Analysts at UBS, citing professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), have said nuclear fusion as a viable energy source, one of the biggest prizes in mankind’s drive for unlimited clean power, could become a reality by 2025 and commercially available in the next decade.
In a note on Monday, the Swiss bank said Dennis Whyte, professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, had highlighted that the university’s NET SPARC project expects to achieve net fusion energy gain, when the power produced by a fusion reaction is greater than the power needed to cause it, by 2025 and that commercial applications for the technology “could follow in the 2030s”.
The bank said commercially viable fusion energy “could change our otherwise pessimistic outlook on global carbon emissions” and could also become a competing technology for renewable energy, which in turn may affect investor willingness to pay for wind and solar earnings “over very long time frames”.
Unlike nuclear fission, which involves splitting an atom, nuclear fusion (surprisingly) aims to fuse atoms together through immense pressure and heat, the same process the sun uses to generate energy.
However, replicating the process on Earth has always required more energy to perform the fusion reaction than the energy produced, however, if this balance can be inverted and replicated at lower temperatures, known as ‘cold fusion’, the process could potentially produce limitless amounts of clean energy.
Such a development could be good news for Industrial Heat, a North Caroline-based firm that focuses on developing power sources that run on low-energy nuclear reactions, which has received backing in the past from notable figures including movie star Brad Pitt and former UK star fund manager Neil Woodford.