Proxima Fusion raises $21M to build on its 'stellarator' approach to nuclear fusion | TechCrunch

Proxima Fusion raises $21M to build on its 'stellarator' approach to nuclear fusion | TechCrunch

Venture capitalists' appetite for fusion startups has been up and down over the past few years. For example, the Fusion Industry Association found that while nuclear fusion companies invested more than $6 billion in 2023, up $1.4 billion from 2022, the 27 percent growth was slower than in 2022. proved, as investors countered external concerns such as inflation.

However, the numbers don't tell the whole story: Venture interest in the field has been strong. As startups begin to explore new ways to potentially harness the sun's power to generate safe, limitless energy.

Playground A major milestone is reached in 2022. When the Department of Energy's National Ignition Facility succeeded in bringing about a fusion reaction that produced more than enough power to spark the fuel ball. And then in August last year, the team confirmed that their first Test wasn't just luck. The road to true fusion power is long, but the kicker is that it's no longer theoretical.

is the latest company looking to make a name for itself in the space. Proxima FusionFirst spin-out by definition Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP). Munich-based Proxima has raised €20 million ($21.7 million) in a seed round to begin building the first generation of its fusion power plants.

The company bases its technology on “quasi-isodynamic (QI). StarsWith high temperature superconductors. In plain English, a stellator is a donut-shaped ring of precisely positioned magnets that can contain the plasma that produces the fusion energy. However, stars are extremely difficult to make, as they place magnets in odd shapes, and require very precise engineering.

ProximaFusion claims to have come up with a way to solve these problems in 2022 using both engineering solutions and advanced computing, and as a spin-out, the company now builds on the Max Planck IPP research. What is, that made Wendelstein 7-X. (W7-X) Experiment, the world's largest stellator.

The new approach to fusion is only possible because of the ability to use AI to simulate the behavior of plasma, thus bringing closer the possibility of viable nuclear fusion, Dr. Francesco Sciortino, co-founder of Proxima Fusion and C. EO told TechCrunch. a call.

German startup MarvelFusion, funded by German VC Earlybird, uses laser containment to ignite reactions, and when I asked Sciortino why Proxima uses stellarators, he said, “Lasers' With, you take a small bullet and blast heat at it. A lot of very powerful lasers. It releases energy through fusion, but you're compressing something and letting it explode. Whereas What we're working on is actual confinement. So it's not an explosion, but in a steady state; it's working continuously.”

Sciortino, who completed his PhD at MIT on tokamak nuclear projects, said Proxima will benefit from what it learned from the W7-X device, which has more than €1 billion in public investment. He added that the expected timeline for achieving fusion energy is mid-2030s. “We're looking at 15 years, give or take. Our goal is to build an intermediate device in Munich, possibly by 2031. If we manage to get to that, it's possible by the mid-2030s.

Startup investors are equally convinced.

Ian Hogarth, a partner at one of Proxima's investors, Plural, told me, “There are two big things that I think are really compelling about Proxima's work. First, their stellarators have high-temperature Superconductors have benefited from two major trends and advances in computer-aided simulations of complex, multiphysics systems. And secondly, the world's most advanced star in the world is in northern Germany.

He believes that Proxima, being the first spin-out from this ambitious government project, will give it the edge it needs to succeed: “It's a perfect example of the 'entrepreneurial state', where a start-up can benefit from this incredible public investment.” Can stand up.”

That said, Proxima isn't the only player in the fusion race. For example, Helion Energy raised $500 million in Series E two years ago, led by tech entrepreneur and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman. And there are at least 43 other companies developing nuclear fusion technologies.

Proxima's seed round was led by Radalpine, with participation from Bavarian government-backed Bayern Capital, German government-backed DeepTech and Climate Funds and the Max Planck Foundation. Multi- and existing investors Hi-Tech Grunderfunds, Wilby, UVC Partners and Total Fund of Visionaries Club also participated in the round.

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