Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP) a small research and development company part way through a two-year-long experimental project to test the scientific feasibility of Focus Fusion, controlled nuclear fusion using the dense plasma focus (DPF) device and hydrogen-boron fuel. Hydrogen-boron fuel produces almost no neutrons and allows the direct conversion of energy into electricity. Success would mean thousands of times more total energy would be available and the energy would be cleaner and cheaper. LPP believes that with success they can lower the cost of energy up to 50 times.
They have achieved one of eight experimental goals so far. The eight goals and the timeline they are working on as listed at FocusFusion.org.
By the End of 2009
* At 25kV (kilovolts): Produce 1 MA (million amperes), determine optimum gas pressure
Get the experimental machine to function at 25 kilovolts, the lowest planned experimental voltage, and to produce more than 1 Million Amps of current. They will also very shortly switch over to running with deuterium and thus achieve their first fusion reactions with FF-1. In achieving this goal, they will also determine the optimum gas pressure for this current.
* Test theory of axial magnetic field
The third goal is to test the theory that adding a small axial magnetic field, and thus a small amount of angular momentum, to the plasma will greatly increase the size of the plasmoids and thus the efficiency of energy transfer into the plasmoid.
* Move to 45kV, 2MA, with Deuterium
The fourth goal is to increase the charging potential on the machine, by 5 kV steps, up to the full capacity of 45 kV and in the process achieve a peak current of about 2 MA with deuterium.
* Confirm University of Texas Dense Plasma Fusion results, with better instruments
The fifth goal is to confirm the Texas results of high temperature and density, but with far more complete diagnostic instruments.
By end of 2010
* Heavier Gases: D + He + N, and shorter electrodes
The sixth goal is to confirm LPP’s theory that heavier gases will lead to higher compression and to thereby achieve gigagauss fields. This will involve running with combination of D (deteurium), He (Helium) and perhaps N (Nitrogen) and will also involve replacing the electrode with shorter ones, which they predict will be optimized for the heavier gases. These experiments are more complex and will be more time-consuming.
The seventh goal is to demonstrate some fusion burn with pB11 (proton-boron) fuel.
* Net energy
The eighth and final goal will be to demonstrate the scientific feasibly of producing net energy with pB11.
First Goal Achieving a Pinch, Has Been Done. Why it Matters
The achievement of a pinch, and on the second shot, means that we have accomplished one of the eight technical goals of the current experimental program. The machine is doing what we designed it to do, which is to transfer energy into a tiny plasmoid. It is quite unusual for a DPF to pinch right way. Normally fine-tuning of the electrodes and insulator and “conditioning” of the electrodes by several shots is required. That this was not needed is confirmation that our electrode and insulator dimensions, derived from LPP’s quantitative theory of DPF functioning, are accurate.
Tweaking of the Experimental System to Setup for Firing/Shots
The “down time” the crew has been experiencing stems from various components in the machine which prevent the “shot” from going off as it should. The whole machine, in a sense, has to be fine tuned to eliminate leaks and losses and bring the charge to bear along the electrodes with the correct timing, and keep the gas in the vacuum.
Various components such as the vacuum, switches, triggers and so forth have been assembled, disassembled, tweaked, re-assembled.
Consider the vacuum chamber. It has many vulnerable points – there are “windows” for observation and connecting diagnostic instruments. Each connection point represents some vulnerability. Every time they change something, they have to test the vacuum again. There’s a big table in the room with FoFu, covered with tools. I visit the lab, and the guys are in there, switching out a rogowski coil from the drift tube, for example. Re-connecting it. Testing the vacuum again. This is why the machine was designed as it is, with access to walk in under the machine and constantly take things off and add things on.