Nuclear fusion is the holy grail of sustainable energy — a potentially unlimited source of pollution-free electricity that can power the world. No greenhouse gas emissions. Only helium and a neutron are produced. Now Google has jumped into the race to commercialize nuclear fusion technology, teaming up with California-based fusion company Tri Alpha Energy to develop a new computer algorithim that optimizes plasma — an ionized gas that conducts electricity.

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“Google is always interested in solving complex engineering problems, and few are more complex than fusion,” wrote Ted Baltz, senior staff software engineer, Google Accelerated Science Team, on Google’s research blog. “Physicists have been trying since the 1950s to control the fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium, which is the same process that powers the Sun. The key to harnessing this power is to confine hydrogen plasmas for long enough to get more energy out from fusion reactions than was put in. This point is called ‘breakeven.’ If it works, it would represent a technological breakthrough, and could provide an abundant source of zero-carbon energy.”

Related: These mini spherical reactors could help scale fusion energy by 2030

nuclear fusion, Google, Tri Alpha Energy

The research was published Tuesday in the journal Scientific Reports. The Optometrist Algorithm achieved a 50 percent reduction in the energy loss rate and an increase in ion temperature and total plasma energy.

Other private and public entities are racing to become the first to bring nuclear fusion to scale. Experimental testing includes the Iter project in France, the Wendelstein 7-X (W7X) stellarator in Germany and the Tokamak ST40 reactor in the UK. General Fusion, a Canadian company, is also working to develop nuclear fusion technology.

+ Tri Alpha Energy

+ Achievement of Sustained Net Plasma Heating in a Fusion Experiment with the Optometrist Algorithm

Via The Guardian

Images via Tri Alpha Energy, Google Research Blog