mvanwink5 wrote:"He has no clue about fusion and even if he does, he clearly does not care."
None of the politicians or business people have a clue, and the second part of your comment is a reflection of your own imaginings. $$ US were accelerated into ITER, no doubt the money goes to US supplied components for the ITER. (Obama did not by the way).
There are some business people that do have a clue. I just want to add that. Clearly Peter Thiel does, or he would not be investing in Helion. He is also a great proponent of fusion research in general. So are Bezos and Paul Allen, though for them it is more of a side interest.
ITER is all fine and dandy, but US fusion startups have been starved for funding. Even the MIT had trouble getting funding for anything but Tokamaks. Their Levitating Dipole was promising and was unfortunately cancelled. So was the FRC at UW.
ARPA-E has been the life line for many small fusion projects and alternatives to Tokamaks and Trump wanted to cancel it.
I contend that Trump haters have not made any effort to make their case. Have you written???
What exactly do you want me to do? I know that Peter Thiel was going to talk to Trump about more funding for fusion. If he can't get through, how would I?
I echo Crowberry's desire for updated published Helion data. Once Helion puts out published data for break even the field will break wide open. Do you really believe Helion is that close?? Tell me you really do and have good reason to.
I am sure that they will publish their results, when they believe the time is right. I know that David Kirtley has purposely tried to keep a relatively low key the past few years. From what I understand, their investors were not too happy about too much hype in certain news outlets. Because of all that, this article is actually a bit surprising to me. To me it means that they must be really confident to make a public statement like that.
On the other hand, I also want to caution that while this article is exciting news, the media tends to exaggerate and misrepresent things some times (not always on purpose, but reporters are not engineers and do get things wrong sometimes).
I have my personal reasons for being very confident in Helion, but I can't get into that right now.
Looking back, the first time, they got my attention was, when the former board member Art Carlson visited them and cam back convinced. Art used to be at the Max Planck Institute and was huge skeptic, especially on FRCs. He wrote his thesis about why they could never work. So the fact that they convinced him of their approach got me interested. Helion's problem has traditionally been a rather low amount of funding. So they were forced to do various smaller scale experiments that focused on systems engineering and demonstration of key parts to proof their approach to investors. I can say that they have had a lot of reasons to be confident in their approach for many years. Slough had published very encouraging results achieved with previous experiments in peer reviewed papers, years ago.
I can also tell you that back in August 2014, Helion had already achieved long enough plasma lifetime ( they need less than 3 ms ), 5 keV plasma temperature and 20 Tesla compression across various test devices. Basically, they had two of the 3 factors of the Lawson Criterion covered. The plasma temperature (35 keV is needed for break even) was the last remaining factor that they had to achieve. Back then, they had demonstrated 5 keV or 16% of that. They also had to combine all of the results in a single device.
That was 3.5 years ago.
Meanwhile, they have done a lot more experiments with new devices like VENTI. Some of their results have been published in various ARPA-E presentations by Kirtley and Slough.
To answer the other questions you had earlier: Unless something has recently changed, their D+He3 reactor would produce 50 MW electricity, not thermal. They are going to burn D+He3 and will directly convert the fusion output into electricity with a Q >= 8 (hopefully).
I can also reveal that the reactor will be around 3 meters in diameter and somewhere between 13 and 28 meters in length. The length depends mostly on the requirements of the energy extraction and fuel separation systems and Helion does not want to reveal too much about all of that yet. So that number is a bit vague.
One interesting tidbit is that the total size of a D+He3 plant can be about the same size, or even smaller than a D+T version of it, because of the more efficient energy conversion. The cost per kWh electric is expected to be about 2 cents.
Also worth noting is that the reactor scales volumetrically like other fusion reactor concepts and they can indeed make the plant any size they want.
But unlike TAE and other startups, Helion believes that smaller reactors (and depending on the application several of those in a single plant) are the better way to go. It makes maintenance easier and allows for less outage periods. They could quite easily scale it up to GW levels, though by increasing the size of the device. High Temperature Super Conductors like REBCO and YBCO would also help a lot.
If I understand it correctly, the higher output would require more engineering effort into neutron wall loads and other factors. I believe that this is another reason for them to go smaller first.