LPP is proud to highlight the main developments of the past year, and the next steps we intend to take in completing the research phase in 2012.
To review, in 2010 we achieved two key goals—confirming the generation of ion energies of over 100 keV (one billion degrees) and increasing the efficiency of energy transfer into the plasmoid to more than 10% of the total bank energy.
In 2011, the key scientific achievements of our project were:
- 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.
In addition, we published our basic theory and preliminary results in a peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of Fusion Energy, another paper in JOFE on switch progress, and two additional publications are currently moving through review.
While we have made significant progress, we did not move forward as quickly as we had planned. The basic reasons for this are the time it has taken to resolve some of the key engineering issues, such as the switches, and the small size of our staff, ultimately imposed by LPP’s finances. If we look at our progress as measured by number of shots, instead of by number of months, our research has been progressing about as planned. We originally calculated that we would need 2,000-2,500 shots to complete the research program from where we were in January 2011. During 2011, we only fired FF-1 600 times, due to the time needed for various technical upgrades, and our progress was actually greater than we had anticipated for that number of shots.
Looking forward, we expect in the coming year to achieve the following major goals:
- Demonstrating the theoretically predicted fusion yield with pure deuterium.
- Showing higher fusion yield with heavier gas mixtures.
- Achieving reliable performance at still higher fill pressures.
- Boosting yield even further with shorter electrodes, which allow higher gas densities.
- Achieving giga-gauss magnetic fields in the plasmoids.
- Demonstrating the quantum magnetic field effect’s reduction in X-ray cooling
- Demonstrating scientific feasibility with pB11 fuel.
Achieving these goals depends on further upgrades to FF-1, including an even faster set of switches under design by a leading commercial supplier and, critically, obtaining funds to hire at least two more full-time staff.
Above: The interior of FF-1’s anode, etched by the electron beams of hundreds of fusion shots…
with many more on the way!