For any billionaire out there: fund nuclear fusion now! Consider this: the people who fund successful nuclear fusion are guaranteed a spot in the history books. And that spot will be immediately followed by spots for anybody else who spent serious money ($100 million+) and did not succeed. Why? Because clean electricity is absolutely crucial to fighting the climate crisis.
Is this realistic? Can we achieve nuclear fusion in our lifetimes? Having looked into the state of research, I believe it is entirely possible to get to deployed nuclear fusion within a decade provided that we take enough well funded shots on goal. We need to pursue many different technologies, including more attempts at inertial confinement using lasers.
The reason to be optimistic is that there has been important progress. Much of it has come from innovation in other fields that provide enabling technology. For example, something called REBCO tape, which was originally developed for MRI machines, allows for stronger magnetic fields which in turn makes much smaller fusion spaces possible. Similarly, inertial confinement approaches to fusion have benefitted greatly from the massive advances in laser technology. The Physics Nobel Prize in 2018 was in fact awarded for just this progress in laser intensity.
Now of course I would be delighted for governments to spend more here and pull together the equivalent of multiple Manhattan Projects. We absolutely need it. But at the moment governments are slow and hidebound and have focused all their fusion activity on a few mega projects, such as ITER. This is why people with a big checkbook have the unique opportunity of making an actual difference.
Added bonus for billionaires: you’d have something actually useful to point to as the discussion about wealth continues to heat up.
To make it easy, here’s a list of commercial fusion projects I am currently aware of (if you know of others please let me know)
Disclosure: Susan and I are personal investors in Marvel Fusion