The work at focus fusion continues apace. The next stage will involve adjusting the design to accommodate heavier plasma. This is new ground and surely cannot be expected to proceed so swimmingly.
Do not be surprised if it drags out, but so far it appears that we are well ahead of expectations and the design is working well.
We are still months away from an actual Bismuth test, but the development path is so far quite clear.
Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Progress to Proving Scientific Feasibility of Dense Plasma Nuclear Fusion
JUNE 10, 2010
Tests in early June have confirmed that FF-1 (Focus Fusion 1 experimental Device) is producing higher fusion yields than have been achieved with any other DPF (Dense Plasma Fusion) at the same peak current.
The FF-1 results are as much as a factor of ten above the other results and show a sharper increase with higher current. They cannot say for sure yet if this improvement in performance is due to our use of the Axial Field Coil or to the small radius of our electrodes or both. Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP) is a bit less than half way to their goal of demonstrating scientific feasibility which would involve a yield of 10,000 to 100,000 joules. If they can continue at the rate of progress of the spring, they should reach demonstrating scientific feasibility by year-end.
New spark plugs with more durability should be installed by the end of the week. This should allow the LPP team to go up to reliably go up to higher voltages while not having problems with these components.
The report from Lawrenceville Plasma Physics from last month is here. (They got to 1 megaamperes after 6 months of modifying the switches)
Review of Lawrenceville Plasma Physics and Dense Plasma Fusion
Here is a link to a prior article that describes what they are trying to do in some technical detail and there is a link to an older business plan. Basically it boils down to that they look good to achieving energy breakeven this year or next. More energy out than you put into it. This has not been achieved at the large international fusion projects despite billions of dollars and thousands of PHDs working on it.
A little less than double the experimental current (amperage) with a sufficiently strong magnetic field will achieve breakeven.
If Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP) achieves full success, then a Focus Fusion reactor would produce electricity very differently. The energy from fusion reactions is released mainly in the form of a high-energy, pulsed beam of helium nuclei. Since the nuclei are electrically charged, this beam is already an electric current. All that is needed is to capture this electric energy into an electric circuit. This can be done by allowing the pulsed beam to generate electric currents in a series of coils as it passes through them. This is much the same way that a transformer works, stepping electric power down from the high voltage of a transmission line to the low voltage used in homes and factories. It is also like a particle accelerator run in reverse. Such an electrical transformation can be highly efficient, probably around 70%. What is most important is that it is exceedingly cheap and compact. The steam turbines and electrical generators are eliminated. A 5 MW Focus Fusion reactor may cost around $300,000 and produce electricity for 1/10th of a cent per kWh. This is fifty times less than current electric costs. Fuel costs will be negligible because a 5 MW plant will require only five pounds of fuel per year. [About 40 million kWh per year from a 5 MWe plant and 5 MWe is equal to 6705 horsepower]
LPP talked about full development for $20 million of one commercial sized and performing reactor.
Presumably after the scientific feasibility is proven and it looks clear LPP has a good chance to actually do something, they would then get some of the DOE and other money that is being sprayed around on energy tech.
Other Nuclear Fusion Startups
A similar company, EMC Fusion, with a different nuclear fusion technlogy is funded by the
General Fusion is another new fusion company. They are funded by Venture capitalists and the Canadian government (About $30 million total)
An update of progress so far along the 8 milestones.