What you really need to know about this new merger
Commonwealth is working on a compact, relatively inexpensive reactor that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, instead of the billions it took to build the NIF. His approach relies on superconducting materials to achieve super-strong magnetic fields that can hold plasma in place for fusion reactions (temperatures are far too high to use conventional materials to hold fuel in place).
Some fusion experts say practical reactors that can be used to generate significant amounts of energy are still decades away. But Commonwealth and other startups have more ambitious timelines in mind, planning to build demonstrations within a few years and power plants within a decade or so. Commonwealth announced last year that it had raised $1.8 billion in venture capital to make it happen.
The NIF news is likely to be a big boon for the fusion field in general, sparking more interest and investment. But that’s no guarantee that inertial confinement, or any other approach to fusion, will be commercially successful. Achieving a net gain in one type of reactor does not necessarily translate to others, so tokamaks and other reactors will need to have their own watershed moment on the path to achieving fusion power.
For more details on the news, including the power needed to operate these lasers, check out my story. I would also recommend this coverage from The Atlantic, which dives deeper into the history of the merger hype. And to find out what the way forward looks like for the Commonwealth and other private merger efforts, read James’ in-depth article from February.
Follow the climate
A new report predicts that renewables could overtake coal as the world’s number one source of energy by 2025. (Washington Post)
A crazy new idea for solar panels: just put them on the ground to save on installation costs. (Canary Media)
In other solar panel news, researchers are working on ‘bifacial’ solar cells that could absorb energy from both sides. (Natural Energy)
US could fund overseas mining, with the aim of strengthening the supply of materials needed for electric vehicles. (Axios)
→ New tax credits in the United States for electric vehicles could face obstacles due to material shortages. (MIT Technology Review)
→ Here’s what electric vehicle tax credits mean to you if you are trying to buy a car in the United States soon. (NBC)
New maps show how different neighborhoods have different climate impacts. Estimates show that dense cities tend to be the most climate-friendly, while suburbs and wealthier neighborhoods have higher emissions. (New York Times)
Mini cars are growing in popularity across Asia, and they’re better for the climate. Here’s what it would take to get them to the United States. (Bloomberg)
JetBlue gets rid of offsets, are turning to sustainable aviation fuels instead. (The edge)
→ Alternative fuels still have big challenges ahead, but the aviation industry relies on them for its climate goals. (MIT Technology Review)
Leave a Reply