German startup Marvel Fusion has teamed up with Colorado State University to build the world’s first facility dedicated to commercialising inertial confinement — a type of fusion reaction produced by slamming atoms together many times per second using high-intensity lasers.
Interest in this type of fusion has increased since scientists at the US government’s National Ignition Facility successfully achieved net energy gain in a fusion reaction for the first time ever in December, and repeated the feat again in July.
‘Net energy gain’ basically means the reaction produced more energy than went into it — igniting hopes that fusion’s promise of abundant, clean, and limitless energy may not be as far off as first thought.
However, there’s a huge difference between achieving net energy gain and making a commercial fusion power system — you’d need to produce these fusion blasts at a rate of nearly 10 per second to generate energy around the clock.
This is exactly what Marvel Fusion wants to do. The $150m laser facility, located at CSU’s campus in Fort Collins, would feature at least three laser systems, each with multi-petawatt peak power and an ultra-fast repetition of the ten flashes per second rate required to generate ongoing fusion energy. The startup is targeting completion of the laser facility in 2026.
“This public-private partnership sets the global standard for laser-based fusion research, propelling the development of a safe, clean, and reliable energy source,” said Moritz von der Linden, CEO of Marvel Fusion.
While Marvel Fusion has established a subsidiary in Colorado to support this collaboration, the company’s headquarter remains in Munich, Germany.
When asked why he chose the US von der Linden told the Financial Times that it was the “fastest, most capital-efficient way for us to move on building this facility.” There is simply more funding and an appetite for this kind of technology across the pond, he said.
Nevertheless, he doesn’t necessarily intend on building a full-scale commercial plant in the US. “It could very well, maybe hopefully, be in Europe,” he said.
Marvel Fusion will continue its laser experiments at the Ludwig-Maximilian Unversity’s CALA laser near Munich, and at the ELI-NP laser centre in Romania — the world’s most powerful of its kind.