Investor and entrepreneur Sam Altman is among the impressive array of investors backing fusion energy startup Helion, which announced a $500 million fund raise.
Helion reports it has raise the half-billion bucks from Altman with participation from our other existing investors, Mithril Capital, Capricorn Investment Group, and Dustin Moskovitz.
Co-founders David Kirtley, CEO and Chris Pihl, CTO said: “We thank all of our investors who participated in this round of funding. Their belief in a future of clean, zero-carbon electricity from fusion is inspiring and we are incredibly proud to have their support.”
Altman is the CEO of OpenAI and the former president of Y Combinator. He writes on his blog about the investment. He is said to have put in $375 million of his own funds into the project.
“David and Chris are two of the most impressive founders and builders (in the sense of building fusion machines, in addition to building companies!) I have ever met, and they have done something remarkable. When I first invested in them back in 2014, I was struck by the thoughtfulness of their plans about the scientific approach, the system design, cost optimizations, and the fuel cycle.”
Based on its research papers, Helion’s approach has developed from the Inductive Plasmoid Accelerator experiment. The system injects plasma, compressing it and then expanding it, so that it directly recovers the energy to produce electricity. It uses helium-3 and deuterium as fuel. The company reported reaching 100 million degrees C earlier this year, a key milestone for fusion.
Altman writes that he is confident of the Helion approach to fusion.
“And now, with a tiny fraction of the money spent on other fusion efforts but the culture of a startup, they and their team have built a generator that produces electricity. Helion has a clear path to net electricity by 2024, and has a long-term goal of delivering electricity for 1 cent per kilowatt-hour,” he writes.
Altman said the benefits of fusion energy include cheaper energy and a cleaner environment, but could go well beyond these ambitions.
He writes: “If this all works as we hope, we may have a path out of the climate crisis. Even though there are a lot of emissions that don’t come from electrical generation, we’d be able to use abundant energy to capture carbon and other greenhouses gases. And if we have much cheaper energy than ever before, we can do things that are difficult to imagine today. The cost of energy is one of the fundamental inputs in the costs of so much else; dramatically cheaper energy will lead to dramatically better quality of life for many people.”
According to TechCrunch, Altman will move from serving as the chairman of the board, to Helion’s executive chairman.
The company said that the funding will help accelerate the construction of Polaris, its seventh generation fusion prototype and a facility that will help produce helium-3 more economically, and it expect to demonstrate net electricity from fusion in 2024.