Washington Patent of the Month – November 2022

Fusion has captured interest as a potential source of clean energy. Electricity would be generated using heat from nuclear fusion reactors which force two lighter atomic nuclei to combine, forming a heavier nucleus and releasing energy. Much of the initial research was based on deuterium and tritium fuels before moving to advanced fuels. These experiments have been largely unsuccessful or limited by temperature constraints or byproducts.

Helion Energy, Inc. is targeting an alternative method with their proprietary, pulsed, non-ignition fusion device. They have returned to the roots of deuterium and combined it with helium-3 (3He) to generate zero-carbon electricity.

The use of 3He fuel cycles reduces the chance of dangerous D-T side reactions by extracting tritium ions as they are created. These extracted ions are unstable and decay over time into 3He. This means, as the fuel cycle runs and tritium is extracted, fuel for future cycles is being created. 

The design uses a fusion reactor with a central interaction chamber which supports the process of heating deuterium and 3He to plasma conditions. This plasma is then contained in a Field Reverse Configuration (FRC) using magnets. Magnets further accelerate two FRCs to 1 million mph from opposite ends of the 40-foot accelerator, where they collide in the center. This central collision leads to compression which is exacerbated by the strong magnetic field until they reach a fusion temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius.

At this temperature, the deuterium and 3He ions are moving fast enough to overcome the forces that would otherwise keep them apart, allowing them to fuse. This fusion releases more energy than is consumed by the fusion process itself, causing the plasma to expand. This expansion pushes back on the magnetic field, inducing a current which is directly recaptured as electricity. Electricity which can power homes and communities, efficiently and affordably.

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