Fusion, Peter Thiel, Paul Allen, Jeff Bezos
Photo: Courtesy of Tri-Alpha Energy

“These entrepreneurs argue that improvements in computer technology just might make those older designs doable today. One prominent example of this trend is General Fusion, the company backed by Bezos. (Retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly is one of the startup’s advisers, and in August the government of Malaysia led a new $22 million round of financing.) It is building on the concept of compressing fuel to heat it until it triggers a fusion reaction,” wrote Fortune.

The use of hammers to accomplish this has been tried before – as far back as the 1970s. However, things have changed. Thanks to advanced algorithms and modern technology, the hammers can hit the side of a reactor at the exact same moment – creating a pressure wave that compresses plasma and causes a fusion reaction.

Fusion, Peter Thiel, Paul Allen, Jeff Bezos
PayPal cofounder and Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel has backed Helion Energy of Redmond, Washington.
Photo: Courtesy of Helion Energy

Writes Fortune, “General Fusion CEO Nathan Gilliland, who previously worked at Bain Capital, says his company has achieved the right speed and precision of hammers and has created stable, long-lived plasma. Now it’s working on fine-tuning the shock waves and compression so that the plasma generates more energy than it consumes. How long will that take before commercialization? Says a confident Gilliland: “We think in terms of years, not decades. We’ve demonstrated that our pathway is viable. It’s just a matter of engineering.”

No one knows which, if any, of these companies will be successful. No one thinks nuclear fusion will be easy to unlock. But it’s hard to argue with the success of Thiel, Bezos, and Allen, all serial entrepreneurs, all serious about changing the way the world works. And if one or all of them pull this off, they will render the world unrecognizably better.

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Photos, Allen: Frazer Harrison—Getty Images; Tri-Alpha: Courtesy of Tri-Alpha Energy; Thiel: Steve Jennings—Getty Images; Helion: Courtesy of Helion Energy; Bezos: K.Asif—India Today Group/Getty Images; General Fusion: Courtesy of General Fusion