Even if science is cool these days in the Valley, there’ll be no cleantech bubble 2.0.
A growing amount of Valley investors are eying nuclear startups. Is this a smart trend or the mistakes of the cleantech boom all over again?
Next-generation nuclear technology could come to a screeching halt in the short term due to the backlash against nuclear in the wake of the Japanese nuclear incident, predicts Ray Rothrock, a partner at venture firm Venrock and a former nuclear engineer.
Helion Energy, a startup developing engines powered by nuclear fusion, is certain to pique the interest of sci-fi fans. But the more important question for Helion President Philip Wallace is whether the same can be said of venture capitalists. That’s because the Seattle-based company is on the hunt for $20 million in financing to build a full-scale model of its fusion engine.
That engine, which the company currently has a prototype of at one-third scale, works by forming hot, ionized hydrogen gas. The gas is then electromagnetically accelerated to greater than 1 million mph and collided in a burn chamber to generate enormous amounts of heat energy.
The company’s plan is to sell its technology to new and existing power generation sites. Helion’s engines, once commercially ready, could be used to produce heat in power plants that currently rely on burning coal or natural gas, Wallace said. The heat runs steam turbines that drive generators to produce electricity. “We are very confident that we can out perform all carbon-based energy sources. If we can implement the technology, the economics follow,” he said.
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