Microsoft just made a huge, far-from-certain bet on nuclear fusion – The Verge

Scientists have been dreaming about nuclear fusion for decades. Microsoft thinks the technology is nearly ready to plug into the grid.

Microsoft just signed a jaw-dropping agreement to purchase electricity from a nuclear fusion generator. Nuclear fusion, often called the Holy Grail of energy, is a potentially limitless source of clean energy that scientists have been chasing for the better part of a century.

A company called Helion Energy thinks it can deliver that Holy Grail to Microsoft by 2028. It announced a power purchase agreement with Microsoft this morning that would see it plug in the world’s first commercial fusion generator to a power grid in Washington. The goal is to generate at least 50 megawatts of power — a small but significant amount and more than the 42MW that the US’s first two offshore wind farms have the capacity to generate today.

To say that’s a tall order would be the understatement of the year. “I would say it’s the most audacious thing I’ve ever heard,” says University of Chicago theoretical physicist Robert Rosner. “In these kinds of issues, I will never say never. But it would be astonishing if they succeed.”

Experts’ optimistic estimates for when the world might see its first nuclear fusion power plant have ranged from the end of the decade to several decades from now. Helion’s success depends on achieving remarkable breakthroughs in an incredibly short span of time and then commercializing its technology to make it cost-competitive with other energy sources. Nevertheless, Helion is unfazed.

“This is a binding agreement that has financial penalties if we can’t build a fusion system,” Helion founder and CEO David Kirtley tells The Verge. “We’ve committed to be able to build a system and sell it commercially to [Microsoft].”

How might a fusion system work? Simply put, nuclear fusion mimics the way stars create their own light and heat. In our sun, hydrogen nuclei fuse together, creating helium and generating a tremendous amount of energy. 

Read the complete article on The Verge (Author: Justine Calma) by clicking below: