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First Light Fusion

Overview
Alternative Energy?
Product stageSegments
Pre-Seed
?
Renewables: Third-generation
?

UK-based First Light Fusion (First Light) is an Oxford University spinout researching energy generation by inertial confinement fusion (ICF). First Light’s fusion technology is driven by the impact of a projectile traveling at an ultra-high velocity into a fusion target, which is a trade secret. 

In February 2019, First Light completed building and testing an electromagnetic propulsion device, Machine 3, capable of discharging up to 200,000 volts – equivalent to nearly 500 simultaneous lightning strikes – within two microseconds. The device could fire projectiles at around 20 km per second. 

In May 2021, First Light completed the development of a two-stage light gas gun that can launch a larger projectile (of around 100g) than the Machine 3, but at a much slower speed of around 6.5 km per second, which the company expects to amplify in the future. In April 2022, the company achieved the world’s first fusion result generated using projectile technology. 

As of March 2024, First Light was focusing on achieving “gain,” whereby the amount of energy created outstrips that used to spark the reaction. The company aims to do this using Machine 4 (M4) its ‘gain demonstrator’ and successor to Machine 3. M4 is set to be the world’s largest pulsed power driver at ~75 meters in diameter and will create ‘ignition’, a key step of its projectile approach. M4 will have an energy storage capacity of ~100 megajoules and will be able to launch projectiles at over 60 kilometers per second, 3x than that of M3. In January 2023, First Light in partnership WITH UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) began construction of a demonstration facility to house M4 at UKAEA’s Culham Campus in Oxfordshire. The facility will begin construction in 2024 and commence operations in 2027.

First Light also plans to construct a power plant producing ~500 MW of electricity, capable of firing once every 10 seconds and costing less than USD 5 billion.

Key customers and partnerships

In July 2022, First Light partnered with IDOM, a Spanish engineering provider, to develop a fusion reactor chamber. The two companies will work together to scope the design, by providing detailed analysis and alternatives for the reactor head, the reactor vessel, and its other components. In November 2022, First Light entered into a technical partnership with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), a nuclear science and technology company, to develop the preliminary design of a system capable of extracting tritium from the First Light reactor, as well as tritium processing and storage solutions. 

In January 2023, the company partnered with the UKAEA to design and construct a new facility to house First Light’s Machine 4 at UKAEA’s Culham Campus in Oxfordshire. In August 2023, First Light partnered with Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) to test its amplifier technology on the Z Machine as part of SNL's Z Fundamental Science Programme.

Funding and financials

In May 2023, First Light was awarded a GBP 6 million (~USD 7.4 million) grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to launch its new Prosperity Partnership. In February 2022, First Light raised USD 45 million in a Series C funding round. Previously in January 2021, the company raised USD 25 million in a funding round led by Oxford Sciences Innovation.  The proceeds were used for the development of First Light’s “gain” experiment, and to design and engineer a commercial fusion energy power plant.

HQ location:
Unit 10 Oxford Industrial Park Mead Road Yarnton GBR
Founded year:
2011
Employees:
51-100
IPO status:
Private
Total funding:
USD 107.0 million
Last Funding:
Feb 2022
Series C
USD 45.0 million
Key competitors
 
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EDGE Insights

2023 Climate Tech hotspots: battery, carbon accounting, biojet fuel, and fusion
Brighter than the Sun: A Reality Check for Fusion Tech
Sustainability Wrap: Fusion's time in the sun

Recent Updates

Geographic expansion
Aug 29, 2023
First Light Fusion partners with Sandia National Laboratories
Alternative Energy
Management news
Funding
May 22, 2023
First Light Fusion awarded GBP 6 million grant by EPSRC
Alternative Energy
Partnerships
Product updates
Jan 26, 2023
First Light Fusion and UKAEA to construct a demonstration facility
Alternative Energy
Partnerships
Nov 28, 2022
First Light Fusion partners with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories
Alternative Energy
Partnerships
Jul 21, 2022
First Light Fusion signs long-term agreement to develop fusion reactor
Alternative Energy
Product updates
Apr 4, 2022
First Light Fusion achieves “projectile fusion” breakthrough
Alternative Energy

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