December 12, 2008

Dense Plasma Fusion: Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Gets Funding

On Nov. 14, 2008, Lawrenceville Plasma Physics(LPP) initiated a two-year-long experimental project to test the scientific feasibility of Focus Fusion. The funding is sufficient to pay for experiments that would ideally prove the viability of this approach.

The goals of the experiment are :
1. To confirm the achievement of the high X-ray energies first observed in previous experiments at Texas A&M;
2. To greatly increase the efficiency of energy transfer into the plasmoid; third, to achieve the high magnetic fields needed for the quantum magnetic field effect;
3. To use pB11 fuel to demonstrate greater fusion energy production than energy fed into the plasma (positive net energy production).

After a 7-year hiatus in our experimental work, we will begin producing critical and exciting data in 2009.

The initiation of the project was made possible by LPP's receiving $620,000 in new investments. Additional investments are forthcoming which will assure continued operations

Focus fusion in Discover Magazine June 2008 (item #2).

It may sound too good to be true, but the technology, called focus fusion, is based on real physics experiments. Focus fusion is initiated when a pulse of electricity is discharged through a hydrogen-boron gas across two nesting cylindrical electrodes, transforming the gas into a thin sheath of hot, electrically conducting plasma. This sheath travels to the end of the inner electrode, where the magnetic fields produced by the currents pinch and twist the plasma into a tiny, dense ball. As the magnetic fields start to decay, they cause a beam of electrons to flow in one direction and a beam of positive ions (atoms that have lost electrons) to flow in the opposite direction. The electron beam heats the plasma ball, igniting fusion reactions between the hydrogen and boron; these reactions pump more heat and charged particles into the plasma. The energy in the ion beam can be directly converted to electricity—no need for conventional turbines and generators. Part of this electricity powers the next pulse, and the rest is net output.

A focus fusion reactor could be built for just $300,000, says Lerner, president of Lawrenceville Plasma Physics in New Jersey. But huge technical hurdles remain. These include increasing the density of the plasma so the fusion reaction will be more intense. (Conventional fusion experiments do not come close to the temperatures and densities needed for efficient hydrogen-boron fusion.) Still, the payoff could be huge: While mainstream fusion research programs are still decades from fruition, Lerner claims he requires just $750,000 in funding and two years of work to prove his process generates more energy than it consumes. “The next experiment is aimed at achieving higher density, higher magnetic field, and higher efficiency,” he says. “We believe it will succeed.”

[emails from a reader who has been following Focus fusion closely]
the power would be at about 0.2¢/kwh, not 1/20¢ (0.05¢). The generators would be from 5-20MW, depending on pulse rate (330 - 1320/sec.) The energy "profit" is actually from harvesting as current (via thousands of foil layers in the containment shell) the ~40% of output which occurs as X-rays. The alpha-beam pulse goes back into the capacitor bank to fire the next "shot", and the electron beam reheats the plasma.

[The latest]LPP engineering analysis indicates that 5 MW focus fusion reactors could be produced for about $300,000 apiece. This is less than one-tenth of the cost of conventional electricity generation units of any style or fuel design. This means that once the prototype is successfully developed within five years, focus fusion generators will be the preferred technology for new electrical distributed generation.

More powerful units can be designed by accelerating the pulse repetition rate, although there are limitations due to the amount of waste heat that can be removed from such a small device. It is likely that units larger than 20MW will be formed by simply stacking smaller units together, with approximately the same cost per kW of generated power.

Current technical information

Eric Lerner, Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Google Talk 64 minutes

Previous article on focus fusion funding which has now been corrected

Another follow up on Focus fusion

The Focus Fusion google tech talk

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