LPP is developing a portable, economical, extremely intense hard X-ray source using a dense plasma focus (DPF). DPF is the same core technology that is to be used for focus fusion.
Such a source, transportable by truck, will allow economical non-destructive inspection of the nation’s critical infrastructure, leading to savings in repair costs of at least five billion dollars annually.
A source with the power, photon energy and adjustability developed in this project will allow the use of Compton scattering, in which the X-rays are scattered off the material being probed and return to a detector on the same side of the object as the source. Compton scattering requires far higher X-ray power than does direct X-ray scanning, in which the detector is on the opposite side of the structure from the source, but has the great advantage that scanning can be done from one side. Such one-side scanning will greatly reduce the cost and time of inspections, making possible the timely preventive maintenance of infrastructure such as bridges, roads and buildings.
The X-ray source technology is being developed as a “spin-off” of our medium-term research into the use of the DPF as a source for fusion energy. Essentially the same technology can produce both useful energy and extremely intense x-ray pulses.
Our market projections, based on discussions with likely final customers, mainly state departments of transportation, indicate that our X-ray source integrated into an inspection system can yield sales of $20 million a year and profits of at least $3 million a year within two or three years of introduction into the market. We anticipate that, with the help of likely government funding, we will be able to begin marketing this device in three to four years.
LPP’s research shows that, with our innovative approaches, a DPF can serve as an x-ray source with the capabilities required. It will be able to deliver a pulse of 100J of x-ray energy of 300keV photons in a pulse of 10 ns, a power output 30,000 times higher than existing linac sources.
To achieve our ambitious goals, LPP will employ five innovations, all of which have either been verified in practice, or are supported by extensive theoretical calculations. These are: (1) An overall quantitative model of DPF functioning that allows firm predictions of performance; (2) the use of the strong magnetic field effect to achieve easy adjustability of electron temperature; (3) a specific model of the critical plasmoid generation (collapse) phase of DPF operation which shows the approach to achieving high efficiency of energy transfer into the plasmoid that emits the x-rays; (4) a multi-scale “snapshot” method of simulating the collapse phase from scales of centimeters to microns and (5) a method of plasma diagnosis that eliminates previous confusion of plasma and electron beam emissions.
[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.
Previous article on focus fusion funding which has now been corrected
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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