Mr. T.M. found this story and shared it, and it's on one of those topics we follow here: fusion, and its investors. In this respect, the story is important to pass along. But there's some things here hiding in the text that also ought to ring a bell, if you take my meaning. Here's the article:

The Secretive, Billionaire -backed Plans to Harness Fusion

We've all heard the recent story of the various Rockefeller foundations divesting themselves of petroleum stocks, and that means they probably won't be buying shares of Saudi Arabian Aramco, nor Saudi soverign bonds. I commented on this story some time ago, and at the time, my suspicion was that a move that large would not happen unless there may be some news percolating privately through the backchannels of financial power. This BBC article raises a similar prospect with respect to a very secretive fusion engineering company, Tri-Alpha energy:

Around 1,300 miles (2000km) south of General Fusion's headquarters, you'll find another firm in the vanguard of venture-backed fusion – or, more likely, you won't. Tri Alpha Energy, based in Orange County, California, has been notoriously secretive since it was founded in 1998: until last year, it had no public address, no readily available contact information – not even a website. Two of the company's scientists approached for this story did not reply. This low profile hasn't kept investors from noticing the company: Tri Alpha's backers include Paul Allen; the Rockefeller family's venture-capital firm, Venrock; and the Russian government's nanotech-investment arm, Rusnano. (In keeping with the theme of secrecy, Allen's company, Vulcan Inc, doesn't list Tri Alpha in its investment portfolio, and a Vulcan spokeswoman declined requests to interview someone there about the fusion firm.)

Now, you'll notice something about the approach that Tri-Alpha is taking:

Tri Alpha has staked its claim on a reactor design called a “field-reversed configuration.” This type of device has more in common with Iter's tokamak-style reactor than General Fusion’s machine: it uses magnetic confinement and heat, rather than compression, to induce fusion, and it produces energy continuously, instead of in bursts.

The advantage of a field-reversed configuration over a tokamak is that its engineering is much simpler. But from a physics perspective, the technology is far less well-developed. Zarnstorff, who has visited Tri Alpha's headquarters, says the company is still “orders of magnitude away” from the plasma temperatures and confinement times needed for fusion.

And the fuel Tri-Alpha plans to use is no less unusual:

To make matters more difficult, Tri Alpha is aiming to use a fuel made up of the isotope boron-11 and a proton, rather than the more basic deuterium-tritium blend. This fuel would produce less radioactivity than deuterium-tritium, but would demand much higher temperatures, and experts are dubious of its feasibility. “That is so extremely difficult, I'm not sure anybody will ever be able to do it,” Fowler says.

Like other private fusion firms – and in contrast to public efforts – Tri Alpha is taking an engineering-first, physics-later approach to fusion, says Zarnstorff. “They're almost saying, if I simplify it in these ways, can I get it to work?”

...Boron...enegineering, not theory, first, and even Rockefellers. Tuck those things in the back of your mind.

Earlier in the article, the more unusual approach of General Fusion, a firm backed by amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is mentioned, and in fact, this approach has been around for a while, and I even blogged about it many years ago, so many years in fact, that the blog may now be lost. But to make a long story short, Global Fusion's Michael Laberge's different approach is summarized by the article here:

Laberge knew there were lots of off-path fusion approaches out there. “All those alternative ways of doing fusion were very little supported,” he explains, because the mainstream methods “were swallowing up most of the resources.” The approach he decided to pursue, called “magnetised target fusion,” was one such alternative.

Here's how it works: first, magnetic fields are used to confine a superheated plasma of volatile deuterium and tritium isotopes. This plasma is then injected into a sphere, where it's briefly contained in a vortex of liquid metal. Next, pistons converging towards the centre of the sphere simultaneously strike an anvil at the end of their cylinder, sending a shock wave into the plasma. This burst of energy causes the plasma to compress and the deuterium-tritium fuel to ignite – producing, in theory, a tremendous burst of energy.

There you have it: vortices, i.e., rotation, a plasma contained within that rotation under magnetic confinement, and then... shockwaves.

Bow if you're paying attention, this sounds a bit like Ronald Richter's fusion experiments for Juan Peron back in the 1950s: there too, plasmas were put into rotation, and then shocked, not with acoustic shock waves, but high voltage electrical arcing. The result - at least according to Richter, not his detractors - was a fusion process that transduced additional energy from the zero point energy (his phrase, not mine).  As the article itself observes, these acoustic shock waves are caused by pistons that have to be set off simultaneously in order to cause symmetrical compression of the shock waves, something only achievable with computers. There's another odd resemblance here to previous fusion projects as well, and that is the strangely siimilar appearance of Global Fusion's apparatus to that of Philo Farnsworth's plamator and fusor devices which were patented in the early 1960s. In those devices, magnetic "virtual" electrodes were used to confine a plasma which achived fusion energies by the concurrent bombardment of nuclei shot into a central region. And there's one final odd little bit of data that caught my attention, and that is the use of Boron by Tri Alpha's process. Again, for those paying attention, it will be recalled that Richter "doped" his fusion experiments, which were apparently using lithium-deuteride (with high concentrations of lithium-7...Castle Bravo afficionados take note), with(you guessed it) boron.

So what am I getting at here? Well, most of my high octane speculations will have to await part two's installment of this blog tomorrow, but basically, there are a number of suggestive and qualitative resemblances of these approaches to the fusion experiments that were conducted decades ago. And that raises the prospects considerably, in the form of two questions: (1) did this work continue, privately, and secretly? and (2) if so, why the corporate, and in particular, Rockefeller, interest in it now?

That high octane speculation will have to wait until tomorrow. Until then, I'll...

...see you on the flip side...


  1. What I can’t get is with cold fusion why is the corporation industrial complex enchanted with sixty to seventy year old Rube Goldberg hot fusion. Are there nasty military uses for this technology we the public know nothing of more terror to keep under their iron heel.

  2. In 194 the victorious powers of WW11 met in Bretton Woods and did the typical reverse-projection signature policy apparatus: declare they were wiping Fascism off the face of the globe; when in fact, they were putting fascism on a globalized steroids program.
    Their endgame is to break public services by financing them to bankruptcy and at the point of failure to replace them entirely with privately owned, profit-making services.
    Here we see the Nazi-Fascist energy coming to fruition. Probably on their monopolized-train-tracked dystopian-timeline.

  3. Fusion is IMHO, an antique technology. That, like Tesla, if there was really “Free Market Capitalism” instead of “Chrony Capitali(z)m”. Would have been on the marked decades ago. Tesla’s tech, if it had be let off the leash, would have made Cold Fusion obsolete. Because, we would have had total de-Centralized power. Let’s not mention we’d have been mining the asteroid belt in the 70’s-80’s. Oh, wait! We were. Silly me.

    So, the PTB have worked very hard to find a Centrialised power break through to keep everyone on the reservation and worshiping at the power pole. But, only after they rode the oil horse 50-100 yrs beyond where it should have succumb. The amount of death and destruction they brought forth to keep oil on the thrown, defies description. I’ve seen promising distributive alternative energy inventions run into the ground, in favor of the larger “Utility Model” leviathons. That have kept the status quo.

    1. Aridzonan_13, I think you have nailed it. No post-oil energy scheme will be allowed, unless it is centralized. And thus both controlled and monopoly-profitable. All the little-known tidbits of energy-history fall into place, with that mindset…

      The big question is: “Why Now?” Is it mundane, like Central Banks feeling that they have won the game? Or, is it a timeline-based decision, like Apophis (the asteroid) will arrive in 2036 and we’d better be ready for it? Or, have off-planet parties drawn that proverbial line-in-the-sand and said “back-off and allow humanity to prosper, or we will disclose for you”?

      Interesting times…

      1. JPF/CAF have discussed this. Where IF the BRICSA / Rest of the World jettisons the $FRN. THEN PTB will jump start the next tech / materials / mfg bubble in the US and make the rest of the world unable to compete. Keeping $FRN on top and commodity prices low. A space based economy might be in the cards and all that off world money might start coming home. But, key to all of this is will “cheap energy”. IMHO, the new centralized energy tech will take a big bite out of renewables too. Renewables pose too much of a decentralization threat.

        1. Aridzonan_13, I have thought about TPTB returning manufacturing to the US, but only after the average man/woman on the street is sufficiently ‘cowed’ to accept a job at ANY wage and with minimum/no perks. (This maximizes corporate profits, but the cowing timing MUST be seen as a coincidence.) Your ‘scenario’ would work within this picture…

          On renewables, I have watched how TPTB have played with venture capitalists through several business cycles. TPTB raise oil prices high enough and long enough to cause entrepreneurs to kick-in serious money for now-justifiable renewables. Then, just as the renewables start to catch hold, TPTB lower the price of oil to where renewables are cost-ineffective. As a result, the renewable companies go bust. Rinse and repeat. It is like watching a cat playing with a caught bird or mouse…

          1. Yep, and in a system where no one makes a livable wage (or should I say enough money for living outside the extremely auster living system they are designing for us) you have to beef up the welfare state. You have to have a monopoly on the necessities so you can still live the rich life while everyone else is starving and living in a state provided prison cell/micro living coffin. Some corporations might give extra perks to valued employees but this will diminish over time as the owners get more and callous and entitled over their slaves.

          2. Roger, I just don’t understand WHY the average man/woman doesn’t see that they are being set-up for a classic feudal society (nobles & serfs)…

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