What You Really Need to Know About This Synthesis News

Commonwealth is working on a compact, relatively inexpensive reactor that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars instead of the billions it took to build NIF. His approach relies on superconducting materials to create super-strong magnetic fields that can hold plasma in place for fusion reactions (temperatures are too high to use conventional materials to hold fuel in place).

Some fusion experts say practical reactors that can be used to generate significant amounts of power are still decades away. But Commonwealth and other startups have a more ambitious time frame in mind, planning to build demonstration projects within a few years and power plants in about a decade. Commonwealth announced last year that it had raised $1.8 billion in venture capital to make this happen.

The NIF news is likely to be a great boon to the fusion field as a whole, generating more interest and investment. But this is no guarantee that inertial confinement or any other approach to fusion will be commercially successful. Achieving net gains in one type of reactor does not necessarily extend to others, so tokamaks and other reactors will need to have their own breakthrough on the road to fusion power.

For more details on the news, including how much power it took to fire these lasers, check out my story. I would also recommend this cover from The Atlantic, which dives into the history of the fusion hype. For a look at what the path ahead looks like for the Commonwealth and other private fusion businesses, see James’s in-depth February article.

Keep up with the climate

A new report predicts that renewable energy sources could surpass coal as the world’s largest energy source as early as 2025.. (Washington Post)

Crazy new idea for solar panels: just mount them on the ground to save on installation costs. (Canarian media)

In other news about solar panels, Researchers are working on “two-sided” solar cells that can be powered from either side. (The energy of nature)

The US may finance mining operations abroadto increase the supply of materials needed for electric vehicles. (Axios)

→ New U.S. tax credits for electric vehicles could face hurdles due to material shortage. (MIT Technology Review)

Here’s what electric car tax breaks mean for you if you are trying to buy a car in the US soon. (NBC)

New maps show how different areas affect the climate in different ways. Estimates show that dense cities tend to be the most climate-friendly, while suburbs and wealthier areas have higher emissions. (The newspaper “New York Times)

Mini cars are gaining popularity in Asia and they are better suited to the climate. Here’s what it takes to get them to the US. (bloomberg)

JetBlue resets offsets, focusing instead on sustainable aviation fuels. (edge)

Alternative fuels still face major challenges, but the aviation industry relies on them to meet climate challenges. (MIT Technology Review)

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