Aiming to create the first net gain reactor, General Fusion’s design leverages steam-driven pneumatics in quest for the Holy Grail of energy production.
In a world beset by fossil fuel energy woes, fusion energy is holiest of Holy Grails. A working fusion reactor would not only release large amounts of energy but, unlike nuclear fission plants, they can’t melt down. They’re also significantly “cleaner,” in that a fusion reaction only uses small amounts of an abundant fuel (hydrogen isotopes tritium and deuterium), which is only weakly radioactive. The problem is, no one has yet created a net gain reactor (more energy out than in), although many well-funded programs are actively pursuing it.
It’s not surprising, considering the daunting challenges involved. Similar to the process that drives the Sun, a fusion reaction—melding two hydrogen atoms to form helium—requires heating the reactor fuel to galactic-scale temperatures and crushed under intense pressures. Of course, you also need a vessel capable of producing and containing these thermonuclear conditions.