TAE secures funding for Copernicus fusion research reactor

TAE Technologies has secured strategic and institutional investments to fund the construction of Copernicus, the California-based company’s next fusion research reactor.

TAE Technologies' Norman accelerator beam overhead view
TAE Technologies' Norman accelerator beam overhead view - TAE Technologies

The Copernicus reactor, to be constructed in a 100,000-square-foot facility in Irvine, California, is designed to demonstrate the viability of achieving net energy generation with TAE’s advanced beam-driven field-reversed configuration (FRC), which the company said is the penultimate step on its route to commercialising fusion power.

Norman, TAE’s fifth-generation reactor, was unveiled in 2017 and was designed to keep plasma stable at 30 million degrees Celsius. After five years of experiments to optimise Norman’s capabilities, the machine has proven capable of sustaining stable plasma at over 75 million degrees Celsius, which TAE said is 250 per cent higher than its original goal.

TAE has so far raised $1.2bn for its commercial fusion development and in its recently closed Series G-2 financing round, the company secured $250m from investors in the energy, technology, and engineering sectors.

Chevron, Google, Reimagined Ventures, Sumitomo Corporation of Americas, and TIFF Investment Management are among the company’s most recent investors, along with a US-based West coast mutual fund manager and US pension fund. Goldman Sachs served as exclusive private placement agent to TAE.

In a statement, Michl Binderbauer, CEO of TAE Technologies, said: “The calibre and interest of our investors validates our significant technical progress and supports our goal to begin commercialisation of fusion by the end of this decade. Global energy demand is growing exponentially, and we have a moral obligation to do our utmost to develop a baseload power solution that is safe, carbon-free, and economically viable.”

Sumitomo Corporation of Americas (SCOA) is TAE’s first investor from Japan and will become a partner in deploying commercial power and other fusion-derived technologies to the Asia-Pacific market. SCOA has signed a commercial collaboration agreement to pursue TAE-based technologies in Japan and Asia. This investment follows TAE’s public-private partnership with Japan’s National Institute for Fusion Science (NIFS).

Google’s investment follows the success of the jointly developed Optometrist Algorithm, which deploys Google’s machine learning to optimise the operation of TAE’s research reactors. According to TAE, programmatic steps that used to take over a month can now be achieved within one day. The companies have also developed capabilities in holistically post-processing and integrating a large set of independent diagnostic measurements to produce high fidelity insights into experimental data at record-breaking scale.

TAE’s advanced beam-driven FRC, a combination of plasma physics and accelerator physics, has been developed to integrate into the grid with TAE’s preferred fuel source, hydrogen-boron, also known as proton-boron (p-B11).

TAE said it is committed to non-radioactive hydrogen-boron for its abundance - in excess of 100,000 years supply globally - and because it is the cleanest, safest, most economical terrestrial fuel cycle for fusion, with no geopolitical concerns or proliferation risks.

“Through successful training of Norman’s… control system, paired with proprietary power management technology and extensive optimisation of our machine learning algorithms, we have achieved a scale of control at an unparalleled level of integrated complexity,” said Binderbauer. “Our long-standing expertise in fusion, together with seminal advances in design and operational mastery, are paying off handsomely as we progress toward delivering an inexhaustible clean energy source that has the capacity to transform the human experience and sustain future generations.”