A private laboratory in New Jersey is claiming to have fulfilled two key conditions of a workable fusion energy system: it’s confined atomic nuclei in an ion “bottle”, and heated them to 1.8 billion degrees Celsius.
The Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Inc work, published in the American Institute of Physics’ Physics of Plasmas journal, reports that the high-density deuterium ion fusion reactions were confined “for durations of 7-30ns in the cores of plasmoids with typical radii of 300-500 μm”.
The company is now claiming the record temperature for a confined plasma reaction – as distinct from the highter temperatures that can be achieved by firing a particle beam, for example – and its choice of the hydrogen-boron fuel known as pB11 creates an “aneutronic” reaction: no neutrons are produced, and hence no radioactivity.
According to the lab’s chief scientist Eric Lerner, the third condition Lawrenceville Plasma Physics is working towards is to increase the density of the fuel. “The denser it is, the faster it will burn”, he told MyCentralJersey.
With higher density, Lerner says, the lab should be able to scale up the reaction to deliver net energy.
Achieving a net energy gain is the always-just-out-of-reach goal of fusion power. Recently, as part of the National Ignition Facility's fusion work, hats were thrown in the air over the success of a laser firing that set records by flinging 1.875 million joules of energy into the NIF's target chamber, generating the equivalent of 411 trillion watts peak power. ®