What you really need to know about that fusion news
Commonwealth is working on a compact, relatively inexpensive reactor that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, instead of the billions it took to construct NIF.
Its approach relies on superconducting materials to achieve super strong magnetic fields that can keep plasma in place ...
...for fusion reactions (the temperatures are far too high to use conventional materials to keep the fuel in place).
Some experts in fusion say practical reactors that can be used to generate significant amounts of power are still a few 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 about a decade.
Commonwealth announced last year that it raised $1.8 billion in venture capital funding to make it happen. The NIF ...
...news is probably going to be a big boon for the fusion field generally, driving more interest and investment.
But it’s not a guarantee that inertial confinement, or any other approach to fusion, will succeed commercially.
Achieving net gain in one kind of reactor doesn’t necessarily translate to others, so tokamaks and other reactors will need to have their own breakthrough moment on the pathway towards making fusion power happen.
For more details on the news, including how much power it took to actually run those lasers, check out my story. I’d also recommend this coverage from The Atlantic, which dives into more of the history of fusion hype.
And for what the path forward looks like for Commonwealth and other private fusion efforts, read James’s in-depth feature from February.