Fusing atoms with lasers, featuring Thomas Forner and Pravesh Patel of Focused Energy

Investors are betting big on clean energy becoming the norm.

Fusing atoms with lasers, featuring Thomas Forner and Pravesh Patel of Focused Energy
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If this company perfectly combines lasers and atoms, the reaction could be worth trillions of dollars.

Focused Energy’s Thomas Forner, CEO, and Pravesh Patel, CTO, join us to talk about making lasers. Lots and lots of lasers. But for what aim? They are pointing hundreds of directed beams at a tiny target: a millimeter-sized plastic capsule of deuterium and tritium, about the size of a peppercorn. These experiments may reveal a commercial pathway to grid-scale fusion energy. In contrast to other pursuits for nearly limitless clean energy such as stellarators and tokamaks, our third installment of the Tough Tech Today fusion series spotlights Focused Energy’s inertial approach to excite hydrogen isotopes. 

Uniquely straddling the Atlantic to tap into specialized talent pools in Austin, Texas, and Darmstadt, Germany, this team is leveraging discoveries from top fusion labs in the U.S. and Europe. The company has spun out of the Technical University of Darmstadt and combined with talent from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where the first net energy gain from nuclear fusion was demonstrated in 2022.

In a planet hungry for energy, the company aims to generate significant revenues within a few years, fast-tracking commercialization of fusion energy while tapping into early revenues streams Focused Energy is deriving from testing other organizations’ technologies, cleaning up nuclear waste, and providing other valuable services as the company matures its laser drivers, high-gain ignition facility, and, eventually, establishes a pilot power plant. It is a lot of progress for a venture that has raised $82 million to date, including closing an $11 million Series A in 2023. From maintaining a permanent presence among regulators in Washington, D.C., to working with other energy companies to ‘educate the market’ about why fusion energy is now a venture-class investment opportunity, Forner, Patel, and the Focused Energy team exemplify a multinational collaboration of some of the world’s top minds.

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👏Credit Roll:

  • Producers: Jonathan 'JMill' Miller and Forrest Meyen
  • Guests: Thomas Forner and Pravesh Patel
  • Hosts: JMill and Forrest Meyen
  • Editing: JMill
  • Transcript: JMill
  • Blog Author: JMill
  • Art Design: JMill

🔖Topic Timecodes:

[1:50] Focused Energy’s approach to fusion
[6:07] Differences from WX-7
[7:41] Magnetic vs. inertial fusion
[11:16] How ignition discovery changed the inertial fusion industry
[12:46] Focused’s focus
[14:18] Biggest misconception about fusion in venture capital
[17:52] Comparison of risks between fusion, fission, and autonomous driving industry
[20:57] Developing in public vs private sector
[24:48] Founding story of Focused Energy
[28:23] Working between US and Germany
[34:30] Balancing cooperation and competition
[36:16] Connections to government and politics
[40:10] What’s on the whiteboard
[41:53] Number one technology priority for Focused Energy
[43:28] How does inertial fusion work?
[48:30] Focused Energy is hiring


Transcript is viewable here: https://otter.ai/u/FZ0G5HdS6LzLW65sRvBJrHcnzD4

Listen to the episode.