Science Magazine Features Focus FusionAugust 15, 2014
Science Magazine, one of the two leading science journals in the world, featured LPPFusion’s work on Focus Fusion in a news article on privately-funded alternative approaches to fusion. The article, titled “Fusion’s Restless Pioneers” also featured two other efforts aiming at aneutronic fusion, Tri-Alpha Corporation and EMC2, as well as General Fusion.
The article appeared in the July 25 issue, dated only two days after the other leading science journal, Nature, favorably mentioned LPPFusion’s effort in an editorial and urged the US and European governments to fund aneutronic approaches to fusion.
The Science article summarizes how Eric Lerner began independent research into the Dense Plasma Focus fusion approach in the eighties, including a period when his research was funded by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The LPP portion of the article concluded with a quote from Lerner that LPP’s peer published results to date put it far ahead of Tri Alpha and others who hope to ultimately use hydrogen boron (pB11) as fuel for continuous fusion power generation.
Temperature, Density, Confinement
In covering four private fusion approaches at medium depth, the article omitted some key details about LPP’s lead in creating the right mix of temperature, density and confinement time needed to make aneutronic fusion work. How close a fusion approach is to the conditions needed to ignite and fully burn its fuel, is a product of these three conditions and LPP has already reached its target for two of those. It is now focusing on the needed plasma density levels necessary for pB11 fusion.
The article’s section on LPP also did not explore how the small physical size and simplicity of its DPF based approach is a key advantage over fusion approaches being pursued by Tri Alpha and others. Eric Lerner’s theoretical models of how DPF magnetic pinches can be optimized to reach pB11 ignition levels are guiding enhancements to LPP’s current research device. Lerner predicts FF-1 device can demonstrate fusion break even in the next 1 – 2 years.
The other private companies profiled all need to scale up their devices to much larger, more capable machines over the next five to ten years to demonstrate break even fusion output levels. The costs for these very large and complex experimental fusion devices, while not tens of billions like ITER, are hundreds of times higher than what LPP needs.
Costs directly proportional to size
The approximate costs of various fusion approaches can be compared by considering the total size and weight of the equipment needed by their research devices.
The Science article closes with several skeptical quotes from scientists invested in ITER type tokomak research about the difficulty and high costs of fusion research. While half true for General Fusion, Tri Alpha and some others, those views don’t apply to the far lower complexity and cost of LPP’s DPF using pB11 approach.
The LPPFusion design advantages will carry over to working fusion generators based on its technology. We estimate that electricity could be produced from distributed 5 MW units for 0.5 cents per Kilo watt hour (KwH) or less, far less than the per Kwh cost for any competing source.