Energy

Star Power: The Quest to Harness the Limitless Potential of Fusion Energy

After experiencing the hottest July on record, the world is increasingly focused on clean, abundant energy sources to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis caused by the decades-long depletion of natural resources and global dependence on fossil fuels. Transforming our industrial and energy systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the main driver behind the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events has not only become a global priority, but a necessity.

While global investments in clean energy are set to reach $1.7 trillion by 2023 the global transformation needed to harness near-limitless, safe, near zero carbon emissions energy without creating the radioactive waste associated with current nuclear fission reactors was considered to be decades away, until now.

Nuclear Fusion and Tesla's Legacy: The Quest for a Limitless Carbon-Free Energy Source

Nikola Tesla, widely considered one of the greatest inventors in history, envisioned a future of unlimited, free energy for all without the need for fossil fuels, developing a free electricity model that would have had the potential to alleviate and avoid societal and environmental crises currently facing current and future generations. Although he was unable to complete his unlimited energy model, Tesla’s vision is one step closer to reality through recent breakthroughs in nuclear fusion development and research. Since the emergence of nuclear fusion theory in the 1930s, scientists and engineers have attempted to harness and replicate the limitless energy of nuclear fusion at an industrial scale to access unlimited and affordable energy, easily meeting the world's energy demand.

The goal to harness the limitless potential of fusion energy is now within reach, as scientists at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California achieved, for the first time in history, a fusion power breakthrough resulting in a net energy gain in December 2022, repeating their breakthrough in an experiment on July 30th, 2023 that achieved an even higher energy output. This represents a historic step in the decades-long quest for an unlimited source of clean energy, as nuclear fusion consists of two light atomic nuclei combined to form a single heavier one while releasing massive amounts of energy from the leftover mass without depleting natural resources or emitting harmful greenhouse gases.

If fusion energy can become commercially available by the 2030’s, fusion could generate four times more energy per kilogram of fuel than fission (currently used in nuclear power plants) and almost four million times more energy than burning coal or oil .

Many of the nuclear fusion concepts being developed will utilize a mixture of deuterium and tritium, which are hydrogen atoms containing extra neutrons. Theoretically, a few grams of these reactants could produce a terajoule of energy which equals approximately the energy one person needs over sixty years. Nuclear fusion energy projects such as the ITER project in Saint Paul-lez-Durance, France, a collaboration of 35 countries are building the world's largest tokamak, which will be the largest and most powerful fusion device in the world. The tokamak, designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy, is a magnetic fusion device based on the same principles powering the sun and stars. With its extraordinary future vision of fusion energy, ITER brings the promise of limitless clean energy within our global reach for an unlimited clean energy source set to sustainably transform the modern world.

Actionable Insights: Fusion’s Potential as a Global Energy Solution

A survey by the Fusion Industry Association found that commercial funding for nuclear fusion research had more than doubled between 2021 and 2022 to $4.8 billion. Although the commercialization of fusion energy continues to develop, investors can be part of the next frontier of the carbon-free, unlimited fusion energy future by incorporating the following insights into a well-diversified risk-adjusted portfolio:

Stay Informed About Research Milestones:

Keep a close watch on significant milestones achieved by fusion research projects and companies. Advancements such as successful plasma containment, increased energy output, and breakthroughs in materials science are indicative of the continued progress being made towards commercial viability.

Diversify Across Clean Energy Sectors:

In addition to nuclear fusion, investors can diversify their portfolios across various clean energy sectors, such as solar, wind, hydropower, and electric vehicles. The fusion revolution may catalyze advancements and synergies in other renewable energy sources, creating a ripple effect of growth across the entire clean energy industry. Diversifying across multiple sustainable energy sectors can help mitigate risks while capturing potential growth opportunities in different areas of the market.

Focus on Long-Term Investment Horizons:

Recognize that fusion energy investment requires a long-term horizon. Fusion technology is complex and still evolving as a sector, with pending regulatory approvals and large-scale implementation timelines. Patience, and a focus on companies with solid research, partnerships, and government support can position investors for potential future risk-adjusted returns.

Fast-Tracking the Future: How Nuclear Fusion Powers the SDGs Beyond 2030

The timescale of commercial fusion energy is accelerating, and the next decades are crucially important to place the world on a path towards reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

As a nearly limitless source of energy, fusion energy could solve some of the world's most urgent global challenges beyond climate change, such as poverty reduction, clean water scarcity, and access to reliable and affordable electricity. If made commercially available, fusion energy could transform the world as we know it, eliminating global dependence on fossil fuels for a future that provides equitable, affordable and limitless access to the most powerful energy source available: the power of the sun and stars.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Aisha Williams

Entrepreneur, futurist, and sustainability activist, Aisha is dedicated to reimagining the future of impact and sustainability as the Founder and CEO of ImpactVest. Recognized as a prominent emerging asset management firm and a member of the Council for Inclusive Capitalism, ImpactVest is committed to a mission that drives positive change.

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