More has been invested in nuclear fusion in the last 12 months than over the past decade, according to new industry figures.
The clean energy solution has attracted about $2.8bn (£2.5bn) in investment globally over the past year, compared with $1.9bn (£1.6bn) in total over the past decade.
The solution produces clean energy by fusing together atomic nuclei. It is the reaction which powers the Sun and in turn fuels life on Earth.
However, replicating the reaction for energy has so far proved difficult for scientists, requiring more energy to trigger the reaction than it can currently generate.
Nevertheless, the energy solution is favoured by the government, and there are plans in place for the first prototype fusion power plant in the UK to support rapid commercialisation, with five places in the running to host it.
There was also a breakthrough in late 2021, when researchers at the Joint European Torus (JET) facility in Oxford managed to release a record-breaking 59 megajoules of fusion – almost tripling the previous 21.7 megajoule record from 1997.
Nuclear fusion is also safer than traditional fission nuclear power, which splits nuclei rather than fuses them to produce energy. Unlike fission nuclear, with fusion there is no risk of radioactive waste and reactor materials can be recycled within 100 to 300 years.
Investment in fusion is still overshadowed by mainstream energy sources, but according to the Fusion Energy Association, eight new UK companies have entered the fusion space in the last 12 months.
Andrew Holland, chief executive of the trade group, said: “This funding will allow fusion companies to push toward their ‘Kitty Hawk moment’ in the coming years. From there, companies will rapidly build the pilot plants that will prove fusion energy is ready for the marketplace.
“If we make the required investments now, fusion energy should provide the basis for prosperity, safety, and security.”