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Energy From Fusion In Two Years, CEO Says, Commercialization In Five

Category: Energy & Environment,Finance

The notion that you hear fusion is another 20 years away, 30 years away, 50 years away—it's not true," said Michl Binderbauer, CEO of  the company formerly known as Tri Alpha Energy. "We're talking commercialization coming in the next five years for this technology."

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That trajectory is considerably sooner than Binderbauer described when he took over as CEO in 2017. It would put TAE ahead of two formidable competitors. The 35-nation ITER project expects to complete its demonstration reactor in France in 2025. Vancouver-based General Fusion Inc. is devoting the next five years, with support from the Canadian government, to developing a prototype of its fusion reactor. And the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced last March that it expects to bring its fusion reactor to market in ten years.

For more than 20 years TAE has been pursuing a reactor that would fuse hydrogen and boron at extremely high temperatures, releasing excess energy much as the sun does when it fuses hydrogen atoms. Lately the California company has been testing the heat capacity of its process in a machine it named Norman after the late UC Irvine physicist Norman Rostoker.

Its next device, dubbed Copernicus, is designed to demonstrate an energy gain. It will involve deuterium-tritium fusion, the aim of most competitors, but a milestone on TAE's path to a hotter, but safer, hydrogen-boron reaction.

Binderbauer expects to pass the D-T fusion milestone within two years.

"What we're really going to see in the next couple years is actually the ability to actually make net energy, and that's going to happen in the machine we call Copernicus," he said in a "fireside chat" at UC Irvine, appearing alongside actor Harry Hamlin (of "Clash of the Titans" and "LA Law"), who was an early supporter and a co-founder of the company.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is another prominent supporter, and Alphabet/Google a shareholder.

TAE has been funded so far by more than $500 million in private equity.

"An endeavor as monumental as this requires an upfront commitment of very substantial proportions, which runs counter to the way most R&D money is parceled out," according to the company's website. "With TAE operating as a private company, we have been able to research, experiment and iterate more rapidly than our competition."

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But TAE is ready now to talk to the government.

"We're in the process of funding and putting that project together right now," Binderbauer said of Copernicus. "We're working actually for the first time with the DOE, in some form of a relationship where they're gonna contribute some in-kind, and this will be a sort of public-private partnership to pull that off, and then it goes to commercialization."

Watch Brinderbaur and Hamlin at UC Irvine:

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TAE Technologies will bring a fusion-reactor technology to commercialization in the next five years, its CEO announced recently at the University of California, Irvine.

"The notion that you hear fusion is another 20 years away, 30 years away, 50 years away—it's not true," said Michl Binderbauer, CEO of  the company formerly known as Tri Alpha Energy. "We're talking commercialization coming in the next five years for this technology."

ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER ADVERTISEMENT

That trajectory is considerably sooner than Binderbauer described when he took over as CEO in 2017. It would put TAE ahead of two formidable competitors. The 35-nation ITER project expects to complete its demonstration reactor in France in 2025. Vancouver-based General Fusion Inc. is devoting the next five years, with support from the Canadian government, to developing a prototype of its fusion reactor. And the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced last March that it expects to bring its fusion reactor to market in ten years.

For more than 20 years TAE has been pursuing a reactor that would fuse hydrogen and boron at extremely high temperatures, releasing excess energy much as the sun does when it fuses hydrogen atoms. Lately the California company has been testing the heat capacity of its process in a machine it named Norman after the late UC Irvine physicist Norman Rostoker.

Its next device, dubbed Copernicus, is designed to demonstrate an energy gain. It will involve deuterium-tritium fusion, the aim of most competitors, but a milestone on TAE's path to a hotter, but safer, hydrogen-boron reaction.

Binderbauer expects to pass the D-T fusion milestone within two years.

"What we're really going to see in the next couple years is actually the ability to actually make net energy, and that's going to happen in the machine we call Copernicus," he said in a "fireside chat" at UC Irvine, appearing alongside actor Harry Hamlin (of "Clash of the Titans" and "LA Law"), who was an early supporter and a co-founder of the company.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is another prominent supporter, and Alphabet/Google a shareholder.

TAE has been funded so far by more than $500 million in private equity.

"An endeavor as monumental as this requires an upfront commitment of very substantial proportions, which runs counter to the way most R&D money is parceled out," according to the company's website. "With TAE operating as a private company, we have been able to research, experiment and iterate more rapidly than our competition."

ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER ADVERTISEMENT

But TAE is ready now to talk to the government.

"We're in the process of funding and putting that project together right now," Binderbauer said of Copernicus. "We're working actually for the first time with the DOE, in some form of a relationship where they're gonna contribute some in-kind, and this will be a sort of public-private partnership to pull that off, and then it goes to commercialization."

Watch Brinderbaur and Hamlin at UC Irvine:


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