Google and TAE develop new computer algorithm to accelerate progress towards limitless energy

Google has partnered with US-based fusion company Tri Alpha Energy (TAE) to develop a new computer algorithm to accelerate experiments on plasmas.

The new ‘Optometrist algorithm’ uses high-powered computation to find new and better solutions to critical problems. It is the result of a multi-year relationship between TAE and Google that began in 2014 to apply machine learning to advance plasma research.

Developments in nuclear fusion is hoped to unearth a clean, safe, and limitless energy supply. However, 60 years of research has yet to achieve commercial-scale nuclear fusion.

The new algorithm utilises the stochastic perturbation technique to incorporate an element of human choice into computations. This method is similar to that used in large-scale population and atmospheric models.

"The new algorithm utilises the stochastic perturbation technique to incorporate an element of human choice into computations."

Stochastic perturbation has led to the discovery of unexpected plasma confinement results, increasing net heating power within TAE’s field-reversed configuration plasma generator, which represents more than 50% reduction in energy loss rate and concomitant increase in ion temperature and total plasma energy.

TAE president and chief technology officer Michl Binderbauer said: “Results like this might take years to solve without the power of advanced computation to rapidly scale our understanding of the complex properties of plasma.

“This research, years in the making, has already allowed us to advance our science, and I am grateful for the longstanding collaboration with Google as it illustrates how, with a lean start-up design, TAE can direct research to outcomes that specifically advance and accelerate our mission to generate clean, safe and abundant energy through fusion technology.”