The start-up Marvel Fusion and Munich’s Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität are collaborating on research into a new approach to nuclear fusion based on lasers. One of the most powerful lasers in the world on the university campus in Garching near Munich is to check the foundations on which Marvel wants to build new types of fusion power plants, as the university and companies announced on Thursday. Marvel, which is based in Munich, wants to invest several million euros in this.
The Free State is also giving 2.5 million euros, which, however, will flow into improving the laser at the Center for Advanced Laser Applications (Cala), which is used for research in a wide variety of areas. So Marvel only benefits indirectly from the funding.
Marvel’s goal is to build fusion power plants within ten years, in which extremely short but strong laser pulses are used to fuse the element boron with protons to form three helium particles. The aim is to release energy from which electricity can be generated.
Unlike nuclear fission, nuclear fusion does not produce large amounts of long-radiating garbage. In addition, catastrophic chain reactions are excluded. The classic approach to nuclear fusion, which has been pursued for decades, attempts to hold plasma together with the help of magnetic fields and to heat it up very intensely.
However, for a number of years there have been a number of companies that want to produce the fusion with the help of lasers. Marvel wants to shoot tiny, very specially shaped targets with multiple lasers. This should accelerate particles in the targets so much that they collide and fuse.
It is not yet certain whether the technology will work. Nuclear fusion is “the long-term promise for solving the major energy issues,” said the Bavarian Minister of Science, Markus Blume, when the cooperation agreement was signed.
One will see whether physics allows what one promises. In Bavaria you have the chance to make a contribution that goes far beyond the existing approaches to fusion.
The way is also financially long: according to Marvel, it has so far raised around 60 million euros in capital. If the power plant were to be built, the costs would be many times over, at several billion euros.