The UK company developing a commercial fusion power plant has raised £10 million from its latest fundraising round, its largest ever investment to date.
Engineers at Oxfordshire-based Tokamak Energy are developing a compact “spherical” tokamak reactor. According to the firm, its spherical design and use of the latest high temperature superconductors mean it does not have to achieve and maintain as high magnetic fields as larger tokamaks, such as the Iter reactor being built in Cadarache in the South of France.
Magnetic fields are required inside fusion reactors to contain the super-hot plasma inside which nuclear fusion occurs. In spherical tokamaks, the ratio of plasma pressure to magnetic field pressure is proven to be greater than it is in a conventional large aspect ratio device.
Tokamak Energy is developing two prototype fusion reactors at the same time to accelerate its R&D efforts. One prototype is being made to perfect the spherical design and another will use high temperature superconducting magnets made of yttrium barium copper oxide. First plasma on the first reactor is planned for March 2017 and engineers plan to achieve a plasma temperature of 15 million degrees C before the middle of next year.
The investors include Legal and General Capital and billionaire David Harding, who join existing investors including the IMechE through its Stephenson Fund.
Dr David Kingham, chief executive of Tokamak Energy, said: “The vast majority of private investment into fusion energy to date has come from North America, but the UK has an exceptional fusion heritage. The world-class facilities in Oxfordshire and 50 years of solid scientific progress with tokamaks have laid the groundwork for a UK fusion industry, and our latest major investment from UK backers demonstrates further recognition of fusion as the most exciting opportunity available to investors anywhere.”
John Bromley, head of Clean Energy Strategy at Legal and General Capital, said: “We are investing in the energy future - in technologies that can be deployed locally and at scale, supporting UK jobs, skills and expertise, both now and in the longer term. We have taken the time to get to know Tokamak Energy, and we are impressed by the technology, scientists and engineers, and experienced and disciplined management team who we look forward to supporting at this exciting stage.”
Tokamak Energy has already built a tokamak with all of its magnets made from high temperature superconductors. This ST25 HTS tokamak was demonstrated with a stable plasma and magnets for 29 hours during the 2015 Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition.
The World Economic Forum estimates that the fusion energy market could be worth $2.2 trillion per year by 2045.