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March 28, 2023

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Welcome to Tuesday! Let's dive in.

1 big thing: Fusion challenger debuts

A depiction of Type One's planned slinky-like stellarator vessel. Rendering: Courtesy of Type One Energy Group

Type One Energy, a Wisconsin-based nuclear fusion developer, raised a $29 million seed round as it works toward building a fusion reactor, Alan writes.

Why it matters: Type One aims to build a "stellarator," a twisty fusion machine that's devilishly difficult to build, but offers unique advantages over more common fusion plant designs.

Driving the news: Breakthrough Energy Ventures, TDK Ventures and Doral Energy Tech Ventures led the all-equity round.

  • It closed in mid-March, less than a month after fundraising began.
  • Darco, the Grantham Foundation, Milfam, Orbia Ventures, Shorewind Capital, Trirec, and Vahoca participated.

Plus: Type One recruited former General Fusion CEO Christofer Mowry as CEO to spearhead the round.

  • Former Oak Ridge and Pacific Northwest national labs director William Madia is board chair. Type One also tapped former CIA director John Deutch to chair its scientific advisory board.

Catch up fast: So-called "tokamaks" are the most common type of fusion design. The donut-shaped devices are relatively easy to build — heavy emphasis on "relatively."

Be smart: Both tokamaks and stellarators are like enormous microwave ovens. They aim to heat a confined gas while preventing disruptions — akin to zapping a bowl of soup without splatter.

  • "The hard part is not heating it. That’s relatively easy. The hard part is confining it," Breakthrough Energy Ventures partner Phil Larochelle tells Alan.

Zoom in: Tokamaks and stellarators confine a fusion reaction by creating a magnetic cage.

  • Tokamaks do that with external magnets and a huge current of plasma.
  • Stellarators require only the magnets. The design is complex, but if built right, much more stable.

What's next: Type One aims to begin construction of its pilot machine by 2030.

  • "The end goal is a power plant, right? Not just a machine that gets net-energy positive," Mowry tells Alan. "I put money on Commonwealth getting net energy positive out of their machine — but that's not a power plant."

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