Reading Time: 3 minutes


– UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and First Light Fusion collaborate on ‘Fusion Island’ project

– Project part funded by grant from Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)

– First Light Fusion on track to demonstrate fusion in 2019

One of the world’s leading centres of fusion energy research and First Light Fusion, Oxford University’sfusion spin-out, are collaborating on a project to convert fusion reactions into heat to enable clean power production.

Fusion holds the promise of safe, clean and virtually limitless power. It has the potential to transform the world’s energy supply if it can be applied successfully to power generation.

First Light Fusion is planning to demonstrate fusion by the middle of 2019. The company plans to demonstrate gain – generating more energy than that required to create fusion reactions – by 2024. No fusion energy project has achieved this yet.

A key step in the development of First Light’s vision is the creation of a ‘fusion island’, a sub-system that converts fusion energy into heat and manages fuel supply in a fusion power plant.

Thanks in part to an Energy Entrepreneurs Fund grant from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), a fusion island concept development project is now underway involving collaboration with the world-renowned UKAEA facility at Culham. The Energy Entrepreneurs Fund is a competitive funding scheme created by BEIS to support the development and demonstration of state of the art technologies, products and processes in the areas of energy efficiency, power generation and heat and electricity storage.

Nick Hawker, Founder and CEO of First Light Fusion said: 

We are excited to work together with UKAEA on the fusion island concept. UKAEA are the worlds foremost experts in fusion and fusion enabling technologies and they are our ideal partners for this exciting projectWe are also proud of the grant we have been awarded. We believe that the UK is one of the very best countries in the world in which to pursue our endeavour, powering a world worth inheriting. We are delighted that BEIS has recognised the quality, value and credibility of the work we have done so far.

Ian Chapman, CEO of UKAEA said: 

Fusion energy is an extraordinarily important area, and UKAEA is proud to be the home to world-leading expertise in the field. We are very pleased to be able to work with First Light Fusion, and provide them with access to these capabilities for their exciting fusion programme.

Editors notes

In July, First Light Fusion successfully fired the first test ‘shot’ on one of the six limbs of its newly-constructed pulsed power machine and swiftly proceeded to test three-limb shots in September. The full machine is currently being commissioned, ahead of schedule.

Once fully commissioned, Machine 3 will be the only pulsed power machine of its scale in the world dedicated to researching fusion energy. Machine 3 can discharge up to 200,000 volts and more than 14 million ampere – the equivalent of nearly 500 simultaneous lightning strikes – within two microseconds. The £3.6m machine will use some 3km of high voltage cables and another 10km of diagnostic cables.

Machine 3 will be used to further research First Light Fusion’s technology as the company seeks to demonstrate first fusion in 2019. The following step in the technological development will be to achieve ‘gain’, whereby the amount of energy created outstrips that used to spark the reaction. No fusion energy project has achieved this yet. Fusion is the ultimate source of the universe’s energy and is the same process that powers stars, including the Sun.

First Light uses a high-velocity projectile to create a shockwave to collapse a cavity containing plasma inside a ‘target’. The design of these targets is First Light’s technical USP.

First Light’s approach to fusion, which is safe, clean and virtually limitless (with the source of energy drawn from the deuterium contained in sea water), has the potential to transform the world’s energy supply if it can be applied successfully to power generation. Unlike existing nuclear power, there is no long-lived waste and raw materials can be found in abundance. As demand for alternatives to carbon-based energy grows, mainstream scientists and research institutions are looking to fusion power to answer the world’s energy requirements.

About First Light Fusion 

First Light Fusion was founded by Professor Yiannis Ventikos, who is currently the Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department at University College, London, and Dr Nicholas Hawker, formerly an Engineering lecturer at Lady Margaret HallOxford.

The company was spun out from the University of Oxford in July 2011, with seed capital from IP Group plc, Parkwalk Advisors Ltd and private investors. Invesco and OSI provided follow-on capital.

The business has developed from a research-focused university project to a fully-fledged company that has developed not only a strategy for how to make fusion energy work, but also a sustainable business model based on the technology.

The team comprises experts in relevant scientific and engineering fields plus the management experience necessary to address the challenges which lie ahead.

The company has been able to attract a world class advisory board, meaning it can benefit from decades of relevant experience to help it streamline the path towards realising its vision.