The tungsten electrodes needed for LPP’s next set of experiments are rolling forward. The electrodes are needed to eliminate impurities, and cleaner plasma is expected to raise density and yield in the tiny plasmoids where fusion reactions take place. They are on track to be installed by mid-May. The tungsten blank for the cathode (the larger outer electrode) has been completed by Tungsten Heavy Powder and is being shipped to New Jersey. There another company, New Jersey Precision Technology, will machine the block into the exact shape required, a complex process expected to take about 10 weeks.
The tungsten anode was redesigned into a plate-and-cylinder combination shape. Boththe anode and the cathode, will connect to the rest of the circuit outside the vacuum chamber. Not only will this design eliminate any possibility of plasma impurities from arcing, but by spreading the current at the join out into a larger diameter, it will eliminate any arcing at all, even at the highest currents. With the re-design, the anode, too, is now being manufactured in time for May installation.
The tungsten blank, with outer diameter of 12” and total weight approaching 200 lbs, is prepped for shipping from San Diego.
60 Volunteers Helping to get crowdfunding. March 9 Meetup and April 22 Crowdfunding kickoff
60 volunteers have come forward to help by signing up at LPP’s website. In crowdfunding, contributions are solicited on central websites, such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. The volunteers, from fifteen countries, have started to publicize the crowdfunding effort and have themselves pledged over $12,000. In addition, volunteers are starting to take on other tasks, such as selecting the best photos to upload to LPP’s new website, planned to go live in late March.
The initial crowdfunding effort is planned to kick off on Earth Day, April 22. It will aim to raise the money needed for the project’s most expensive set of equipment—the beryllium electrodes that will replace the tungsten electrodes now in the works. Beryllium will be needed for the final part of the research drive to demonstrate scientific feasibility because of the intense x-rays that will be generated as FF-1 approaches its highest performance. The x-rays are absorbed in a tiny layer of tungsten, and will vaporize it. But beryllium will be transparent to most x-rays and will spread out the rest harmlessly. However, beryllium is far more expensive than tungsten and the electrodes will cost as much as $250,000, something crowdfunding can supply.
Some History of Lawrencevill Plasma Physics from Peter Arneson the Contrarian Investor
In the 1980s, Eric Lerner turned his innovative mind from astrophysics to fusion research. His knowledge of quasars gave him an idea that others had missed. Using known laws of electromagnetism and quantum physics, he derived a mathematical model of plasma behavior in a self-squeezing magnetic bottle. This math predicts a shocking possibility: 5-megawatt fusion generators (power for 2000 homes) mass-produced for under $1M each, with trivial fuel cost, which would slash the cost of electricity by over 90% and launch civilization into a new era.
In March 2012, LPP published a paper in the leading international journal for fusion scientists (Physics of Plasmas from the American Institute of Physics). The most-read paper in that journal that year, it reported experimental proof that LPP achieved two of the three conditions required for hydrogen-boron ignition. The first condition is plasma temperature of 1.6 billion degrees. LPP achieved 1.8 billion, which is the hottest ever reported for a fusion fuel, and hotter than the core of the sun. The second condition is plasma confinement time of 20 nanoseconds. LPP achieved 30. The third condition is plasma density of 7 grams per cubic centimeter. LPP has not achieved that yet, but Lerner’s math predicts that the self-squeezing magnetic bottle (called a plasmoid) will do it.
In June 2013, LPP attended a Google conference of fusion research companies using various devices. The companies included Tri-Alpha Energy (backed by billionaire Paul Allen), General Fusion (backed by the Canadian government), and the Advanced Development division of Lockheed Martin Corporation. Comparing all their results showed that no one was as close to ignition as LPP. The nearest runner-up was Tri-Alpha, but LPP’s temperature-time-density result exceeded theirs by 2000 times.
LPP’s competitive advantage is their mathematical model of plasma in the DPF. The model guides their experiments more efficiently than mere trial-and-error or computer simulations based on trial-and-error. Lerner has refined the model using concepts (quantum magnetic-field effect and electron herding) seen only in astrophysical plasmas such as quasars. No one else appears to have a theoretical model like this, born of Lerner’s dual specialties in astrophysics and fusion.
astrophysics applied to fusion
In November 2013, an expert committee of fusion scientists conducted an independent review of LPP’s work. The scientists were senior researchers from government, industry and academia, led by a former director of fusion research for the US Atomic Energy Commission and the Energy Research and Development Agency.
They concluded: The committee was pleasantly surprised at the innovative thinking and experimental results achieved thus far by Mr. Lerner and his team. We commend him for developing a theoretical model to guide the effort…. [T]he committee feels that the promise of the LPP DPF approach to fusion power has considerable merit and that a much higher level of investment is warranted, based on their considerable progress to date.
The last requirement for ignition is greater density of the plasma confined in the plasmoid. LPP has been improving density by fixing minor engineering problems such as air leaks into the DPF. Recently they had a breakthrough. They discovered that metal ions in the plasma were preventing the plasmoid from fully compressing. The metal ions were coming from arcing within their multi-piece electrode. So LPP designed a single-piece electrode to eliminate the problem. The new electrode should be ready to test in a few months.
When ignition of hydrogen-boron has been achieved (for the first time in history), LPP’s next step will be designing a prototype generator that repeats the squeeze-and-shoot process many times per second, for continuous power output. This engineering work is expected to take several years. When a prototype generator is finished, LPP plans to license the technology to large manufacturers that will ramp up production quickly.
Unfortunately, not everyone can invest in LPP currently. Because LPP is privately held, they sell shares under a Regulation D exemption from SEC registration. By law, US citizens can invest only if their net worth exceeds $1M or their income exceeds $200k. Non-US citizens can invest regardless of their net worth or income.
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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