The Commonwealth is working on a compact, relatively inexpensive reactor that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, rather than billions of dollars, to build the NIF. Its approach relies on superconducting materials to achieve super-strong magnetic fields that can hold plasmas in place for fusion reactions (temperatures too high to use conventional materials to keep fuel in place). ).
Some fusion experts say actual reactors that could be used to generate significant amounts of electricity are still decades away. But the Commonwealth and other startups have more ambitious timelines, planning to build rallies within a few years and power plants in about a decade. Last year, the Commonwealth announced that it had raised $1.8 billion in venture capital to make that happen.
The NIF news will probably be a big boon for the fusion sector in general, attracting more interest and investment. But it does not guarantee that inertial confinement, or any other approach to consolidation, will be commercially successful. Achieving net gains in one type of reactor does not necessarily translate to other reactor types, so tokamaks and other reactors will need their own breakout moment on the path towards creating fusion energy.
For more details on the news, including how much power it takes to actually run those lasers, see My story. I also want to introduce this insurance from the Atlantic, delving into the history of fusion hype. And for the way forward for Commonwealth and other private consolidation efforts, read James’s in-depth features from February.
Keeping up with the climate
A new report predicts that Renewable energy could overtake coal as the world’s largest energy source by early 2025. (Washington Post)
A whole new idea for solar panels: simply place them on the ground to save on installation costs. (canary vehicle)
In other solar panel news, researchers are working on “dual-sided” solar cells that can draw energy from both sides. (natural energy)
The US can finance mining abroad, in an effort to increase supplies of materials needed for electric vehicles. (axis)
→ New U.S. tax credits for electric vehicles may hit a bump because lack of material. (MIT Technology Review)
→ Here’s what electric vehicle tax credits mean for you if you are trying to buy a car in the US soon. (NBC)
The new maps show how different neighborhoods have different climate impacts. Estimates show that dense cities tend to be the most climate-friendly, while suburbs and more affluent neighborhoods have higher emissions. (New York Times)
Mini cars are becoming popular throughout Asia and they are better for the climate. Here’s what it will do to bring them to the United States. (Bloomberg)
JetBlue is dumping, instead turn their attention to sustainable aviation fuels. (precipice)
→ Alternative fuels still have many challenges ahead, but the aviation industry is relying on them for climate goals. (MIT Technology Review)