Posted in Energy, Nuclear Fusion

How close are we to nuclear fusion? 

How close are we to nuclear fusion? My original answer is here:

Here is my answer below:

We already know how to fuse atoms. What we have not yet achieved is building a fusion reactor that will produce more energy than it consumes. We have also not succeeded in producing nuclear fusion power that will be cheaper than all other forms of energy.

Nuclear fusion has been achieved by us in H- bombs, nuclear enrichment (e.g. bombarding Uranium-238, a non-radioactive/fissile material with neutrons to form Plutonium-239, a fissile material), and many nuclear fusion reactors of many varying types (have a look at Dr. Matthew J. Moynihan’s showing different approaches of nuclear fusion, which can be broadly classified as magnetically confined plasmas, inertial electrostatic confinement, or a combination of both). Magnetically confined plasmas have received the lion’s share of funding from governments, mainly in the form of tokamaks, which are inherently large because the walls of the machine need to be spaced further and further away from the plasma as it becomes hotter, in order to increase power production with a relatively low density, and reduce conductive losses.

If we can get a working prototype generator with a nuclear fusion reactor that does not require a turbine (boiling water to generate steam which drives a turbine which a generator converts rotational energy to electrical energy), such as using direct energy conversion with a reverse particle accelerator on a bean of charged particles, then we will be and to remove a large cost component of producing electricity. If we can reduce the size if a generator, it will be able to be more distributed, and have a cheaper capital cost (especially without a turbine). The direct electricity conversion approaches that are currently being tried that come to my mind are LPPFusion and Tri Alpha Energy. LPPFusion claims that if it can get a commercial scale of generators, the power cost will be 10 or more times less than the cheapest energy source available today (FMI see here).

To find out how LPPFusion works, I suggest reading and digesting the paper:

For an introduction to LPPFusion, you may watch this:

IndieGoGo Campaign 2014

Alternatively, you may go to this page:

FUSION | About

For details about how the dense plasma focus works and how the theory behind it is a good model to explain what occurs in quasars, see this paper: ‘Magnetic Self-Compression in Laboratory Plasmas, Quasars and Radio Galaxies, Part 1’ (the link is here).

There’s lots more information on LPPFusion’s website, including how they compare to other aneutronic fusion approaches (the link is here), and other competing approaches (i.e nuclear fission power, and deuterium and tritium fusion mostly with tokamaks, see here: Competing Technologies. They have a conference call and a report released at the end of every month.

Other projects include:

  • ITER: a multi government, multi billion dollar investment in a tokamak in Southern France. It seems unlikely that a tokamak will ever be commercially viable.
  • The US National Ignition Facility (NIF): using lasers to heat pellets of fissile material to ignite. The NIF is also a multi billion dollar project.
  • EMC2: an inertial electrostatic confinement (IEC) approach that is not publishing, plus various other polywell projects here.
  • General Fusion: uses computer synchronised pistons to compress pumped liquid lead (the pumping forms a vortex which plasma is injected into), which creates a pressure wave that in turn compresses magnetically confined plasma.
  • Helion Energy

How does LPPF compare to other fusion approaches in terms of progress? See this page here.

Applications of LPPFusion include power generation, one-sided X-ray scanning of infrastructure for preventative maintenance, motive power in space travel and aviation, and desalination.

They have been facing issues with impurities in the reactor chamber. They initially used copper electrodes for budget reasons, then replaced them with tungsten one piece electrodes. They plan on using beryllium silver lined electrodes to further reduce impurities from the plasma sheaths arcing and vaporizing and ionizing atoms from the electrodes. They have also used precharging with a small current before the main charge in order to prevent runaway electrons arcing. I think they have experimented with a glow discharge, and in their last teleconference Eric said they had bought a magnetron and were waiting for its arrival to experiment with using it to produce microwaves to get rid of impurities.

Are you interested in staying up to date with LPPFusion? Subscribe to their newsletter here.

Donate to LPPFusion here.

Invest in LPPFusion. Contact to ask for more information. Some (not all) information about investing is available on the website’s investing pages: executive summary, business roadmap, Prospects for Success, Cost Advantage and ROI, and Investing In LPP.

About me:

I started studying renewable energy engineering at the University of New South Wales in 2014. I was looking for work since my first year. Currently, I work 3 days a week as a technical support engineer at Sungrow, a solar inverter manufacturer with headquarters in China. I have researched many energy converters, ranging from R&D phase to commercial. I’m currently researching LPPFusion. I am not invested in them at the moment, but that will probably change in the not-too-distant future. I have read through most of their website, their private placement memorandum, and am currently reading through their papers. I may consider studying a Masters in Physics, but I’d prefer to not do that if I can help LPPF without it, since some things that I learn may not be useful with LPP.


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