Helion Energy, Inc. is an American company in Redmond, WA developing a magneto-inertial fusion power technology called The Fusion Engine.[1] Their approach combines the stability of magnetic containment and once-per-second heating pulsed inertial fusion.[2] They are working on the development of a 50 MW scale system that they hope to have working by 2019.[3][4]


Helion Energy is a spin-off of Redmond company MSNW LLC[5] that develops space propulsion and fusion energy related technologies. The CEO is David Kirtley, Chief Science Officer is John Slough and CTO is Chris Pihl. The primary fusion technology was developed by Slough, also a research professor at the University of Washington, with additional technologies generated by Pihl and Kirtley.

The management team won the 2013 National Cleantech Open Energy Generation competition and awards at the 2014 ARPA-E Future Energy Startup competition.[2]

According to published documents, the Fusion Engine technology is based on the Inductive Plasmoid Accelerator (IPA) experiments[6][7] performed at MSNW LLC from 2005 through 2012. This ‘Engine’ operates at 1 Hz, injecting plasma, compressing it to fusion conditions, expanding it and directly recovering the energy to provide electricity.[8] The IPA experiments claimed 300 km/s velocities, deuterium neutron production, and 2 keV duterium ion temperatures.[7]

Helion intends to use helium-3/deuterium fuel. This fuel allows essentially aneutronic fusion that produces only a small amount of low-energy neutrons. The helium is captured and reused, eliminating supply concerns.[2]

Fusion reaction: 2D+3He→ 4He+ 1p+ 18.3 MeV

The IPA experiments used deuterium-deuterium fusion, which produces a 2.4 MeV neutron per reaction. Helion and MSNW published articles describing a deuterium-tritium implementation which is the easiest to achieve but generate 14 MeV neutrons.


This fusion approach uses the magnetic field of a Field Reversed Configuration (FRC) plasmoid (operated with solid state electronics derived from power switching electronics in wind turbines) to prevent plasma losses. An FRC is a magnetized plasma configuration notable for its closed field lines, high Beta and lack of internal penetrations.[2]


To inject the plasmoid into the fusion ‘burn’ chamber two plasmoids are accelerated at high velocity with pulsed magnetic fields and merge into a single plasmoid at high pressure.[2] Their experiments achieved plasmas of 1.5 Tesla and 2 keV temperatures. Published records show plans to compress fusion plasmas to 12 Tesla.[9]

Energy Generation

Energy is captured by direct energy conversion that translates high-energy alpha particles directly into a voltage. This eliminates the need for steam turbines and cooling towers (and the associated energy losses).[2]


Helion Energy received $7 million in funding from NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of Defense,[10] followed by $1.5 million from the private sector in August 2014, through the seed accelerators Y Combinator and Mithril Capital Management.[11] The company raised an additional $10.6 million in July, 2015. $200 million will be needed for the commercial pilot plant. The plan would be to start building commercial systems by 2022.[

* The Fusion Engine is compact (semi-truck sized) will be able to generate lower cost electricity than current baseload power sources.
Revenue Model

Helion Energy’s strategy is to generate revenue based on a royalty model of electricity produced with projected electricity prices of 40-60 $/MWhr (4 to 6 cents per kwh). Penetration of the new capacity market is estimated at 20% of market growth (2.5%) per annum eventually reaching 50% of new power generation worldwide – $52 B/yr. Gradual displacement of existing supplies enables continued growth to 20% of world electrical generation after 20 years with a net return of over $300 billion.[2]

" - Helion Energy website".
"Next Big Future: Helion Energy raised $10.9 million and has filed to raise $21 million which would be enough to build a breakeven scale fusion machine in 2016-2017". Retrieved 2015-08-21.
"Helion Executive Summary" (PDF).
"Cleantech Open Announcement 2013".
" - MSNW LLC website".
Votroubek, G.; Slough, J.; Andreason, S.; Pihl, C. (June 2008). "Formation of a Stable Field Reversed Configuration through Merging". Journal of Fusion Energy (Springer Science+Business Media) 27 (1-2): 123–127. doi:10.1007/s10894-007-9103-4.
Slough, John; Votroubek, George; Pihl, Chris (13 April 2011). "Creation of a high-temperature plasma through merging and compression of supersonic field reversed configuration plasmoids". Nuclear Fusion (International Atomic Energy Agency) 51 (5). doi:10.1088/0029-5515/51/5/053008.
Svoboda, Elizabeth (21 June 2011). "Is Fusion Power Finally For Real?". Popular Mechanics.
Hambling, David (16 August 2011). "New Scientist Small Fusion Startups Aim for Breakeven". New Scientist.
Halper, Mark (30 April 2013). "The nearness of fusion: The materials and coolant challenges facing one fusion company mirror fission". The Alvin Weinberg Foundation.
Russell, Kyle (14 August 2014). "Y Combinator And Mithril Invest In Helion, A Nuclear Fusion Startup". TechCrunch.

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