Mr Fusion

Tech Financials Oct. 21, 2015

Even with the reality-check that comes with a few decades’ physics experience, I still dream of a world where Mr Fusion, a kitchen appliance-style home nuclear power generator, provides cheap and clean energy for everyone. Such an invention could enable some of the more speculative ideas in BTTF2, plus a whole bunch of innovations not even dreamt of yet, to become reality.

Scientists are currently building what they hope will be the first experimental fusion reactor to produce more energy than it uses, with very little radioactive waste compared to existing nuclear fission reactors. The International Tokomak Experimental Reactor (ITER) will be housed in a 60m-tall building in southern France and use superconducting magnets to manipulate plasma made up of hydrogen ions heated to 150 million℃. The ions will fuse together to create helium and release large amounts of energy, replicating the reaction that powers the Sun but at temperatures 10 times hotter.

ITER will start operating around 2020 and test ideas in fusion research for 20 years, hopefully confirming that we can harness this energy production mechanism here on Earth. But it’s hard to imagine fitting something like ITER to the back of a DeLorean or keeping one on your kitchen counter, let alone fuelling it with rubbish. We might have to wait a bit longer for that.