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Will General Fusion meets its plasma temperature targets by mid-2020?
Although the majority of funding on development of nuclear fusion is governmental, a number of significant private efforts have been launched in recent years as well. General Fusion, based in British Columbia, is a privately funded company pursuing magnetized target fusion (MTF), backed by venture capital funds as well as individual backers including Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Paul Allen (Microsoft) and Peter Thiel (PayPal).
MTF works by heating a gaseous fusion fuel into a plasma, coercing it into magnetic confinement, and then uniformly compressing the plasma until it reaches fusion-capable densities and temperatures. In General Fusion's case, an array of pneumatic impact pistons in a "Spheromak" design serve as acoustic drivers for the compression stage, delivering a high impulse but requires extreme timing precision.
General Fusion is currently in the midst of the testing and development phase of the individual subsystems for their prototype MTF reactor, and the next goal is to build a full scale device to achieve net-gain fusion. However, they currently face a great challenge in keeping the plasma thermally well insulated in order to meet design temperatures before compression.
General Fusion's reactor design specifies plasma temperatures of T = 10 (over 100 million Kelvin) after 10:1 radial compression. A milestone before this is the 4:1 compression stage in subsystem testing, at which they have been able to heat the plasma to 200 but hope to exceed temperatures of 600 .
By June 1st, 2020, will General Fusion heat a plasma to at least 600 at 4:1 compression in their injector subsystem or in a full sized prototype MTF reactor?
We will consider an official company statement or credible media report to be sufficient evidence of success.
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