Fusion could provide an effective way of cleanly producing large amounts of energy, substantially reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.
For fusion energy to make it to the grid, it needs to be converted into electricity. While this seems simple, the design of many fusion power plants in fact makes it very difficult to extract the energy and convert it to a useful form. General Fusion’s power plant design overcomes this challenge, because it enables the use of existing steam turbine technology to produce electricity from fusion.
Learn how a General Fusion power plant converts fusion energy to electricity in the infographic below, followed by full explanation of how the process works.
An important part of General Fusion’s design is that the energy extraction process is built into the system from the beginning, making this one of the only fusion power plant designs that can effectively capture the fusion energy and convert it to useful electricity.
When the fusion reaction releases energy, it does so in the form of high speed neutrons. By completely surrounding the reaction with a layer of liquid metal, those high speed neutrons are captured. As they get caught by the liquid metal, the neutrons slow down and transfer their energy to the metal, heating it up. That hot liquid metal can then be pumped out and used to boil water, create steam, and spin a turbine to generate electricity.
In a General Fusion power plant, this liquid metal liner is a core component of the design of the machine. You can learn more about how that works in our infographic: Inside a General Fusion Power Plant.
Almost all large power stations currently use steam turbines to generate electricity. Coal and nuclear fission power plants are all designed to generate heat, boil water, and spin a turbine. One of the benefits of the General Fusion design is that most of the technology outside of the fusion system is not new – the fusion system effectively acts as a boiler in much the same way that a coal furnace does, but without producing any greenhouse gas emissions or air pollution.
The use of these technologies means that we can draw on over 100 years of steam turbine development, focus our technology development on the fusion part of the system, and fast track bringing clean, safe and abundant fusion energy to the grid.