Embargo—for release 12 noon EDT, Friday, Oct. 27, 2017
October 10, 2017
LPPFusion: Eric J. Lerner 908-546-7654, firstname.lastname@example.org
In a major step forward in the quest for safe, clean, cheap and unlimited energy, LPPFusion, a small NJ-based research firm, has published world record results in fusion energy. The new results, published in the October issue of the leading peer-reviewed journal Physics of Plasmas, demonstrated the highest confined mean ion energy of any fusion experiment in the world, an ion energy equivalent to a temperature of over 2.5 billion degrees C. This is over 200 times hotter than the center of the sun.
For comparison, this new record is five times greater than the highest temperatures confined with the tokamak device, which has received the most funding from government fusion programs. LPPFusion uses the much cheaper and more compact dense plasma focus (DPF) device. The LPPF device, called Focus Fusion-1 (FF-1), fits in a small room and the heart of the device, a set of electrodes, is only a foot across. So far, LPPFusion, which is funded by investors, has spent $6 million on fusion research, far less than the billions already expended on tokamaks.
“Our new results, with a peak ion energy of 240 keV (kilo electron volts), were a 50% improvement over our own previous record,” explains LPPF President and Chief Scientist Eric J. Lerner, lead author of the paper. “In addition, we were able to achieve a 50% increase in the amount of fusion energy produced. This is a step toward our goal of producing clean, cheap energy with hydrogen-boron fuels.” Hydrogen-boron fuel, also called pB11, is an ideal fuel, producing no neutrons, and no radioactive waste. Its energy can be converted directly into electricity, potentially greatly reducing energy costs below that from any existing source. Both hydrogen and boron are abundantly available. But the fuel needs extremely high ion energy—temperature—to burn. The new results demonstrate that FF-1 has achieved the energies needed to burn pB11 fuel.
The new advances were achieved by reducing the heavy-metal impurities in the plasma, the published paper explains. Such impurities impede the compression and heating of the plasma where the fusion reactions take place. Single-piece tungsten electrodes, among other innovations, led to the decrease in impurities.
“We still need to greatly increase the density of our plasma to get to our goal of more energy out of the machine than we put in,” says Lerner. “We expect to do that by entirely eliminating heavy-metal impurities next year. We’ll then be using electrodes made of beryllium, a light metal, so no heavy metals at all will be vaporized into the plasma.” By late 2018, LPPF also expects to be switching from the present experimental fuel, deuterium, to experiments with hydrogen-boron fuel.
Technical note on ion energy and temperature. Researchers use the term “mean ion energy” to describe how hot fusion plasma are. To physicists, the term “temperature” only applies to objects near equilibrium, which does not always describe rapidly-changing fusion plasmas. However, a mean ion energy of 1 keV is equivalent to a temperature of 11 million degrees C.
An October 9 press release describing the new collaborations between LPPF and the Center for Energy Research of University of California San Diego is available here. Recent coverage of LPPFusion in IEEE Spectrum is available here. A background video on how Focus Fusion works and how it compares to oter fusion approaches is available in the series “The New Fusion Race”.