Can crowdfunding give us safe fusion power by 2020?

The team led by Eric Lerner is attempting to achieve nuclear fusion using an innovative, l...A group of researchers at New Jersey-based LPP Fusion is turning to crowdfunding to demonstrate net power gain from a nuclear fusion reactor. The scientists plan to do this using a technique which is relatively little-known, but which they claim is scientifically sound and only relies on well-established science. Given enough funding, the researchers say they could design a US$500, 000, 5 MW reactor that would produce energy for as little as 0.06 cents per kWh, all by the end of the decade.

You'd be excused for doubting that research into fusion power could successfully be crowd-funded. ITER's tokamak, which is being built in the south of France, is requiring a collaboration of seven countries and has seen several delays, with costs now expected to exceed the €10 billion (US$13.7 billion) mark. Barring further difficulties, the ITER project is slated to begin operations in 2027 at the earliest.

According to LPP Fusion chief scientist Eric Lerner, the vast majority of the financial resources have been allocated to ITER's approach to fusion power, while other avenues, such as the one being pursued by his team, have been largely neglected, despite being much cheaper. Using an approach he calls "focus fusion, " Lerner says his team can obtain a crucial electrode for $200, 000, demonstrate net power gain with $1 million, and solve the final engineering problems, leading to a functioning fusion reactor with just $50 million in funding.

How it works

A strong current pulse generates plasma between the anode and the cathode of the plasma fo...In a standard nuclear fusion approach, the idea is to capture the plasma and make it stable, which is technically extremely challenging (and expensive). The Focus Fusion approach is not to fight those instabilities, but to instead harness them to concentrate the plasma in a very small area.

The plasma focus device, the heart of the fusion reactor, can be as small as just a few inches in diameter (see above). The device consists of a central hollow cylinder made out of copper, the anode, surrounded by an insulator (in white), and an outer electrode, the cathode, a circle of copper rods. The device is enclosed in a vacuum chamber filled with the fusion fuel and attached to a powerful capacitor bank.

A strong current pulse generates plasma between the anode and the cathode of the plasma focus device (Image: LPP Fusion)

A group of scientists are turning to Indiegogo to fund fusion power research (Image: LPP F... The plasma focus device can be quite small in size (Image: LPP Fusion) Natural instabilities briefly concentrate plasma into a donut-shaped plasmoid (Image: LPP ... The final reactor would harvest electricity directly, for better efficiency and vastly red...


by whatimcalled

It can all be done without banks.

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