General Fusion is still researching the production of clean energy, and will continue to do so, thanks to a financing boost.
The Burnaby-based company, which is conducting research on magnetized target fusion energy, recently secured $27 million from investors.
“It’s a pretty exciting moment for the company, it sets us up well for the next few years,” Michael Delage, General Fusion’s vice-president of technology and corporate strategy, told the Burnaby NOW.
The lead investor was Khazanah Nasional Berhad, the Government of Malaysia’s strategic investment fund, as well as past investors such as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ company, Bezos Expeditions, according to Delage.
The investment will allow the company to work towards designing a full-
scale nuclear fusion generator, he said.
“We’ve been working on developing our technology, which includes building a lot of our components or sub systems at full scale, and showing that we can make them work, demonstrating some of the core science underpinning our concept,” he said. “And the outcome of this – and it’s two or three years from now – but it’ll hopefully be at the point where we can design and then build a full-scale prototype machine.”
The company’s goal is an ambitious one – to harness the energy of the sun.
“What we’re trying to do is replicate the reaction that makes the sun burn,” Delage explained. “Fusion is where you take hydrogen and if you can heat it up to extremely high temperatures it’ll actually react and fuse together to make helium, and in the process it releases a lot of energy. So what we’re trying to do, essentially, is create a little miniature star, but for a very, very short amount of time and a very, very small one.”
The company plans to do this by heating hydrogen gas and then compressing it, he said.
“And by compressing it down, we’re going to put energy into it and that heats it up even more, and eventually get to the point where it ignites and burns for about 10 millionths of a second. Then, we’re going to do it over again and over again and over again,” he said. “The power plant would be a pulsed machine like that, producing little burst of energy in each pulse and eventually being able to produce electricity.”
General Fusion was established in 2002 on Bowen Island and moved to Burnaby in 2008, according to Delage.
The company’s research is focussed on producing a generator to create a clean, safe and abundant energy source.
General Fusion came under fire four years ago when a University of British Columbia nuclear theorist came forward to say what the company was doing was potentially quite dangerous and risking people’s lives. But the company’s facilities were inspected and deemed safe by the city.
If and when General Fusion is ready to test its generator, with any nuclear reaction involved, it would need the approval from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. However, unlike nuclear reactors, fusion energy does not require uranium and is therefore not prone to the same form of meltdowns as nuclear power plants.
The recent financing brings investments in the company to more than $100 million. General Fusion is still speaking with other interested investors and may have another financing announcement later this summer, according to Delage.