3 min read

#33 - Fuel the fusion marathon

#33 - Fuel the fusion marathon

The birth of the fusion ecosystem

I've read it all over the internet since the beginning of January: 2024 will be the year of nuclear fusion!

About 40 start-ups dream of bringing down to Earth the energy that powers the stars, and some $6 billion worth of private investment has been poured into the sector.

Nuclear fusion is not a technology, it's a set of technologies (laser, magnet, etc.). Add to these the teams of young talents developing new skills and you're watching the birth of an ecosystem.

How nuclear fusion works:

Producing electricity through nuclear fusion is likely a few decades away, yet the growing ecosystem is laying the foundations now.

The fuel needed for the nuclear reaction is a particular building block in the fusion structure. One that is needed today!

Fuelling the fusion industry

Most fusion technologies rely on a Deuterium-Tritium fuel mix. Both are isotopes of hydrogen. Deuterium is stable and relatively abundant in nature, so far so good. However, Tritium is scarce, unstable and radioactive!

Inside the reactor, Tritium is quickly consumed by the fusion reaction. To sustain operations at a commercial scale, constant replenishment will be imperative for centrals.

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The natural steady-state global inventory of Tritium is about 7 kg.

The processing and availability of Tritium is a fundamental challenge for the development of the industry. At scale, fusion reactors must breed their own Tritium, recycling it in a closed fuel cycle.

Marathon Fusion

Here comes Marathon Fusion. Disclaimer: I'm happy to say that I've made an angel investment in this start-up. My first one!

The San Fransisco-based start-up is developing a commercially-ready fuel processing component (the superpermeable hydrogen pump). The technology will dramatically reduce:

  • costs
  • processing time
  • inventory required
Marathon dream team (left to right): Kyle Schiller, Adam Rutkowski and Adrien Benusiglio

With letters of intent from major fusion players such as Commonwealth Fusion Systems and Helion Energy, Marathon Fusion is very well positioned to incorporate its technology in future deployments of centrals.

The infrastructure play

Marathon Fusion is an enabler. As a fusion technology provider, they have opportunities to partner across the ecosystem, collaborating with public and private entities.

If just a few of the 40-odd start-ups seeking breakthroughs in fusion technology succeed, Marathon stands to benefit. As a key hardware supplier to the industry, Marathon is less exposed to scientific risks and can generate revenues sooner.

The technology is currently in the TRL3 stage. I will most likely lose all my money. But if I don't, this would be a big hit! Let's find out!

Thank you for reading!
Colin Rebel
LinkedIn / Twitter