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13 Mar 2024

The Biggest AI Sustainability Play of Them All: Fusion

Romi Mahajan, CEO ExoFusion
The Biggest AI Sustainability Play of Them All: Fusion
Can we harness the power of fusion to drive forward useable, clean energy for human use.

Anthropogenic global warming is a well-understood concept; in fact, it has been understood for more than a century. Still, no one could predict the degree to which relentless production and consumption would create a crisis within two centuries of the industrial revolution.  It is important to note that the word “crisis” is not hyperbolic; instead, it is an agreed upon diagnosis by scientists, social workers, activists, and progressive technologists. 

What is done is done, but the questions before us now pertain to the future.  Will humankind be able to harness innovation, science, and technology to mitigate the worst effects of global warming and to help usher in an era of clean energy?  And will this clean energy be abundant enough to sustain an ever-growing population, with the related stresses to the world’s ecosystems?

For fusioneers, that is the goal.  To be able to harness the power of fusion in a terrestrial setting is to give humans a gift:  clean, abundant energy and a powerful source of baseload power.  The goal is, quite literally, to build a star on Earth and to harness the process that powers the star into usable power for human use.   

Fusion as an idea has been understood for eight decades.  But scientific and technical challenges prevented the idea from being translatable to human use easily.  Governments around the world have been funding and nurturing innovation and, indeed, key fusion metrics were growing faster than Moore’s Law.  For a variety of reasons that growth slowed for a few decades, but we have upon us now a Renaissance in the field, replete with over $6 billion in private investment being raised and deployed.  These are heady times for fusioneers.

To get to where we need to, we have to collect, analyze, scrutinize and “beat-up” huge amounts of data.  Scientific progress and data are conjoined twins.  Data from machines, data from simulations, and data from all aspects of the plasma (the star) have to be pored over.  Here, advances in AI have made a difference and will, in the short-term future, be game-changing. 

The path to Commercially Viable Fusion (CVF) can be accelerated through AI-driven simulation, design, IP, and analysis.  While AI is invoked rhetorically far too often, its role in ushering in the era of CVF cannot be overstated.

AI must be the handmaiden of science.  As such, we should understand which is the horse and which is the cart.  In that sense what I’ll call “Fusion AI’ might differ from AI in other fields; nevertheless, it is a key tool.  Sustainability is a path that we must take, fusion will play an important role, and AI will accelerate the path. 

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