Cosmology and Fusion Energy
Background from LPPFusion, Inc. on Eric J. Lerner, a member of the team that discovered dramatic evidence that the universe is NOT expanding, contradicting the Big Bang theory. Studying some of the largest and remotest phenomena in the universe is contributing directly to solving practical problems affecting humanity. Eric J. Lerner is President and Chief Scientist at LPPFusion, Inc., a company whose mission is to develop a clean, safe and unlimited source of fusion energy that is many times cheaper than any energy technology currently in use. Lerner’s research in fusion, like his research in cosmology, has challenged conventional thinking. Most fusion projects work with neutron-producing fuels deuterium and tritium which have radioactivity and safety issues. However, Lerner and his colleagues have been concentrating on aneutronic fuels that produce no neutrons and thus no radioactive waste. This “Focus Fusion” technology—which makes use of insights gained from Lerner’s work in cosmology—makes far cheaper direct conversion to electricity possible. Lerner’s team has perfected the tiny plasma focus device which provides major cost and size advantages over the giant tokamaks at the center of government-sponsored fusion research. While tokamak experiments like ITER cost billions and last decades, LPPF estimates it needs as little as $1 million more funding and 12-18 months to reach net energy demonstration. The company intends to raise a quarter of this sum through crowdfunding on Indiegogo, starting May 6. “The key difference between our approach and most others in fusion is that they are trying to eliminate the natural instabilities of plasmas while we are using them,” explains Lerner. Plasma is the fourth state of matter—electrically conducting gases where electrons are free to move about. It is where fusion reactions take place at extremely high temperatures. “My research in cosmology and astrophysics and my work in fusion are closely related, because the same plasma instabilities that have shaped our universe are the ones we use to generate fusion,” says Lerner. Lerner’s researches in fusion and in cosmology have been closely linked for decades. In the 1980s, he used the plasma processes in the plasma focus device as model for quasars, huge explosions in the centers of galaxies. From that research, he formulated a quantitative theory of the operation of the plasma focus device—and tested it both against experiments with the plasma focus and observations of quasars that were trillions of trillions of times larger in scale. This quantitative theory allowed Lerner to make improvements in the device that led to LPPF’s current fusion advances. During the same period, Lerner performed calculations about the origin of the large-scale structure of the universe, based on the properties of plasma filamentation—an instability that generates tornadoes of electric current and magnetic fields on all scales. On the cosmology side, these calculations, together with observations of giant superclusters of galaxies, showed that the largest structures must have taken hundreds of billions of years to form, far longer than the time available since the hypothetical Big Bang, so this was strong evidence against the Big Bang theory. On the fusion side, quantitative understanding of these filaments, which form on a tiny scale in the plasma focus device, allowed solid predictions of how the device would work best. Although it took many years for LPPF to acquire the financial and technical resources to test these theories, in 2012 LPPF’s research team published dramatic preliminary confirmation when LPPF’s Focus Fusion-1 (FF-1) plasma focus device achieved a record temperature of over 1.8 billion degrees within a tiny plasmoid—an ultraminiature quasar. The results, published in the leading journal Physics of Plasmas created excitement in the fusion field—the paper was the most-read one published in that journal during the year. More predictions of Lerner’s plasma theory will be tested in a new series of experiments with purer plasma that will be starting at LPPF’s Middlesex, NJ lab in June this year. The crowdfunding campaign is intended to help finance the final push to extracting more energy than is put into the machine. The dramatic surface brightness results announced April 30 by Lerner and colleagues Renato Falomo and Riccardo Scarpa are not themselves based on plasma physics. Instead they are a test of simple geometric predictions that distinguish an expanding from a non-expanding space. However, the new work, by greatly strengthening the evidence that the universe is not expanding and thus did not have an origin in the Big Bang 14 billion years ago, helps to confirm Lerner’s much earlier work on the formation of ultra-large scale structures from plasma filaments. The new evidence of non-expansion shows that the hundreds of billions of years needed to form these vast structures were in fact available. In this way, the new work adds to the construction of a consistent framework for understanding plasma instabilities both in the cosmos and in fusion energy devices.