Proxima Fusion, a German firm, has received funding of about $8.6 million to create a stellarator, a special kind of nuclear fusion reactor. This funding boost emphasizes the intensifying competition to develop commercial nuclear fusion, a process that resembles the Sun’s energy production and has the potential to produce safe, clean, and abundant energy while addressing the problems associated with climate change.
Nuclear fusion technology has seen enormous investments throughout the years, but scaled-up and viable power generation systems have remained elusive. However, the investment in Proxima Fusion portends a future change in this environment. By the 2030s, the firm aspires to build the first nuclear fusion power plant in the entire world.
Nuclear fusion reactors typically fall into two categories: tokamaks and stellarators. Both are magnetic confinement fusion devices that heat hydrogen isotopes to temperatures hotter than the Sun, forming energized plasma. Within a circular chamber or vessel, powerful magnetic coils confine the plasma, enabling the fusion of atoms and the release of powerful energy.
Tokamaks, shaped like doughnuts, have been the dominant prototype for nuclear fusion reactors. In contrast, stellarators have a more intricate design, featuring a spiral arrangement of magnets around the plasma.
Proxima Fusion’s technology builds upon the expertise and research conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP). The institute’s work on the Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X), the world’s largest and most advanced stellarator, serves as the foundation for Proxima’s stellarator device. Proxima emerged as a spin-off from the IPP.
According to Ian Hogarth, co-founder of Plural Platform, a financial contributor to Proxima, “A tokamak is kind of easy to design, hard to operate, whereas a stellarator is super hard to design, but once you’ve designed it, it’s way easier to operate.” This statement underlines the unique advantages of stellarators, presenting them as a promising avenue for achieving practical nuclear fusion power generation.
With the financial backing secured, Proxima Fusion is poised to make significant progress in its pursuit of nuclear fusion. While challenges undoubtedly remain on the path to commercialization, the race for this transformative energy source has gained momentum, with Proxima emerging as a key player aiming to deliver a breakthrough in the coming decade.