helion Energy’s strategy is to generate revenue based on a royalty model of electricity produced with projected electricity prices of 40-60 $/MWhr (4 to 6 cents per kwh). Penetration of the new capacity market is estimated at 20% of market growth (2.5%) per annum eventually reaching 50% of new power generation worldwide – $52 B/yr. Gradual displacement of existing supplies enables continued growth to 20% of world electrical generation after 20 years with a net return of over $300 billion.[2]


  1. ^ "helionenergy.com - Helion Energy website". 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Next Big Future: Helion Energy raised $10.9 million and has filed to raise $21 million which would be enough to build a breakeven scale fusion machine in 2016-2017". nextbigfuture.com. Retrieved 2015-08-21. 
  3. ^ "Helion Executive Summary" (PDF). 
  4. ^ "Cleantech Open Announcement 2013". 
  5. ^ "helionenergy.com - Helion Energy website". 
  6. ^ "crunchbase.com Helion Energy website". 
  7. ^ "msnwllc.com - MSNW LLC website". 
  8. ^ "techcrunch.com - Helion Energy". 
  9. ^ "inverse.com - Helion Energy". 
  10. ^ "YC Universe Helion". 
  11. ^ Votroubek, G.; Slough, J.; Andreason, S.; Pihl, C. (June 2008). "Formation of a Stable Field Reversed Configuration through Merging". Journal of Fusion Energy. 27 (1–2): 123–127. doi:10.1007/s10894-007-9103-4. 
  12. ^ a b Slough, John; Votroubek, George; Pihl, Chris (13 April 2011). "Creation of a high-temperature plasma through merging and compression of supersonic field reversed configuration plasmoids". Nuclear Fusion. 51 (5): 053008. Bibcode:2011NucFu..51e3008S. doi:10.1088/0029-5515/51/5/053008. 
  13. ^ Svoboda, Elizabeth (21 June 2011). "Is Fusion Power Finally For Real?". Popular Mechanics. 
  14. ^ Hambling, David (16 August 2011). "Star Power: Small Fusion Startups Aim for Breakeven". New Scientist. 
  15. ^ Halper, Mark (30 April 2013). "The nearness of fusion: The materials and coolant challenges facing one fusion company mirror fission". The Alvin Weinberg Foundation. 
  16. ^ Russell, Kyle (14 August 2014). "Y Combinator And Mithril Invest In Helion, A Nuclear Fusion Startup". TechCrunch.