Focus Fusion Timelines
While the Dense Plasma Focus device, referred to as DPF or PF has existed for 40 years, progress with the DPF has been impeded mainly by a lack of good quantitative theoretical models of the tiny plasmoid, where the fusion reactions take place. There are too many parameters in the DPF device to allow progress on a purely empirical basis: the anode and cathode radii, electrode length, shape of the anode and especially anode tip, length of insulator, charging voltage, fill pressure, fill gas, and so on. Without a good theory, DPF research is like wandering in a six-dimensional desert looking for small oases. This means that there has been until recently, apart from our own work, no good way of predicting in advance the size, density, magnetic field and ion and electron energies of the plasmoids (ultra-dense, self-confined blobs of plasma) in the DPF, given initial conditions.
Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, or LPPF for short, beginning in the 1980’s, developed a detailed quantitative theory of DPF device operation, which has been successfully tested against experiments that we performed in collaboration with the University of Illinois in 1994 and with Texas A&M University in 2001. This theory, including important refinements that include magnetic effects gives us the ability, unique among DPF groups, to show in advance that hydrogen-boron fusion is feasible. Now, in the past two years, other DPF groups are working along closer lines making collaboration feasible and speeding research.
2001 – A small team of physicists led by Lerner achieved temperatures above one billion degrees in a plasma focus device, high enough for hydrogen-boron reactions. This breakthrough, reported at an international scientific conference in May 2002, took place at Texas A&M University and was funded by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
2003 – LPPF was incorporated. Lerner presented new theoretical analysis at the prestigious 5th Symposium on Current Trends in International Fusion Research in Washington DC, showing that the magnetic field effect could greatly reduce the cooling of hydrogen-boron plasma by X-ray emission, and make the production of net energy far easier. The presentation was favorably received by some of the top fusion experts in the world.
2004 – LPPF completed a preliminary simulation of plasmoids that burned proton-boron (pB11) fuel. The simulation results confirmed that net energy production is possible with a small Focus Fusion device.
2006 – LPPF submitted a patent application to the U.S. Patent Office. The patent application, entitled “Method and Apparatus for Producing X-rays, Ion Beams and Nuclear Fusion Energy”, covers the use of high magnetic fields (the quantum magnetic field effect) in the production of fusion energy, the injection of angular momentum into the plasma sheath, and a new method of converting X-ray energy into electricity.
2007 – Eric Lerner presented Focus Fusion at Google TechTalks, raising public awareness of our work. LPPF began to develop a sophisticated computer simulation aimed at understanding the formation of the plasmoids in the dense plasma focus reactor in detail. This work is being carried out in collaboration with Dr. John Guillory, Professor Emeritus at George Mason University, and Dr. David Rose of Voss Scientific, Inc.
2008 – LPPF initiated its planned two-year experiment after receiving $1.2 million from private investors and The Abell Foundation.
- U.S. Patent office issued Patent 7,482,607, “Method and Apparatus for Producing X-rays, Ion Beams and Nuclear Fusion Energy,” to Eric J. Lerner and Aaron Blake, with the assignment of the patent to Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc.
- LPPF moved into its new office where the equipment was assembled.
- Eric Lerner and the research team finished assembling “Focus Fusion-1” DPF device and began experiments. We use the nickname FF-1 as short form of Focus Fusion-1.
2010 Annual summary
LPPF’s research team demonstrated repeatable firing with ion temperatures over 100 keV. The troublesome switching system was redesigned and upgraded to handle many more shots at higher energies.
2011 Annual summary
- Demonstrating the continuation of I5 power scaling of the fusion yield—that is, showing that fusion energy per shot continues to increase with the fifth power of the peak current, as predicted by our theory.
- Record (for FF-1) fusion yield (ibid) of 150 billion neutrons.
- Improvement of repeatability of fusion yield 1st to within 15%, then to within 3%.
- Fusion yield at the highest pressures (over 40 torr) for any dense plasma focus device.
- Demonstrating the technical feasibility of the X-scan spin-off inspection technology by showing high X-ray transmission through 6 inches of metal.
These achievements were made possible by several technical advances:
- Synchronous and reliable operation of the new switch design deployed August 2011.
- Reliable functioning of FF-1 above 40 kV and initial shots at 45 kV (full voltage).
- Improvement in the symmetry of the electrodes.
2012 Annual Summary
- LPPF published in a leading peer-reviewed journal, Physics of Plasmas, our achievement of two out of the three conditions needed to produce net energy: a record-high temperature and the required confinement time of the hot plasma.
- LPPF demonstrated that our approach is, by far, the leader in the effort to achieve aneutronic or radioactive-waste-free fusion, the only known route to ecologically clean, cheap, bio-safe, and unlimited energy.
- LPPF eliminated arcing problems in the FF-1 fusion device that were blocking progress; it developed and used simulations to improve the FF-1 fusion device design, and acquired a greater theoretical understanding of FF-1’s 1.8 billion degree temperatures.
- We initiated collaboration with the Plasma Physics Research Center in Iran, established closer collegial links with Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and set up collaboration with Japanese simulation scientists. These collaborations will help substantially in accomplishing our goals in 2013.
2013 – LPPF identified impurities as the main obstacle to increased densities and started work on tungsten electrodes to overcome the impurity problem. Report by Dr. Robert Hirsch and others recommend increased funding for LPPF approach.
2014 – Raised $180k via crowdfunding for beryllium electrodes—demonstrating public interest and support for the project.
Milestones ahead (years are rough estimates)
2019 – Start of experiments with hydrogen-boron fuel
2020 – Demonstrations of more energy out of the device than is put in
2023 – First prototype 5 MW generator
See Goals and Milestones list.