News & Views

An energy source as old as the sun

Engineer works on machines that could one day produce nuclear fusion 

Greg Brittles

Age: 26
Occupation: Magnet engineer, Tokamak Energy (nuclear fusion equipment)   
Location: Oxford

The products that Greg Brittles is working on can fairly be described as out of this world. Brittles is among the 25 employees of Tokamak Energy, a company attempting to develop “compact tokamaks”: room-sized machines to replicate the fusion reactions taking place inside the Sun and so generate vast amounts of energy.

The company has attracted £10m in venture capital and is based on an industrial estate near Oxford. While the engineering challenges are immense, Greg is confident they can be overcome. “I feel there are no show stoppers [to prevent the machines from working].”

Before he joined Tokamak Energy, Greg worked in superconductivity research. His job now is to design the powerful magnets needed to contain high-energy plasma – incredibly hot atoms of hydrogen isotopes – so that atomic fusion can take place. A working tokamak would reach a temperature of 100m degrees Celsius.

The company plans to build a series of prototypes, leading to fully-developed machines by around 2035. “I’m in a company developing amazing technology that could be life changing,” Greg says. “I think I’ve landed on my feet.”