“The research reported in this paper shows that we have achieved two of the three conditions needed to scientifically demonstrate net energy production with aneutronic fuels,” explains Eric Lerner, Chief Scientist at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc. “We have demonstrated the extremely high ion energies needed to ignite this fuel, and the confinement time of tens of nanoseconds that we need to burn it. We are still far from having sufficient density in the tiny hot regions to get net energy, but that is our next goal.” A year ago, LPP had reported energies for ions of 1.1 billion degrees, equal to record temperatures for the dense plasma focus device that had stood since 1978. The new work shatters those long-standing records and, most importantly, achieves the temperature needed to burn aneutronic fuels.
The paper, titled "Fusion reactions from >150 keV ions in a dense plasma focus (DPF) plasmoid," also lays to rest a long-standing scientific controversy with major implications for whether the DPF is a viable source of useful fusion energy. Lerner's team shows conclusively that the majority of fusion reactions in LPP’s DPF come from confined, circulating ions, and not from a beam of ions just passing through once. If fusion reactions in a DPF come primarily from an unconfined beam, then the fusion yields are unlikely to scale to useful quantities of energy. On the other hand, if, as this research has shown, the fusion reactions take place primarily between ions confined within a concentrated ball of plasma (a "plasmoid"), then the energy from the reactions will be trapped and will heat the plasmoid up further, leading to a complete burn and net energy production. (The paper is available at the Physics of Plasmas link below, or from LPP by request.)
The LPP research team is currently upgrading their fusion device to achieve the higher densities required for net energy, a goal they hope to achieve soon.
Paper at Physics of Plasmas: http://pop.aip.org/
Lawrenceville Plasma Physics: http://LPPhysics.com
The Focus Fusion Society: http://FocusFusion.org
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Our lead project is the development of a dense plasma focus fusion reactor, using hydrogen and boron fuel. If we succeed, "Focus Fusion" will be an extremely economical, compact, environmentally safe and essentially inexhaustible source of energy.