Fusion Electricity. Helion Energy facility
the images you are seeing right now have been a closely guarded secret for years
this is the first time footage of this technology has been shared publicly
a technology that has the potential to change the course of human history
privilege helion energy granted us when we visited their facility
what I am sharing right now is going to be studied by nuclear physicists around the world trying to reverse engineer the world’s changing machine
this is Trenta helion’s sixth generation nuclear fusion generator
this fusion generator is unlike any other using a completely novel approach to achieve nuclear fusion adapting knowledge developed for ION propulsion in Space
the generator forms two mirrored rings of Plasma on either end of a reactor and in a tenth of a thousandth of a second
they fire them at each other sequentially activating powerful magnets to squeeze and compress the Rings towards the center where they Collide converting the astonishing kinetic energy of the ions traveling at 300 kilometers per second into thermal energy raising the plasma temperature to tens of millions of degrees hot enough to overcome the electromagnetic repulsion keeping the ions apart and allowing them to fuse forming new atoms and releasing a tremendous amount of energy in the process
this isn’t the world of fairy tale this is already happening. I watched the bright pink flash of fusion multiple times inside the control room of Trenta safe away from the gigawatts of power surging through the capacitor banks of the reactor.
it became mundane pretty quickly to the point that my reaction to the feast became oddly subdued but make no mistake.
what helion has achieved here is astonishing initiating nuclear fusion reactions with ease so let’s jump into it with helion’s brilliant founder David Curley giving us the world’s first tour of Trenta :
so yeah can you just like start explaining what this machine is?
yes so you’re at helion’s Redmond facility um here we’re staying in front of our sixth generation machine we call this one Trenta, this is the sixth generation of machines that form merge and compression compressed Fusion plasmas diffusion conditions doing Fusion like we’re looking at this end of the machine but it’s mirrored on that end can you explain like why you do the pulse reaction towards each other ?
yeah it’s a great question um the fundamental concept of how these systems work is unlike most fusion and here we inject a fusion Target we call this one a field reverse configuration then using pulsed magnetic fields to very high pressures we compress that fusion plasma up to Fusion conditions one of the challenging Parts is how do you get that Target that initial Fusion fuel into the compression chamber and do it in a repeatable symmetric um uh high energy way and so one of the things that we pioneered was a concept of merging field reverse configurations merging these plasmas where on we actually have a symmetry on either side of the machine we have these injectors we call them the formation section where we actually form this initial plasma we inject the Fusion fuel we then accelerate them merge them in the center region where they take all that kinetic energy that we put into them when we accelerated them and they stop they stagnate inverting that kinetic energy into temperature into thermal energy and that starts the fusion reaction we then can compress it all the way up to the full Fusion conditions okay and the actual plasma generation happens on this end right the plasma generation happens right here interestingly enough so over here we’re standing in front of what is called the diverter this is what happens after the reaction here is our formation section here is where we initially inject our neutral gas so the gas is ejected from a flow manifold a fuel manifold here where we puff in gas in a neutral gas that’s just at room temperature this gas fills this chamber over the course of several thousandths of a second at this point it’s room temperature it’s very low pressure a Fusion fuel mix of deuterium and helium-3 we then ionize that gas what that means is we start to heat that with a combination of RF and electric fields which then take the electrons that are orbiting the nucleus and tears them off of the nucleus forming a plasma charged particles positive and negative charges in this area we then form what is called a field reverse configuration where what we do is we take magnetic field that’s keeping this plasma this part it’s ionized it’s for us relatively cool it’s about a million degrees but that’s still so hot that it can’t touch any of the walls without damaging materials so to prevent that we have magnetic fields that thread through this entire machine keeping that hot fuel that hot Fusion fuel plasma off of the walls but what we do here which is quite unique is that we then take that initial magnetic field and by by pulsing at very high intensity over a hundred thousand amps per coil we then reverse that magnetic field trapping magnetic energy in a closed field this is called a self-confined self-organized plasma it’s a really unique version of of Fusion fuel that that healing on and very few others do but what that enables us to do is form a closed magnetic topology a closed plasma object that we can do things to we can actually do work on um and so at that point we now have a closed field reverse configuration in this formation section we then start to pulse these magnetic field coils at high at high pressure sequencing them and they get sequenced as we go down we call that peristaltic acceleration like squeezing a tube of toothpaste it accelerates that plasma out of the formation section which had all the complex ionization gas injection and all those things into higher Field section at this point we’ve now moved into what we call the acceleration section or the plasma injector where literally here we are now continuing to accelerate this plasma to over a million miles an hour 300 kilometers a second and higher down down the the length of the system but as we do that we start to compress it already so as we increase the magnetic field through adiabatic compression ideal gas law as you increase the magnetic pressure the plasma then compresses decreasing in radius but increasing in pressure and temperature so as it’s left the formation it’s it’s on the order of several million degrees but now we start to compress it we start to accelerate it and if we’ve done everything right and sequence these in just the right way this plasma field reverse configuration has now accelerated all the way to 300 kilometers a second it’s heated to on the order of 10 million degrees and then we we um we inject it into the main compression section you notice here the bolts the pressure everything goes up because here’s where we really do the fusion if we’ve done everything right this FRC this that we’ve injected into the main compression section has met its mate that we made symmetrically on the other side and what they do is those two Collide those two plasms Collide and here’s a really important part they stop they stagnate they take all that kinetic energy we added all that velocity and we turn that into thermal energy it super heats up and if you’ve done everything right in the middle of this you have a system that’s on the order of 10 to 20 million degrees sitting in this main compression section ready to do Fusion so now you rapidly as fast as modern technology will allow we increase the magnetic field to high pressure compressing that fusion plasma all the way up to Fusion conditions over 100 million degrees Fusion starts diffusion begins large amount of fusion is happening inside this core compressed FRC now his core compressed Fusion fuel the fusion reactions start to occur those Fusion reactions are creating new particles deuterium fusing together with helium-3 to form helium-4 and an extra hydrogen and both of those two particles are very high temperature now they’re born inside the fusion plasma applying pressure back on these magnetic fields that works just like in a piston or in a piston you compress the fusion you compress the fuel it begins to burn it then gets hotter it pushes back on that piston only we do it all electromagnetically this is a truly Innovative concept with Tokamak reactors like the massive eater reactor being built in France right now electricity is created by converting the kinetic energy of neutrons expelled during Fusion to heat by slowing them down in the blanket walls this heat is then transferred to high pressure water to create high pressure steam which turns the turbine attached to an electric generator that rapidly rotates the magnetic field around copper wires to generate an electric current helion is skipping steps one through four and going straight to moving a magnetic field around copper wires generating electricity directly from the magnetic field cradling the fusion reaction at the center of the machine as the fusion reaction occurs the energy it generates begins to push back on the magnetic field confining it moving it as David said like a piston it’s this changing magnetic field that will generate helion’s electricity skipping all the initial steps needed to boil water and turn a turbine should in theory make it vastly more efficient while also unlocking the major benefits of a superior nuclear fusion fuel mixture one of the problems with Tokamak reactors is their choice of fuels the fuel mixture of choice for tokamax is deuterium and tritium the availability of deuterium is not a problem it’s everywhere this is a bottle of heavy water water with two deuterium atoms instead of two regular hydrogen atoms cheap and safe I can even drink it however tritium as we spoke about in more detail in our last video is extremely rare we only have about 20 kilograms of it in global reserves and a single commercial scale tokemak is expected to burn through 300 grams of it a day giving us about two months of operation with the world’s entire current Supply Tokamak generators will manufacture tritium on site using a lithium breeding layer when the high energy neutrons from our nuclear fusion reaction collide with the lithium in the reactor wall the lithium splits into tritium and helium this is a reasonable solution but eighty percent of the energy of the tritium deuterium fusion reaction is carried by those high energy neutrons so we have effectively wasted all of our energy to get back to square one to combat this the first layer of Tokamak walls will be made of beryllium a neutron multiplier which creates two neutrons when struck by one Neutron giving us one Neutron to create tritium and one Neutron to generate Heats however beryllium is extremely expensive the entire annual Global Supply is just enough to build a single Tokamak generator beryllium also contains uranium impurities which will be encountering the high energy neutrons too making the beryllium blanket dangerously radioactive over time which will make disposing of it expensive this all points to one massive problem Tokamak reactors are going to face the exact same issues as nuclear fission energy they will be too expensive and won’t be able to compete with cheaper forms of electricity this is why helion is using a completely different fuel mixture so helion’s approach diffusion use a deuterium and a helium-3 fuel deuterium is really common it’s part one part and 500 in all water it’s in the coffee drink and safe and and and readily abundant and low cost as well we buy it in uh Compressed Gas cylinders it’s already purified but you could imagine doing the purification yourself it’s pretty straightforward the helium-3 however is ultra rare and in fact while helium-3 was theorized in the early days of fusion as being the best Fusion fuel because of its Rarity there haven’t been a lot of approaches that have used few helium-3 or demonstrated helium-3 to our knowledge Trenta was the first system we know about that did bulk helium deuterium helium-3 Fusion for a power generation application one thing Elion has done is we patented uh helium-3 process of creating helium-3 I’m taking two deuteriums found commonly in nature and a high pressure infusion system ironically fusing them together to form helium-3 taking one more deuterium fusing that with the helium-3 to make helium 4 and that make that’s what makes electricity so it’s only the reaction of deuterium with helium-3 that generates the deuterium with deuterium generates some amount of electricity a small amount it generates about um 1 8 of the of the deuterium helium-3 reaction what influences that so it influences the amount of power output per reaction is is the actual Atomic physics that’s happening where when two deuteriums combine they have a few reactions but the one we care about most will create a helium-3 and that that helium-3 will have a lower Mass deficit so the amount of missing mass of that that final product so E equals MC squared and that mass deficit is the amount of energy that’s released in terms of the particles that are created and their temperatures and so deuterium helium-3 has a larger Mass deficit when it forms helium-4 and so you end up with more energy trapped in that that helium four as well as in the other proton that is made there’s quite a lot to break down there as David said the energy released depends on the mass difference in the final reaction but how we can capture that energy changes with the products that are created too two types of fusion can occur when fusing two deuterium atoms one creates a helium-3 atom and a neutron most of the energy of that Fusion event is carried away by that Neutron Tokamak reactors generate electricity by converting the kinetic energy of neutrons to heat in their walls but helion’s energy capture system can’t generate electricity with neutrons because they have no charge helion needs charged particles to push back against the magnetic confinement to generate electricity that Neutron just flies right through the magnetic jail the helium-3 however carries about 0.82 Mega electron volts of useful energy that the generator can capture in a second possible reaction deuteriums can create a proton and a tritium with the proton carrying 3.2 Mega electron volts of energy and the tritium isotope carrying 1.01 helion’s generator will capture as much energy as possible from these particles before exhausting them through the turbo molecular pump in the diverter section with the protons regaining an electron and becoming hydrogen and the radioactive tritium being transferred to remote storage here it will beta Decay into helium-3 plus this process takes 12.3 years to occur when it finally does Decay that helium-3 can be fed back into a generator so helion has two Pathways to create helium-3 for their primary Fusion energy reaction when deuterium and helium-3 combine they create a helium-4 atom and a proton releasing 18.3 Mega electron volts more than the 17.6 Mega electron volts released from deuterium and tritium reactions and on a mass basis four times more than a uranium fission reaction being able to generate your fuel right where you need it is a huge Advantage Plus David curtley had an interesting alternative [Music] um it’s a very good business case of you could do it that way or you could do it where you have one dedicated facility and all it does is fuse deuterium and make Fuel and then put it in a bottle separate it from all the other the other gases and then ship that to your generators and have the generators just make electricity and not deal with the fuel processing I think that’s a good outstanding business decision that we we don’t know one of the things that you have to keep in mind is when you do the deuterium Fusion that’s when you make the neutrons so the neutrons come from the deuterium deuterium fusing together and so there’s some really maybe advantageous things of separating those two machines one of those advantages is prolonging the life of our generator the high energy neutrons from the deuterium deuterium reaction can damage our generator this is a huge problem for Tokamak generators because 80 percent of the energy in the deuterium tritium reaction is carried by the neutron but the neutron generated when two deuterium item’s fuse as five times less energy reducing the damage it can do however they are still damaging if we could design a cheaper more robust reactor purely to create our fuel products that could be economically beneficial especially if there are multiple generators that all need fuel supplies replacing one fuel generator that can feed 10 energy generators is a lot cheaper than replacing 10 Hybrid fuel and energy generators so there are many benefits from moving away from deuterium and tritium but the deuterium and helium-3 reaction does require higher temperatures and this does pose an engineering challenge especially as helium progresses to their commercial scale reactor so right now we’re building Polaris their seventh generation system the goal is that it will demonstrate electricity production for the first time come online in 2024. the the stepping stone between our seventh generation system we’re building Polaris and the eighth generation system is a lot of the engineering around the system that we want to turn up the power output the yield even further we want to make sure we’re taking that electricity that we’re recharging capacitors with turning that into 60 hertz AC and putting that on on the grid and then also repetition rate that’s a big one is that going from operating every few seconds to now operating multiple times a seconds is another engineering jump leap we have to make in some of the thermal engineering structural engineering and gas Handling Systems what do you think is going to be the biggest challenge in making that jump I think any if you ask any engineer or scientist on my team you’re actually going to hear a different answer for what is the hardest thing that we’re trying to solve my personal belief in in building the steady operating systems that we built in the past is it comes in into the thermal operation of these systems whereas things start to heat up they change the structural mechanics change of these pulse magnets uh the way the fusion plasma actually the wall temperature changes as it changes in temperature we saw that on our earlier subscale systems and so we expect to see that on the big scale systems too and so understanding that predicting that and then engineering all the mechanisms in place for that I think are going to be some of the most exciting engineering challenges that we’re solving right now and so we’re hiring those teams to to to solve those problems right now were there any surprising learning moments recently that you’ve discovered with trying to there were some exciting things that we learned on Twitter that were unexpected we were really worried early that the timing accuracies of merging these two high-speed plus was over a million miles an hour compressing them working on getting their alignment um that that would be really a tough Challenge and what we found that is in practice is actually quite a bit easier than the theory or the basic computation simulations would actually show that we can with a lot of essentially Freedom merge these and get really good results that are really repeatable some of the things we did find however that are a little bit more challenging is as these plasmas got hotter and we got above 10 million degrees and got to the 100 million degrees what we found is that there’s probably some other effects good effects where we’re producing more Fusion than we maybe predicted but the fusion plasma interacts with the vacuum chamber a little bit more than what we thought as well and so what we’re having to do for future systems is build them just a little bit bigger about 25 bigger than what we’d originally planned to account for those things and so there’s some engineering iteration that has to happen as we discover the the advanced physics and and the engineering of implementing these systems in practice this is another one of the benefits of helion system it’s a much smaller generator than other generators like eaters tokomak which makes iteration far easier as larger machines will be more expensive to build making the capital cost of learning a much larger barrier Polaris is their seventh generation system and its 25 percent bigger precisely because of the lessons learned from Trenta the physics of fusion is a new frontier there are a few textbooks to learn from helion is helping write the first textbooks and one of the things they discovered is that gyro orbits are larger than they expected a gyro orbit is essentially the radius at which those fuel ions orbit around magnetic field lines it’s affected by the temperature and thus the speed of the ions and the magnetic field strength helion discovered with Trenta that these orbits are larger than simulations calculated which meant the ions could impact the generator walls and given their temperatures this was a no-go so Polaris is 25 percent larger to account for this discovery Polaris will also be the first generation to begin capturing electricity but that’s a lot easier said than done and will need the very latest Electronics to work quickly enough under Trenta there are Stacks upon stacks of capacitor Banks ninety percent of trenta’s power goes towards generating the huge currents needed to generate its magnetic fields the magnets that form and push the plasma forward run at 100 000 amps while the main compression coils at the center of the machine run at 1 million amps drawing that kind of current from the grid is impossible so Trenta needs a way to store power locally and discharge it quickly to achieve the necessary current batteries can’t discharge that quickly so helion is relying on capacitor Banks we took a look beneath Trenta to learn more about them so what you’re seeing here this is actually one capacitor unit and so if you’re used to other electronics each of these boxes is one unit each of those boxes is one capacitor that has several kilojoules worth of energy storage in it and then we have hundreds of those capacitors that all in parallel in a modular way make the main bank I’m in parallel to that are other capacitors that are slower response higher efficiency those are run with semiconductor switches um and then even some capacitors that are very old um that are maybe 20 plus years old that we use for some of the formation sections some of the injector the initial ionization sections any issue with them being older is that just like the length of time you’ve been working on this technology you just had these line about or is it better to use newer um it depends so what we’ve seen is over the years the way the pulse power technology and Community has evolved some of these capacitors are actually still the highest performing capacitors because the industry doesn’t manufacture a lot of these for our type of application now one thing you’ll see later in in our facility Antares facility in Everett is our new capacitor manufacturing line where we’re making custom capacitors designed for exactly this application and those outperform even the older technology is there any issue with just the rate that when you get up to faster pulses that these might deteriorate over time or yeah so one one of the keys to these systems is as you’re running them what we call repetition rate where you’re pulsing not once every 10 minutes like Trenta does but we’re you’re pulsing every 10 seconds or once a second or ten times a second now the lifetime of the capacitors their ability to handle throughput average throughput and the heating in the capacitor starts to become engineering issues that we have to consider luckily as we’ve evolved so has the capacitor technology and so self-healing and other capacitors that have long life maybe not pulsed but are long life those capacitor Technologies are now enabling for us to to do this on subscale systems not on trento but Trenta has done over 10 000 high power pulses doing fusion and some of our subscale systems that we did earlier that weren’t doing Fusion but we’re making these types of plasmas we’ve done not not tens of thousands but we’ve done billions of discharges with capacitors and run them steady for months on end at hundreds of Hertz so we have a lot of experience in building steady operating pulse Power Systems that are quite a bit smaller than this and so a lot of the work we have now is taking those experiences and that engineering experience that we have at helion and gr and combining that with the large-scale pulse power Fusion systems and merging those two together into the Polaris system with the size of this capacitor Bank you would think it holds an astounding amount of energy but the total capacity of the bank is just 10 million joules the equivalent energy of about 22 bananas or in terms of a typical Tesla battery pack that’s 2.8 kilowatt hours 130th the capacity of a typical Tesla battery however we aren’t expending that energy in an hour we were releasing it in 100 microseconds these capacitors release a lightning bolt of current through the machine gigawatts of instantaneous power but it isn’t an uncontrolled burst of electricity like a lightning bolt it’s a carefully controlled Orchestra of switches releasing and controlling this much electricity with the micro second Precision simply was not possible when the concept was first envisioned within those 100 microseconds thousands of operations occur across the machine each row of electromagnets along the machine need to activate 300 nanoseconds after the previous they need to trigger just as the plasma passes by traveling at millions of kilometers per hour to push it even faster towards the center that would be impossible without modern day microprocessors and fiber optics and even then helion needs to factor in the speed of light through the glass fibrous the time it takes for a current to propagate through a tiny semiconductor switch and account for every other delay in the system Legacy Electronics simply have two wide margins of error to account for those delays properly without fiber optics those millions of amps traveling through the system would induce currents in other parts of the machine and create misfires what helion is doing right now is astounding the sequence of events to cause Fusion in this machine is a delicate Symphony of electronics pushing two plasma Rings into a violent collision and catching that Collision in a magnetic trap in the center which proceeds to shrink until the ions trapped within it have nowhere else to go but to fuse overcoming one of the universe’s strongest forces to create new elements in the belly of a man-made machine but helion isn’t done they are already building the next step in their quest for Clean safe energy for humankind with their seventh generation machine which will do everything Trenta can do but faster and add another process capturing the energy of the expanding plasma to generate electricity adding even more complexity to the delicate symphony with the energy flowing back and forth from capacitor Banks like the top hides on ashore and hopefully if all goes according to plan each turning of the tides will push a world-changing electricity Source onto our grids I have never been particularly hopeful that nuclear fusion power was ever feasible but speaking with David and all of The Talented staff at helion and the recent news from the U.S department of energy about their net energy output from their inertial confinement reactor it has really made me feel that this technology may not just be possible but potentially around the corner we shot hours of footage at helion and cutting it down into a cohesive and entertaining YouTube video went through a lot of interesting information was left out it would be a shame for those interviews to be stored on our internal servers never seen the light of day so I have made two of the longest interviews available to watch for our nebula subscribers which you can get access to with an even lower price due to our 42 percent holiday discount giving you the nebula and curiosity stream bundle deal for just 11.59 for the entire year less than one dollar a month for Access for yourself or you could buy it as a gift for the holidays the full Encore tour of Trenta understanding interview with David curtley are both available on nebula right now we are aiming to do many more documentaries like this in 2023 visiting companies working on radical new technologies and interviewing their engineers and we simply would not have the budget to fund a production like this without nebula our spin launch documentary which occurred over multiple days and in two different states requiring gear rental hotels camera operators editors animators and more ended up costing around thirty thousand dollars to make a price we simply could not afford without your support on nebula so as thanks we will be uploading behind the scenes footage that did not make the cut to nebula for any shoots like this going forward along with their original series like the logistics of D-Day and the Battle of Britain [Music]