Picosecond Lasers and Avalanche Reactions Generate 1 Billion Times Fusion Reactions

HB-11 Energy has published its progress towards generating commercial nuclear fusion using a dual laser method.

the University of New South Wales reports that HB11 Energy has been granted patents for its laser-driven technique for creating fusion energy.

They would use a largely empty metal sphere, where a modestly sized HB11 fuel pellet is held in the center, with apertures on different sides for the two lasers. One laser establishes the magnetic containment field for the plasma and the second laser triggers the ‘avalanche’ fusion chain reaction.

The alpha particles generated by the reaction would create an electrical flow that can be channeled almost directly into an existing power grid with no need for a heat exchanger or steam turbine generator.

Nextbigfuture covered the HB11 Energy work in 2017.

HB11 Energy will use the reaction between hydrogen H and the boron isotope 11 (HB11) as uncompressed solid-state fuel within an extremely high trapping magnetic field. Both of these conditions have been demonstrated by experiments and following predictions from computations.

* a 1 kilojoule laser boosts a magnetic field to 4500-10000 tesla for over one nanosecond. About 100 times stronger than powerful superconducting magnets
* a second laser causes a nuclear fusion chain reaction
* lab experiments have been performed which indicate fusion yields increase by a billion times.
* energy production with a proposed system would be four times cheaper than coal

The ultra-powerful picosecond CPA laser pulses have just reached the necessary condition for producing a turning point to generate electricity from nuclear fusion reactions.

Ablation compression of spherical HB11 fusion usually arrives at five orders of magnitudes lower energy gains than the DT reaction. However, applying the computations of plane wave ignition with picoseconds laser pulses on solid density fusion fuel, the resulting need of an energy flux E* of 400 million joules per square centimeter for DT was nearly the same as for HB11. This was a surprising gain increase for HB11 by five orders of magnitudes though only binary nuclear reactions as in the case of DT were used for comparison. The reaction producing three 4 He (alpha particles) resulted in an avalanche reaction and using elastic plasma collisions for the exceptionally preferred energy range around 600 keV resulting in a further increase of the energy gains by four orders of magnitudes. These are all together one billion times higher reaction gains than the classical HB11 fusion as measured.

The very first measured HB11 reaction with picosecond CPA laser pulse irradiation resulted in a thousand reactions. Irradiating a laser pulse together with a second one for producing an intense particle beam resulted in more than one million reactions and experiments with a single laser beam of entirely few dozens of ps arrived at billion reactions which agreed with the calculated just mentioned gain increases. In all experiments, the temperature could be estimated below values of 100 eV, or at least many orders of magnitudes lower than of the thermal equilibrium pressures above 100 Million.

Using the knowledge of numerously elaborated and experimentally confirmed cases of interaction of CPA laser pulses in the sub-picosecond range and powers above petawatt, the ignition of fusion of hydrogen with the boron isotope 11 (HB11 fusion) is of high energy gain. Experiments indicated energies above one trillion joules per cubic centimeter for non-thermal pressures. This is the basis for the design of an environmentally clean, safe, low-cost and abundant generator of electricity. The equation of motion for the ignition is dominated by the non-thermal term of the nonlinear force fNL for avoiding the thermal pressures that are in the range above temperatures of 100 million °C.

High Energy Density Physics – Pressure of picosecond CPA laser pulses substitute ultrahigh thermal
pressures to ignite fusion

Nuclear reactions produce ten million times more energy than the chemical reactions e.g. from burning carbon, but the equilibrium thermal pressures for chemical reactions need temperatures of hundred °C while nuclear burns need many dozens of million °C. This is on the level for ITER or at NIF with using nanosecond laser pulses. In contrast, non-thermal pressures can be higher by lasers using nonlinear forces of picoseconds or shorter duration as computer results of 1978 had demonstrated by non-thermal plasma-block acceleration. This is in full agreement with the ultrahigh acceleration measured by Sauerbrey since 1996 thanks to his use of ultra-extreme powers of picosecond CPA-laser pulses. Even the very inefficient classical fusion of hydrogen with the 11B can be used for the non-thermal reaction with sufficiently modest heating in a reactor for generation electricity.


Nature Communications- Fusion reactions initiated by laser-accelerated particle beams in a laser-produced plasma (2013)

Lasers and Particle Beams – Fusion energy using avalanche increased boron reactions for block-ignition by ultrahigh power picosecond laser pulses (2015)

Journal of Fusion Energy – Kilotesla Magnetic Assisted Fast Laser Ignited Boron-11 Hydrogen Fusion with Nonlinear Force Driven Ultrahigh Accelerated Plasma Blocks (2014)

Lasers and Particle Beams – Road map to clean energy using laser beam ignition of boron-hydrogen fusion (2017)

SOURCES: HB11 Energy, University of New South Wales, Nature Communications, High Energy Density Physics, Heinrich Hora, Lasers and Particle Beams, Journal of Fusion Energy
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture

37 thoughts on “Picosecond Lasers and Avalanche Reactions Generate 1 Billion Times Fusion Reactions”

  1. Engineering companies like GE should take the risk. Or maybe a consortium of large utilities with government support.

  2. I don’t think they have any clue how to do it at this point.

    There is precedent for doing incredibly complicated things with surprising performance and accuracy, but they tend to take a decade or two to make.

    See e.g. EUV-lithography, which squirts 50000 microscopic tin droplets per second (sequentially) of a specific size and roundness into a small positional window with a low tolerance for timing error. There each droplet is tracked optically (!!!) and hit with a low power laser to turn it into a pancake shape. The pancake shaped drop is then vapourized by a higher power pulsed laser into a plasma that glows in EUV. Since lenses cannot be used only mirrors are used in the optical path. The system uses powerful magnets and other mechanisms to clean the system from tin continuously. It is ridiculous that something like this could even work, but there you are.

  3. It works the same way as when an element alpha decays and emits a charged helium-nuclei.

    The electrons are not gone, they are merely elsewhere. The helium nuclei will acquire some electrons at some point and the electrons will find a positive ion at some point and everything will be neutral again.

  4. How is the laser generating voltage between the plates, to generate the current for the magnetic field?
    Is this a photoelectric effect?

  5. I like the development we are currently seeing in pulsed fusion. I am no expert but pulsed fusion seems like the way to go because from my understanding it eliminates the need for complicated measures to constantly stabilize a powerful magnetic field. Using a laser to generate a magnetic field is interesting but seems to still be a very experimental endeavor (i.e., just making a powerful magnetic field is not enough, you must also be able to shape it properly to confine your plasma) I am unconvinced that anyone knows how to do this at the required energy levels yet. Unfortunately, I think this company has reached it’s end-goal of creating what it thinks will be valuable patents and it has now gone public hoping to be bought out by a larger interest hoping to utilize their patents.

  6. I took Tesla many years and billions of investment of stock holders to become competitive. Likewise, there should be a stock or fund that stimulates these kind technologies.

  7. Inexpensive energy is the key to a better living standard. Some people try to impress how many jobs are created in renewable power and how cheap it is. But how can it be cheap if you have to pay so many more people.
    Cheap energy would allow these people to create higher value products.
    But whatever, wake me up when it is an economic reality.

  8. Energy generation employs much less than 20% of the population. Low-cost energy also generates a lot of jobs in energy-intensive industries.

  9. I’ve grappled with that for a long time. However, I eventually came to the conclusion that it won’t destroy society because, as amazing as scientists are at creating things that have the potential to cost less, there is always a monetizing genius out there.

    It’s also possible that large fusion reactors could have an ability to supply power to people who have never had a chance to pay for it before, simply because the option wasn’t available to them. More cash flow, there.

    Also, I used to not give humanity it’s due credit. Anyone who is in the energy industry can be trained to do other jobs in that industry. They may not like it, at first, but they’ll adapt. And, there’s something to be said for nostalgic conversations about how things used to be. Could be fun to sit around and talk about change in the industry thirty years from now.

    There is also a great potential for cash flow as we expand to other planets. Imagine an energy corporation with reactors on TWO planets for millions of people? “Show! Me! THE MONEEEEY!!!”

  10. Fusion energy will be great, but i think it will destroy the society due the economic chain that energy creats in the world. lets say it will unemploy 20 per cent or more of world population, the rest is like a house of cards. What do u think?

  11. The improvements in laser technology should mean that laser fusion should be possible right now. Someone just has to do it.

  12. HB11 reaction isn’t new. The issue is can you get a decent reaction rate and energy multiplication.

    I will believe you when utilities start buying your reactors and not til then.

  13. This is interesting and I wish them best of luck. That said, I am not going to hold my breath until I see a prototype of sorts that shows that this actually works as theoretically envisioned.

  14. I won’t hold my breath on any breakthrough energy claim anymore. But this company’s claim at least addresses the two reasons why I have given up on fusion:

    1. heat needed to generate the reactor is too high, so the amount of energy needed to ignite a reactor is so great that it doesn’t pay off to even do it. This company is saying they don’t need nearly the amount of heat for their reaction.
    2. heat is the output of the reaction, so you need a heat exchanger to convert to electricity (yet more power required for that). This company said they don’t need that either. Their output is electricity.

    HB11 seems like it’s doing things similar to Tri Alpha Energy and LPP. But HB11 had a clever breakthrough that may be holding these two companies back. They just filed the patents on it, so they are now able to come out of hiding. Who knows, but it’s worth keeping an eye on them.

  15. I googled around a bit and found THIS: chrome-extension://oemmndcbldboiebfnladdacbdfmadadm/https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1742-6596/774/1/012133/pdf

    In that article I saw a proposed design of a reactor that uses a Proton+Boron fusion reaction that does emit the positive alpha particles, and it seems also to emit negatively charged Be ions, which decay into 2 He ions. Their design uses this in a Cathode/Anode type architecture (A fusion powered battery?) which seems to make a lot more sense than what was shown above. The reaction also emits energy, I suppose as heat. I imagine the excess heat was regarded as trivial and was not discussed, but seems to me should be a good way to either use to drive a steam generator, or to be used to heat water or as heat for other industrial processes.

  16. Well, sure. You don’t want the electrons to have any energy left when they arrive at the collector plate, that energy just gets converted to heat. Direct conversion requires the electrons to climb that potential until they’re almost at a standstill, and THEN be collected. DC at 1.4 million volts.

  17. Excellent question. What little information I’ve been able to read is not clear on this question, though they do say that they start out by charging the entire thing up to +1.4 MV.

  18. Controlled thorium fission has been run on a scale and net power output that plugs right in to power stations.

    That is still theoretical for fusion.

    Though… Thorium being able to be industrialised in the 2020 landscape of law, politics and technology to give a cost competitive product? That’s still theoretical.

  19. Holy grail. A cleaner-than-fission nuclear power that cuts out the need for a turbine. Direct particle capture power generation: Yes, I’ll have some of that, please!

    We’ll see how this pans out. I’m not going to hold my breath (mostly because I don’t want to pass out, since I can’t ensure of where I’ll wake up >_>), but I’m forever excited about fusion developments. Have been since I was a little kid.

  20. Dude I choked on my sake laughing at this xD The humor hit me like a sock full of pennies for some reason lol.

  21. So electricity will be generated from alpha particles (he+ ions) hitting a metallic surface surrounding the reactor and the charge creating a current flow. Sounds great, but I’m a bit confused about the how Hydrogen-Boron fusion reaction ends only with useful positive charged helium particles. I thought charge was always conserved in nuclear reactions – can anyone explain where the negative charge goes?

  22. Safer?

    Also fusion isn’t even remotely theoretical – the science is proven decades past, it’s just not practical for net gain reactors yet.

    If by theoretical you mean a commonplace production reactor does not exist yet, you could probably say the same about Thorium fission too.

  23. Every time I read these Fusion promises, I am reminded why Fission (especially Thorium fission) is better, cleaner, safer and not theoretical.

  24. The fact that this MAY make current instead of heat is a huge difference from other nuke of any kind, but that was buried somewhat in the story.

  25. You think this is bad, somewhere in Nigeria there is a beautiful young woman, barely 18, who has invented a simple pill that greatly enlarges the male human genitals, and nobody, not a single person, seems interested.

    She sends out emails, she puts ads on the internet, she was sure that this would be a fantastic product. And not one response.

  26. There aren’t too many comments on this story, kind of surprised. It could just be that there have been too many fusion breakthroughs that are 10 years away. Also, the science isjust extremely complicated. So hard to know if it is the real deal.

    But I always wondered if someone would show up with a big breakthrough and it would be like the boy who cried wolf. That may be that case here. But I’m intrigued.

  27. Without sounding too optimistic as there probably are blocks ahead, if we already had a breakthrough in fusion, this is it.

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