At one end of the spectrum is low density, long lifespan fusion, in which the low density produces a relatively small number of energy producing collisions, but the plasma is long lived enough to achieve sufficient interactions to generate energy. Because the plasma is held stable (confined) for these long periods using magnetic fields, this technique is referred to as magnetic confinement fusion.
Using extremely rapid compression to heat a capsule of fuel to fusion temperatures, inertial confinement fusion takes place in a matter of nanoseconds and produces a short lived burst of energy. The National Ignition Facility is the world’s largest inertial confinement fusion research facility, and uses the world’s most powerful laser to compress and heat a fuel capsule.
In the mid-ground between these two approaches is magnetized target fusion (MTF). Magnetized target fusion starts with a medium density plasma and compresses it to fusion conditions. The compression phase takes place in microseconds (a thousand times slower than in inertial confinement fusion), allowing for more conventional compression methods such as pistons to be employed.
General Fusion’s approach is to use the practical advantages of magnetized target fusion to develop the world’s first commercially viable fusion power plant.