Technical Details from Lawrenceville Plasma Physics at Google Solve for X

This presentation is a follow up to the 10 minute presentation given previously at Solve For x Google’s Fusion Brainstorming conference held on June 11, 2013 at Mountain View, CA. This is an in depth, scientific report on how Focus Fusion works and is unlike the 10 min version targeted for scientists and researchers.

The ten minute presentation has been posted at https://www.solveforx.com/moonshots/aneutronic-fusion. It is now the most “highly rated” of all Solve for “moonshot” proposals.

LPP Focus Fusion Report, July 15, 2013 has more details about the Google Solve for X Fusion Brainstorming conference.

The reports given by the participants confirmed that, at the moment, LPP has achieved the best fusion results by far. LPP reported a density-time-temperature product over 2,000 times higher than that of Tri-Alpha, despite Tri-Alpha’s much larger, 150-person research team. Both of the other efforts are at considerably earlier stages of development. Professor Masaaki Yamada of Princeton Plasma Physics Lab commented on the great progress LPP had made since Dr. Yamada had last looked at the project after LPP’s 2007 presentation at Google Tech Talks. In particular, LPP’s results with confined plasma temperatures of 1.8 billion degrees, reported last year in the leading journal Physics of Plasmas, were far higher than the 6 million degrees reported by the Tri-Alpha team.

Two proposals emerged with broad support out of a lively discussion of the direction of fusion research. One was to draft an open letter to the US Congress urging that the US fusion energy research effort be expanded to include alternatives to the now almost-exclusive focus on the Iter tokamak project. Participants were united in their views that the present fusion program is too narrowly based. A draft of this letter is now being circulated for comments and finalization. A second proposal was some form of joint collaboration on simulation and data analysis. Participants made no firm decisions, but agreed to carry on further discussion about these and other proposals for action.

There was also a good exchange of views regarding the benefits and challenges of aneutronic fusion. Both LPP and Tri-Alpha are aiming for fusion with aneutronic fuels that produce no neutrons, and thus no nuclear waste. LPP’s President and Chief Scientist, Eric J. Lerner, pointed out in his presentation that aneutronic fuels could also be much cheaper than any existing energy sources, as energy could be converted directly into electricity, avoiding the cost of steam turbines and generators usually used for conversion. Other scientists agreed that eliminating neutrons from the main reaction would greatly simplify materials problems encountered using neutron-producing fusion fuels like deuterium-tritium (D-T). Neutrons tend to destroy the materials that a D-T reactor is made of, and aneutronic fuels avoid this problem. On the other hand, aneutronic fuels require higher temperatures than D-T does. The event was a great opportunity to see the progress in fusion research, and an important step forward in beginning cooperative actions.

Tungsten Cathode Design Candidate

To get the density of plasma up to needed levels, LPP is looking at single piece tungsten cathodes. Here is a design candidate.

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