Microsoft’s bet on fusion, London Power Tunnels low C concrete record and funds to advance tree pulp battery technology are in the week’s technology radar.
Microsoft bets on fusion
Washington state-based fusion developer Helion Energy has signed up its first customer – and the first for any fusion company – namely Microsoft, with power delivery expected to start in 2028 and to support the company’s goal of becoming carbon negative by 2030.
With the race on with numerous companies pursuing multiple different fusion technologies, Helion Energy with its pulsed non-ignition reactor technology believes it can become the first to deliver fusion generated energy on a commercial basis.
Helion Energy has been advancing its fusion technology for more than a decade and with its sixth prototype in mid-2021 became the first private fusion company to reach 100 million degree plasma temperatures – the minimum required for commercial scale fusion generation.
The company is currently building its seventh prototype, which is expected to demonstrate the ability to produce electricity in 2024. In addition to scaling up the earlier advancements the prototype is aimed to demonstrate the production of helium-3 – one of the fuel elements and otherwise difficult to find on the Earth – through deuterium-deuterium fusion
Helion Energy’s commercial plant is expected to target power generation of 50MW or greater after a 1-year ramp up period.
David Kirtley, CEO at Helion Energy, says the collaboration with Microsoft represents a significant milestone for the company and the fusion industry as a whole.
“We still have a lot of work to do, but we are confident in our ability to deliver the world’s first fusion power facility.”
Constellation Energy will serve as the power marketer and will manage transmission for the project.
National Grid’s London Power Tunnels a record breaker
National Grid is currently undertaking a major £1 billion (US$1.25 billion) initiative to rewire Britain’s capital with the replacement of ageing high voltage cables typically laid close to street level with new cables buried deep underground.
This London Power Tunnels project has now achieved what the company claims as a record with a continuous pour of 736m3 of earth-friendly – cement-free – concrete to infill the base of the 55m deep tunnel drive shaft at National Grid’s Hurst substation in South London.
The cement-free solution was developed by the Australian construction material company Wagners and uses a binder of ground granulated blast furnace slag and fly ash geopolymer concrete system chemically activated using industrial waste products instead of cement.
This concrete reduces carbon by around 64% saving an estimated 111kg of CO2 per cubic metre poured in comparison to concrete which would have traditionally been used – thus the pour saved an estimated 82t of CO2, the equivalent emissions of driving a petrol car around the world 18 times.
“We are always looking for new ways to innovate,” says National Grid Project Director, Onur Aydemir, commenting that the company will be evaluating the technology ahead of future possible rollout across its network in England and Wales as part of the ambition to achieve net zero construction across all projects by 2025/26.
Batteries from tree pulp
The British storage start-up Allotrope Energy has developed a new lithium-ion hybrid battery technology that can reach full charge in the time it takes to fuel a combustion engine.
Unlike traditional lithium-ion batteries which typically contain rare materials such as cobalt or nickel, Allotrope Energy’s battery technology uses carbon extracted from the pulp of trees.
Now, in what is Brazilian hardwood pulp producer Suzano’s first venture investment, the company has secured $6.7 million to further develop its technology, with the lithium-carbon batteries manufactured using carbon extracted from Suzano’s eucalyptus forests.
In addition, Suzano will make available its teams in Brazil and Canada to support the innovation and commercialisation of the technology, as well as the development of global supply chains and markets for batteries.
Suzano considers that Allotrope Energy’s technology has the potential to set new standards in ultra-fast charging applications and to transform the battery segment by unlocking new application opportunities.
Opportunities for their use are in different segments such as mobility, robotics and next-generation hybrid applications.
“We are excited that our first investment is in a company that can leverage a co-product from our own pulp production process as a key raw material in order to accelerate the global transition to zero emission mobility,” says Paula Puzzi, manager of Suzano Ventures.