Xi'an Daily Interview with Startorus Fusion: Challenging Engineering Limits, Exploring Ultimate
Company News2023-09-21 10:08:00 All >

Startorus Fusion has always committed itself to the commercial application of fusion energy and related technological research and development. The company takes it upon itself to build China's first commercial controlled fusion reactor and focuses on the miniaturization, commercialization, and rapid iteration of controlled fusion energy devices. The company is dedicated to becoming a global leading fusion energy technology enterprise that integrates research and development, design, and operation and maintenance.

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Reports by Xi’an Daily, Xi’an Evening News and Xiancn


The following article is sourced from Xi'an Daily, by reporter Ding Qianjin.

https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/E6uSTMakqPg8pRviyY-Ozw

"I have a beautiful wish, to grow up and plant the sun..." This popular children's song from the 1980s, "Planting the Sun," remains fresh in the memories of many Chinese people. The imagination of children, dreaming of "planting" the sun, is truly extraordinary. However, who would have thought that decades later, this dream would turn into reality? Astonishingly, a high-tech company in Xi’an has actually “grown a sun”.

The company from Xi'an, Shaanxi Startorus Fusion, which "grows artificial sun", has captured numerous prestigious accolades, positioning itself as a potential unicorn company, a national leader in hard technology, and a provincially reserve-listed company. Despite being established for less than two years, Startorus Fusion has managed to create this extraordinary feat. What magical methods has this company employed to "grow" an artificial sun?

Xi'an Company Producing the "Artificial Sun"

The 2023 China (Suzhou) Unicorn Enterprise Conference released the “2023 China Potential Unicorn Enterprise Research Report” in June this year. Startorus Fusion was listed on the "China Potential Unicorn Enterprise List."

Unicorn enterprises refer to those companies that have been established for no more than 10 years, with a valuation exceeding one billion US dollars and possess business models that are difficult to replicate. The quantity and quality of unicorn enterprises serve as an indicator of the innovation capacity and innovation ecosystem of a region. Unicorn enterprises bear the important mission of technological revolution and industrial transformation. They are the driving force behind exploiting new fields and tracks, representing the new economy and new formats, and leading social innovation.

Startorus Fusion is precisely such a "unicorn" that leads industry transformation.

Most of the energy used ultimately comes from the sun. Inside the sun, under high temperatures and pressure, unceasing nuclear fusion reactions release tremendous amounts of energy. If humans can achieve controlled nuclear fusion, stable energy will be obtained, potentially solving resource crises. This controlled nuclear fusion technology is therefore referred to as the "artificial sun."

A clean, safe, and sustainable energy supply—controlled nuclear fusion is hailed as the "holy grail" of the energy industry and crowned as the "ultimate energy" for humanity. The abundance of fusion fuel can sustain human use for billions of years. To put it vividly, the fusion reaction of 1 gram of deuterium and 1 gram of tritium can generate 100,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, meeting the power demands of a family of three for 30 years.

Compared to fossil fuels, nuclear fusion reactions do not emit carbon dioxide. Unlike the widely used nuclear fission, nuclear fusion does not generate nuclear waste, and its radiation is minimal. Therefore, it is an important green energy solution.

Controlled nuclear fusion is also part of China's three-step strategy for nuclear energy development, known as the "thermal reactor - fast reactor - fusion reactor" system. It holds significant importance for China's economic and social development as well as its defence industry construction.

In Xi'an, what Startorus Fusion is dedicated to is the significant endeavor of creating an "artificial sun".

Startorus Fusion was established in October 2021 and is dedicated to the commercial application of fusion energy and related technology research and development. Their mission is to build China's first commercialized controlled fusion reactor. The company focuses on the development of small-scale, commercialized, and rapidly iterated controlled fusion energy devices. They aim to become a global leader in fusion energy technology, integrating research and development, design, and operation.

Although the company is relatively new, the founding team of Startorus Fusion has accumulated over 20 years of technical expertise in the field of nuclear fusion. The core research and development team of the company comes from the Controlled Fusion Research Group at the Department of Engineering Physics, Tsinghua University. They have been operating the first spherical tokamak device (controlled nuclear fusion device) in China for over 20 years and are one of the top teams in China engaged in systematic research on controlled magnetic confinement fusion. Chief Scientist Tan Yi and his team at the Department of Engineering Physics, Tsinghua University, have extensive experience in spherical tokamak and its engineering technology. They have received support from multiple national-level projects, including the National Key Scientific Instrument and Equipment Development Project of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

Why did Startorus Fusion choose to settle in Xi'an?

The core team of Startorus Fusion comes from the Department of Engineering Physics at Tsinghua University. The reasons behind the company's choice to settle in Xi'an are as follows:

"Xi'an is highly attractive for startup companies in terms of its support policies and talent attraction policies, especially for hard-tech innovation enterprises, which can receive strong support and assistance in Xi'an." Chen Rui, the founder and CEO of Startorus Fusion from Shaanxi, told reporters that the Qinchuangyuan platform creates a favorable business environment with comprehensive policy support, which can help companies navigate the early stages of development.

After on-site inspections and comparisons, Chen Rui, along with team members who graduated from the Department of Engineering Physics, specializing in nuclear engineering and physics at Tsinghua University, decided to establish their presence in Xi'an.

According to Chen Rui, the Qinchuangyuan Science and Technology Business Incubator provided the company with office space, waived part of the rent, and assisted with business registration and industrial and commercial registration. They also helped the company in selecting the location for their zeroth experimental plant, facilitating their settlement in Xi'an. The Qinchuangyuan Innovation Promotion Center assisted the company in selecting the location for their first experimental plant, helped with the application for science and technology research and development subsidies in the Xi'an-Xianyang New Area, and provided policy consultation and guidance for project applications. With the guidance of the Innovation Promotion Center, the company was recognized as a "Potential Unicorn Enterprise" in China. "Not only in central and western China but even on a national scale, Xi'an provides a first-class innovation environment," Chen Rui added.

The talent advantage in Xi'an is another major factor that attracted Startorus Fusion to establish its presence there.

Xi'an boasts abundant talent resources from prestigious universities such as Xi'an Jiaotong University, Northwestern Polytechnical University, and Xidian University. In the development of the fusion energy industry, in addition to a team of scientists, engineers and skilled workers are also required for engineering purposes. In the past, Xi'an had a foundation in the aerospace and defence industries. Today, there are also large industrial companies like BYD and Huawei in Xi'an. The development of these earlier industries has provided the company with excellent talent in mechanical, electronic, and electrical fields," said Chen Rui.

Startorus Fusion obtained hundreds of millions of yuan in financing based on its strength.

With the strong support of government policies and Xi'an Arsenal Base in North Intelligent Manufacturing Industrial Park, the company, in collaboration with Tsinghua University, has successfully completed the installation of the SUNIST-2 experimental device. Rui Chen, speaking to reporters, stated that the device is now in stable operation and has achieved its first plasma discharge. The target is to heat the plasma to 17 million degrees Celsius using the company's repeated reconnection heating scheme, and it is expected to be accomplished by the end of this year.

Simultaneously, the company is collaborating with Tsinghua University on the development of the first high-temperature superconducting toroidal magnet coil for the next-generation CTRFR-1 device. The maximum magnetic field strength of this coil is expected to reach around 15 Tesla, and it is projected to complete the construction and testing of this high-temperature superconducting magnet before the second quarter of 2024.

“In the second quarter of 2024, the company will initiate the construction of CTRFR-1, a spherical tokamak device based on high-temperature superconductivity. The core parameters of this device will reach fusion conditions, thereby validating the company's fusion scheme and demonstrating the engineering feasibility of controlled fusion. Subsequently, our company will proceed with the design and construction of the CTRFR-2 controlled fusion demonstration reactor, steadily advancing towards the commercialization of fusion energy," explained Chen.Rui Chen highlighted that the fusion energy generated by Startorus Fusion's controlled fusion devices will serve as a cornerstone energy supply for a future zero-carbon society. It can be utilized not only in large-scale fusion power plants and distributed fusion stations, but also in power systems for medium- and large-sized ships, offshore platforms, near-earth orbiters, and terrestrial base scenarios. Additionally, the derived business opportunities from controlled fusion can be applied in various fields such as high-flux neutron applications, high-temperature superconducting magnet design, and pulsed power systems, all of which have extensive prospects for technology transfer and commercialization.

It is understood that the controlled nuclear fusion market has a potential worth of trillions of yuan. According to a research report released by Guosen Securities on August 15, 2023, there are currently only 44 fusion companies worldwide as of April this year, and Startorus Fusion is a representative Chinese company in this field.

Based on the vast market prospects and recognition of the company's development, in June 2022, several institutions including Shunwei Capital, Kunlun Capital, Casstar, and Telescope Investment jointly invested hundreds of millions of yuan in Startorus Fusion for the development of controlled fusion energy. This investment represents the largest proportion of the total funding among the technology transfer projects settled in the Qinchuangyuan platform to date.

The Magnetic Field Effect of Scientific Innovation is Becoming Evident in Xi'an

Currently, emerging industries represent the hard power of a city and determine the level of its development. 

As the world accelerates towards the goals of "carbon peaking" and "carbon neutrality," industries such as photovoltaics, wind power, hydrogen energy, and nuclear power have become the backbone for achieving dual carbon targets, leading the transformation of urban economies and industries. In this context, technological innovation in the field of new energy is providing excellent impetus for the development of Xi'an City. Xi'an has also emerged as one of the most representative cities in China's new energy industry.

"What are we willing to invest in Xi'an? Green energy. Xi'an is at the forefront of carbon neutrality and green energy." As Wang Shuguang, head of investment banking at CICC, said at the Global Venture Capital Summit 2022, new energy has become Xi'an's "business card", and changes and innovations in new energy technologies are leading to a major reshuffle in the city and industry, making Xi'an as the "capital of new energy" more and more prominent. The name of Xi'an as the "capital of new energy" is getting louder and louder.

Today in Xi'an, a large number of scientific and technological achievements, including new energy technologies, have realized a magnificent transformation from "shelf in the back" to "store shelf" and from laboratory to market.

Strong industrial clusters, stable capital layout, excellent leading talents, bold exploration - Xi'an scientific innovation magnetic field effect is becoming increasingly evident.

"Our company is currently planning to attract a large number of high-end talents to settle in Xi'an within two to three years, expanding to about 300 people, of which more than 70% are masters and doctors from famous universities at home and abroad. In addition, the company will also vigorously promote scientific research cooperation with Xi'an Jiaotong University, Northwestern Polytechnical University and other well-known universities to drive the development of large-scale electrical engineering control, neutron irradiation technology, high-temperature superconducting magnet design and other related industrial chain. Through the close combination of supply and demand to promote the development of fusion-related industrial chain, and in the future to firmly occupy the key position in the upper reaches of the industrial chain." Talking about the future development of Startorus Fusion, Chen Rui is full of confidence.

Striding toward the Light

People who have read The Three-Body Problem know that this science fiction novel has a bright ending - the protagonist, Cheng Xin, boards the " Xinghuan "(which is the Chinese pronunciation of ‘Startorus’ of ‘Startorus Fusion’) spacecraft manufactured by the "Starry Ring" (pronounced as ‘Xinghuan’ in Chinese) company and flies out of the solar system, bringing hope to humanity.

Similarly, in Xi'an, there is a unicorn company named "Xinghuan" that aspires to "sow the sun" – Startorus Fusion. The company is also involved in something that concerns the future of humanity - benefiting humanity through controlled nuclear fusion technology.

In the field of controlled nuclear fusion, there is a famous "50-year paradox", which means that achieving controlled nuclear fusion is forever 50 years away. Diligent scientists have been tirelessly researching it for 50 years, and yet there is still more to come...

Why is it like this? Because realizing controlled nuclear fusion is an incredibly difficult task.

But doing difficult things that are right is what makes scientists admirable. When you visit the website of Startorus Fusion, you are greeted with inspiring slogans like "Green Mountains and Rivers", "Endless Generations", "Inexhaustible and Inextinguishable", "Challenging the Limits of Engineering ", and "The Surest Path to Limitless, Clean Fusion Energy". With the rapid development of Startorus Fusion, these grand visions are gradually becoming a reality step by step.

Commercial-controlled nuclear fusion is a high-tech track on the rise. Currently, there are only 44 nuclear fusion companies worldwide. In less than two years since its establishment, Startorus Fusion has become an influential "Chinese force" among them. The password to its success is not difficult to decipher. Firstly, it accurately aligns with the global trend of accelerating "carbon peak and carbon neutrality." Secondly, it possesses an ambitious and highly talented "hardcore" team in high technology. Thirdly, it thrives on the fertile soil of innovation and entrepreneurship in Xi'an.

According to the 2022 White Paper on Innovation and Development of China's Key and Core Technology, Xi'an ranks sixth in the country in terms of its development index in hard technology. By integrating two chains, showcasing its characteristics as a birthplace of hard technology in recent years, Xi'an has explored a development path and model of "supporting hard technology research and development, facilitating the transformation of hard technology, nurturing hard technology companies, and strengthening the hard technology industry".

It is the combination of various favorable factors that have propelled the rapid development of Startorus Fusion, allowing it to keep striding toward the light.

Technological empowerment drives development, and innovation determines the future. We believe that soon, through the extraordinary technological achievements of Startorus Fusion, greener, safer, and more abundant energy will emerge from the laboratory and enrich people's lives, allowing us to fully enjoy the benefits brought by the "artificial sun." (Lin Xiaohong)

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