In 2014, Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP) will carry out our first crowdfunding campaign this spring. Given adequate funding and supplier timeliness, LPP will start experiments in May with the tungsten electrodes, expecting a nearly 100-fold increase in plasmoid density and fusion yield. With these experiments LPP expect to confirm in the course of a few months the predicted operation of the axial field coil and of heavier mix gases. LPP will then proceed in the fall to test shorter electrodes, which will give higher current. Finally, LPP will move to begin tests with hydrogen-boron fuel.
In 2013, LPP’s credibility as leaders in the fusion field jumped upwards. The paper that LPP had published in 2012, demonstrating our confinement of 1.8-billion-degree ions, was announced in March 2013 to be the most-read paper of the year in Physics of Plasmas, the leading journal in our field of plasma physics. This showed objectively that their colleagues found our work of first-rate importance and interest. In addition, a committee of senior fusion researchers, led by Dr. Robert Hirsch, a former director of fusion research for the US Atomic Energy Commission and the Energy Research and Development Agency, in December 2013 issued a report saying that our innovative research effort deserves “a much higher level of investment … based on their considerable progress to date.” The report concludes that, “In the committee’s view [LPP’s] approach to fusion power … is worthy of a considerable expansion of effort.”
Shortage of funds constrained our work by impeding the hiring of additional scientific staff and by imposing on us the need to seek the least expensive suppliers of the tungsten electrodes, which has delayed by months their acquisition. But we began to address the critical funding question in three ways, which we think will show large results in 2014.
1) LPP decided to initiate a crowdfunding effort. In crowdfunding, non-investment funds are sought on crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo from tens of thousands of people, each contributing on average only $20-50. LPP believes they can raise $1 million or more in this way. In preparation for this effort, they have been redesigning the LPP website and mobilizing volunteers to help.
2) LPP have enlarged the number of collaborations, which allow us to benefit without cost from the work of other researchers, as they benefit from ours. LPP signed an agreement with a simulation research group at Toyama University in Japan and solidified joint research with the Plasma Physics Research Center in Tehran, Iran. To aid these collaborations, LPP made available to other researchers their experimental database.
3) LPP and other fusion researchers initiated in September an Open Letter on Fusion Funding, which proposes $300 million a year in new government funding for a broad range of ideas for fusion, specifically including aneutronic fusion. By the end of 2013, LPP had 50 scientists sign this open letter, which is intended for publication in major media outlets once we have 100 signatures. The aim is to begin an open debate in governments in the US, Europe and Japan over the direction of the fusion research effort. Such a debate is an essential prerequisite for actually allocating government funds for aneutronic fusion.
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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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