Peter Thiel Has Another Quixotic Hobby
So it turns out slightly-eccentric venture capitalist Peter Thiel has another hobby -- besides making pots of money.
It's nuclear fusion -- an appropriate crusade for a guy who was widely mocked in his home community of Silicon Valley for supporting Donald Trump's presidential run.
Fusion energy technology is similarly derided as quixotic.
As Bloomberg's Eric Roston puts it, "Nuclear fusion, which would harness the power of the sun without all the nasty byproducts, is a long-shot—politically, financially, and technologically."
The technology has been just 'thirty years away' -- for "at least four decades."
That hasn't stopped Thiel from investing in research via "Helion Enegy, a start-up in Redmond, Wash., that is trying to commercialize its research."
"Helion hopes to make a fusion generator that’s 1,000 times smaller, 500 times cheaper, and 10 times faster than more conventional, massive projects, according to its website. The company is building a 'magneto-inertial fusion' generator. It produces power by injecting heated hydrogen and helium at high speed (a million miles an hour) into a 'burn chamber,' where a strong magnetic field compresses the plasma to a temperature high enough to initiate fusion. Energy from the reaction is used to generate electricity."
Roston points out that it may not be smart to reflexively dismiss ideas because they haven't panned out yet.
"The same never-going-to-happen criticism applied to hydraulic fracturing, the technique that made the U.S. a natural gas superpower within the last decade," he writes. "Patented in 1949, 'fracking' never worked—until it did..."