Scientists from Google, Tesla and Harvard have joined a German nuclear fusion start-up as it pulls in $8m in fresh funding to pursue its quest of limitless green energy through “stellarator” technology.
Proxima Fusion announced securing the extension to its pre-seed funding from numerous unicorn founders and industrial leaders for its “moonshot” bid to revolutionise the energy sector.
The start-up said it has also brought in new investment from venture capital firms including Visionaries Tomorrow, engineering group Bosch Holdings and a “pool of angel investors.”
The new funding has helped Proxima bring in what it said are leading scientists and engineers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, the Technical University of Munich, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard and Stanford.
Outside of the academic sphere, others have arrived from US tech and engineering giants Google and Tesla.
Proxima says it is the first-ever spin-out from Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, building on the “groundbreaking success" of its W7-X stellarator. That machine is the largest of its type worldwide and has claimed a string of breakthroughs since being switched on in 2016.
Proxima was founded in January by scientists from Max Planck, MIT and Google spin-off X, which markets itself as “the moonshot factory”.
Proxima is developing a stellarator, a machine scientists believe could deliver limitless clean power from nuclear fusion, the process that powers stars.
Stellarators use magnetic fields to hold plasma in the shape of a doughnut, called a torus. This allows scientists to manipulate the plasma to try and reach ignition – the point at which a fusion reaction becomes self-sustaining instead of requiring a constant input of energy.
Stellarators have a complex twisting design that is very difficult to build but produces more stable plasma. This is opposed to the machine's better-known cousin, the tokamak, which is said to be easier to manufacture – and has long dominated the fusion sector – but is harder to use.
Proxima aims to show net energy production in 2031 and develop a first-of-its-kind fusion power plant in the 2030s.
“We are determined to make Proxima Fusion a European clean energy champion,” said Proxima Fusion co-founder and CEO Francesco Scortino. “Over the past 10 months, we have demonstrated quality of execution, again and again.”
“We are thrilled at the unicorn founders, family offices and industry leaders who have now invested in Proxima, many of them via the Visionaries Tomorrow fund, and will support us along the way.”