The bootstrapped LPP Fusion dense plasma focus nuclear fusion project will be starting a potentially big year of testing. They are completing work on their beryllium electrode. If everything goes smoothly on four critical steps then this could be the beginning of world-changing clean nuclear fusion power.
If they can get within a factor of four of their targets then they would be in the clear lead for nuclear fusion. This would provide them with a lot more funding.
LPP fusion wants to build small, decentralized 5 Megawatt nuclear fusion generators that will use hydrogen and boron fuel, both of which are essentially unlimited in nature, to allow direct conversion of energy to electricity without expensive turbines or radioactive waste. The cost will be 10 times cheaper than any existing energy source, meaning Focus Fusion technology can change the world.
The dense plasma focus device (DPF) based on the known physics has a fusion output that increases sharply with electrical current—approximately as current to the fifth power. If the current is doubled then the fusion yield goes up by 25 or 32.
This scaling law, which works for smaller DPF devices, has been interrupted for larger ones. They don’t get the yield expected from the scaling law. LPP Fusion thinks that is due to the larger impurities that powerful DPFs have produced. If LPP Fusion succeeds in lowering impurities from initial experiments with pure deuterium should get our fusion yield up from about ¼ Joules—LPP’s best result with tungsten electrodes—to over 2 Joules.
Nextbigfuture thinks they need to get to at least 1 Joule with the Berrylium electrode.
There is both strong theoretical reasons and abundant experimental evidence that impurities affect plasma characteristics, such as electrical resistivity, in proportion to the product fz2, where f is the fraction (by number) of ions with an atomic charge z. They are switching our electrodes from tungsten, with a z of 74, to beryllium, with a z of 4. This means that, when fully ionized, each beryllium ion in the plasma has 340 times less effect than each tungsten ion. We don’t expect a lot more beryllium ions to be vaporized, because the energy to vaporize and ionize one beryllium ion is already ¾ the energy needed for one tungsten ion. So the contribution of the electrodes to impurities will be hundreds of times less in the new experiment.
After the initial experiments with pure deuterium, LPP will introduce a mixing gas, either nitrogen or neon, to start simulating the mixture of gases that we will have with our ultimate hydrogen-boron fuel.
They expect that this mixture will lead to higher fusion temperatures than with pure D, as the heating mechanism involves the viscosity of the plasma, which also increase with atomic charge. These experiments will be a bit trickier to optimize, as too much higher-z mixing gas will cause the filaments to blow up again. They expect fusion yields to rise above 10 Joules if they can get an optimal gas mixture.
Nextbigfuture thinks they need to get to at least 3 Joules with the fast mixture.
Later in 2019, they will upgrade their switches to increase the peak current which would further increase fusion yield. This can now do this without opening up their redesigned vacuum chamber.
Late in 2019, they will start experiments with hydrogen-boron, pB11 fuel. This fuel burns faster and more energetically than deuterium, that will again boost the fusion yields and put us on the track to our goal of getting more energy out of the device than they put into it—net energy.
Nextbigfuture thinks that if they can at least get the impurities away to the point that scaling is not prevented, then LPP could make it up with even stronger switches. If they had to make $25 million devices that had 2 cents per kilowatt hour, then the world would still change with clean and abundant energy.
A reaction of hydrogen and boron-10 would produce radioactive beryllium-7. With a half-life of two months, this isotope would certainly complicate any work with the device. LPP calculated that 99.99% pure boron-11 would be needed. Naturally, occurring boron is only 80% boron-11 with 20% boron-10.
Fortunately, due to the large 10% difference in mass between the isotopes, separating B-11 and B-10 is not that difficult. LPPF has already located at least one provider of 99.99% B-11. They are able to get the required gas at $600 per gram. They have 93 grams which is enough for their experiments. If this works they will arrange for mass production at $6 per gram or less.
SOURCES – LPP Fusion
Written By Brian Wang. Nextbigfuture.com
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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