Developing a robust energy portfolio is crucial for governments, utilities, and businesses to ensure a sustainable, low-carbon future and achieve energy security. Renewable energy sources aren’t enough: they are not scaling fast enough to reverse our greenhouse gas emissions trajectory, lessen our dependence on imported fossil fuels, or meet global developmental needs.
Nuclear energy is the only source with energy density and ease of deployment to replace fossil fuels fast enough, and the industry is taking note. In 2023, global investment in nuclear fusion development reached $6.2 billion, with six companies raising over $200 million. While scientists are making breakthroughs in conventional fusion, the technologies are complex and expensive.
We need a shortcut: Solid-State Fusion (SSF), a method of using hydrogen isotopes with metals to produce nuclear-scale energy output. It is the most promising path to a clean, resilient, inexpensive energy supply. Multiple groups are observing the phenomenon, and SSF startups are garnering investments. We have divided common questions about SSF into these key categories:
The essential components in a SSF system are, for example, metallic materials and isotopes of hydrogen. The experimental setup can include these types of analysis.
No. Many models have been proposed on the mechanisms underlying SSF, however all of them are ad-hoc or self-limiting to specific observations only. Moreover, no hypothetical frameworks have been shown to predict the behavior of SSF systems when variables are changed.
Yes. While almost all technologies today have an established theoretical foundation, there are exceptions. The steam engine, which is arguably the most important energy technology, was developed and commercialized 30 years before the thermodynamics underlying the process was established. Similarly, it is possible that SSF can reach the market before we are able to understand the mechanism driving the SSF process.
From the transistors that power our smartphones to energy efficient lightbulbs to superconducting magnets, quantum technology plays an important role in our lives. In spite of the rapid advancement in technology, we are only scratching the surface in terms of understanding how matter works at the quantum or nanoscopic level (1 x 10-9 m) or smaller. At these very small scales, our notions of traditional Newtonian physics do not apply. Quantum field theory suggests that electrons, neutrons, and protons, which make up our atoms, are in fact manifestation of excitations of entities known as fields. How these fields interact and how they can be controlled are still largely a mystery. It is believed that quantum interactions that are yet to be characterized lie at the heart of understanding and optimizing SSF.
Quantum science and engineering are multidisciplinary in nature. The following are examples of scientific and engineering disciplines that enable the study of SSF but are also benefited from SSF development.
The global energy industry, which is a $15 trillion market, powers our cities, industries, and our transportation. Over 80% of the energy today is obtained through fossil fuels. SSF, which can be scaled to from breadbox to a gigawatt power plant, could potentially replace all fossil fuels and be the ultimate safe, cheap, and clean energy source.
A this stage, excess heat from SSF has been plausibly demonstrated by various groups around the world; however, it is not known whether these effects are commercializable. An SSF system that is either be self-powered or producing useful electrical energy has not been publicly shown. Furthermore, decisive evidence of a nuclear reaction remains elusive.
No but a major boiler company in Japan has invested in SSF.
It is estimated that at least $15 million in government funding in EU, US, and Japan have been dedicated to SSF along with $150 million in private funding.