Our Plan to Get to Net…EnergyMarch 17, 2020
During the Wefunder campaign, people have asked us: how can we expect to go rapidly from where we are to net energy—when we get more energy out of the device than we put in? We gave them an explanation. Since many people have told us how useful this information is, we are featuring it in this report. The information will remain available on our website.
Phase 1: Research to Achieve Net Energy Production in a Laboratory Device
Right now, our task in 2020 is to move our fusion yield up from the one quarter of a joule (J) we have achieved to the 30,000 J we need to get more energy out of the device than we put into it. This sounds like a huge jump. But it is feasible. Let’s do the numbers!
First, we are talking about a very small amount of energy in total. Our goal of 30 kJ (30,000 J) per shot is less than the energy you get from eating 3 pistachios.
Second, we are a lot closer than any other private fusion effort. TAE, our closest rival, has to increase their yield a thousand times more than we do.
Third, our process gives us a lot of leverage to convert small gains in compression to large gains in yield. Our device produces a tiny ball of ultra-hot plasma called a “plasmoid”. We have already gotten this plasmoid to the more than 2 BILLION degrees temperature we need. But we have to make it denser. Fortunately for every factor of two we improve the compression, and thus decrease the plasmoid radius, we get a factor of four increase in density. For every factor of four increase in density, we get a factor of 16 increase in fusion yield. In mathematical terms, yield goes up as the compression ratio to the fourth power.
To get better compression, we first have to achieve a high degree of symmetry, so that the filaments of current in our machine arrive together at the same point at the same time, so that they will twist up tightly into the plasmoid (see our video). The better the symmetry, the smaller the plasmoid, the more the density. We need to make sure the electrodes are clean of any metal specks and we have to get rid of any remaining oscillations in our current. We need to optimize the amount of gas, the mixture of gases and the magnetic field that gives our plasma an initial small twist. Each of these steps will only improve the compression by 15-20%, but together they will more than double the compression—shrinking the plasmoid by a factor of a bit more than 2, increasing yield by about a factor of 25 to 10 J. These are the steps we are working on right now.
Next, during the summer of this year, we intend to install new switches that are twice as small and twice as numerous as our present switches. This will allow us to initially increase the electric current in our device by about 40%. We get leverage with that as well, increasing yield by a factor of 4 to 40 J.
We will then turn on the full power of our capacitor bank, going up from eight capacitors to twelve and from 40 kV to 45 kV. That will increase our current and compression by more than 60% and our yield by 8 to about 300 J.
Then we will take the biggest step—changing the fuel in our vacuum chamber from deuterium to our final fuel—pB11, hydrogen-boron. We’ll start mixing in a bit, but we hope by around the end of the year to be running with pure B11. Once we have optimized it, we expect to get a four-fold boost in yield because this fuel burns twice as fast as deuterium; a 3-fold boost in yield because each reaction produces three times more energy than deuterium. In addition, we’ll get 40% better compression, giving another 4-fold boost in yield. Finally, our confinement time will increase 4-fold because much of the fusion energy we produce will be initially recycled back into the magnetic field that holds the plasmoid together. That gives us another 4-fold boost in yield. So, switching from deuterium to pB11 will altogether give us 2x3x4x4 or nearly 100 times the yield. This will therefore bring us all the way up to the 30 kJ we need.
- A 3-fold increase in compression will give us a 75-fold increase in yield
- A 2-fold increase in current will give us a 16-fold increase in yield
- Switching to pB11 fuel will give us a 100-fold increase in yield
¼ Jx75x16x100 = 30 kJ. This is how we can make a huge jump—in not too many steps.
Phase 2. Developing a Working Prototype Generator Ready for Manufacture
In Phase 2, we will develop the Focus Fusion device as a repetitively pulsed generator, pulsing up to a few hundred times a second, develop the conversion devices to convert the ion beams and X-rays to electricity, and perfect the cooling system and general electrical control system. We will also optimize the fusion energy generation efficiency. At the end of Phase 2, which we estimate will take another 3-4 years, we plan to have the world’s first functioning fusion generator producing 5 MW of net electricity. It will be ready for mass production. We estimate the budget for this phase to be about $100 million, to be raised from a combination of government and private sources.
Phase 3: Commercialization
We believe that the fastest and lowest-risk method of generating income from the fusion generator is through selling non-exclusive licenses on the technology. We will be protecting its intellectual property rights with a series of patents. Likely initial licenses agreements will be with large international companies already in the power generation sector and with large governmental energy organizations. The up-front money from the sale of such licenses will generate a relatively large income stream initially that will be supplemented when royalties begin to flow after actual production is begun. We also intend to initiate our own production facilities in order to have the manufacturing expertise needed to aid licenses.
Our plan is that, early in Phase 3 when we have reached profitability, we will organize an IPO to become a public company.