Laser-boron fusion now ‘leading contender’ for energy

From the UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES and the “coming to a power plant near you in 30 to 50 years” department

A laser-driven technique for creating fusion that dispenses with the need for radioactive fuel elements and leaves no toxic radioactive waste is now within reach, say researchers

Schematic of proposed laser-driven hydrogen-boron fusion, which generates energy and insignificant levels of radioactivity. Laser 1 produces a 10-kilotesla field, which is sustained for about a nanosecond after being generated, trapping the hydrogen-boron fuel in the cylindrical axis of a magnetic coil. A 30kJ picosecond pulse from Laser 2 induces plasma block ignition6 in the fuel and the resulting fusion burn releases alpha particles (helium nuclei). The central reaction unit is charged to −1.4 million volts relative to the wall of the sphere. This potential difference stops the alpha particles, converting their kinetic energy into more than a gigajoule (280kWh) of electric energy per shot

Dramatic advances in powerful, high-intensity lasers are making it viable for scientists to pursue what was once thought impossible: creating fusion energy based on hydrogen-boron reactions. And an Australian physicist is in the lead, armed with a patented design and working with international collaborators on the remaining scientific challenges.

In a paper in the scientific journal Laser and Particle Beams today, lead author Heinrich Hora from the University of New South Wales in Sydney and international colleagues argue that the path to hydrogen-boron fusion is now viable, and may be closer to realisation than other approaches, such as the deuterium-tritium fusion approach being pursued by U.S. National Ignition Facility (NIF) and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor under construction in France.

“I think this puts our approach ahead of all other fusion energy technologies,” said Hora, who predicted in the 1970s that fusing hydrogen and boron might be possible without the need for thermal equilibrium. Rather than heat fuel to the temperature of the Sun using massive, high-strength magnets to control superhot plasmas inside a doughnut-shaped toroidal chamber (as in NIF and ITER), hydrogen-boron fusion is achieved using two powerful lasers in rapid bursts, which apply precise non-linear forces to compress the nuclei together.

Hydrogen-boron fusion produces no neutrons and, therefore, no radioactivity in its primary reaction. And unlike most other sources of power production – like coal, gas and nuclear, which rely on heating liquids like water to drive turbines – the energy generated by hydrogen-boron fusion converts directly into electricity. But the downside has always been that this needs much higher temperatures and densities – almost 3 billion degrees Celsius, or 200 times hotter than the core of the Sun.

However, dramatic advances in laser technology are close to making the two-laser approach feasible, and a spate of recent experiments around the world indicate that an ‘avalanche’ fusion reaction could be triggered in the trillionth-of-a-second blast from a petawatt-scale laser pulse, whose fleeting bursts pack a quadrillion watts of power. If scientists could exploit this avalanche, Hora said, a breakthrough in proton-boron fusion was imminent.

“It is a most exciting thing to see these reactions confirmed in recent experiments and simulations,” said Hora, an emeritus professor of theoretical physics at UNSW. “Not just because it proves some of my earlier theoretical work, but they have also measured the laser-initiated chain reaction to create one billion-fold higher energy output than predicted under thermal equilibrium conditions.”

Together with 10 colleagues in six nations – including from Israel’s Soreq Nuclear Research Centre and the University of California, Berkeley – Hora describes a roadmap for the development of hydrogen-boron fusion based on his design, bringing together recent breakthroughs and detailing what further research is needed to make the reactor a reality.

An Australian spin-off company, HB11 Energy, holds the patents for Hora’s process. “If the next few years of research don’t uncover any major engineering hurdles, we could have prototype reactor within a decade,” said Warren McKenzie, managing director of HB11.

“From an engineering perspective, our approach will be a much simpler project because the fuels and waste are safe, the reactor won’t need a heat exchanger and steam turbine generator, and the lasers we need can be bought off the shelf,” he added.


The paper:


224 thoughts on “Laser-boron fusion now ‘leading contender’ for energy

    • Yes, the work of Dr. Hora and his international collaboration has provided the first experimental demonstration of large numbers of fusion reactions with hydrogen-boron fuel. We and two other groups will be seeing in 2018 if the avalanche effect that his group first reported lat year also enhances fusion in our device, the dense plasma focus. See more information and how you can participate in helping this work at

      • Brief History of Fusion Power

        “In the 1930’s scientists, particularly Hans Bethe, discovered that nuclear fusion was possible and that it was the energy source for the sun. Beginning in the 1940’s researchers began to look for ways to initiate and control fusion reactions to produce useful energy on earth. From the start, the task was difficult, because fusion reactions required temperatures of hundreds of millions of degrees, too hot to be contained by any solid chamber. Instead, physicists sought to contain the hot plasma with magnetic fields, using, for example, the pinch effect where electric currents moving in the same direction attract each other through their magnetic fields. This approach was called “magnetic confinement”.

        Initially this work in the U.S., UK and USSR was secret. However, by the mid-1950’s administrators and scientists alike were convinced that controlled fusion research had no military applications, and in particular had nothing to do with the development of thermonuclear weapons.

        The first thermonuclear weapons had been detonated in the early 1950’s. In an H-bomb, or thermonuclear weapon, the tremendous energy of a fission-based nuclear weapon is used to heat up a large amount—tens or hundreds of kilograms—of a fusion fuel to release fusion energy in an explosion. By contrast, in controlled fusion research—and in a future fusion generator—not even one gram of fuel would be heated to high temperature at any one time. This tiny amount of highly heated fuel is far too small to serve as a “spark” for the kilograms of fuel needed for a weapon. In fact, any contact between the tiny amount of hot fuel plasma and a larger object, such as the fuel for a bomb, would immediately douse the fusion reaction by lowering the plasma’s temperature. (Thus the conversion of a fusion generator into bomb, sometimes portrayed in science fiction, is impossible.)

        Since fusion research had no military applications, it was declassified by the major participating nations, and cooperation in fusion began between the U.S. and the USSR.

        Starting in the 1960’s, after the invention of the laser, other researchers sought to heat fuels with a laser so suddenly that the plasma would not have time to escape before it was burned in the fusion reaction. It would be trapped by its own inertia. This newer approach was thus named ”inertial confinement”.

        During this first period, scientists realized that the key problem for controlled fusion was the tendency of plasma to develop instabilities that led to plasma escape from the magnetic confinement. While most fusion approaches struggled to suppress these instabilities, which occur in all plasma, in 1964 U.S. and Soviet scientists simultaneously developed the plasma focus device, which sought to exploit the instabilities to compress energy, instead of trying to suppress them.”

        Lot more in the link

      • Sunsettommy’s post on history of fusion is at least a bit misleading. The post leaves one with the impression that fusion in a thermonuclear weapon is directly responsible for the increaesed yield. It is only indirectly responsible as most of the extra yield directly comes from fusion. See any number of web pages on these things, such as this Wikipedia entry:

        PIcky, picky, picky ;-)

      • LPPFusion has created an ingenious experimental reactor that’s within striking distance of a near-term commercial design. Here are Eric Lerner’s explanatory videos:

        How it works

        Reaching ignition

        Complete Album of Videos

      • ingenious … striking … near-term commercial

        Press-releasy words. Sarastro is the astroturfing account number 92? I understand money is needed but if you are writing behalf of the company, please spell it out. It might be even illegal in some jurisdictions to do misleading marketing efforts while crowdfunding. I bet it is.

    • wxobserver: What? Fusion is or is not? You said twice that fusion is the source of the extra energy, as though there was a contradiction.

      • The energy of the sun and of all stars is powered by gravitation; by far the weakest force in the universe. But gravity sucks, so everything attracts everything else, and you don’t need any can to put it in. Just put enough massive matter together and it just sucks itself together. If it’s the right stuff it will eventually lead automatically to fusion reactions. But it’s the gravitational force that makes it work, not electromagnetic forces which is what laser radiation is, but electromagnetic forces don’t suck they blow, and they like to blow things apart, not squeeze them together.


      • What George writes is of course true, but I think he overlooks the fundamental equation of the 20th century; E = mc².

        It seems obvious (as in “from observation”) that fusion is a mass related event. But by the formula above, energy is mass. If you put enough energy into a small place at the right time, you’ll get mass effects, which is how this device works.

        The problem is with the second law of thermodynamics, which precludes the idea o perpetual motion. This design, and all cold fusion designs I’ve seen, violates the second law. Stars convert mass to energy by gravitation. The conversion isn’t net positive; it’s also subject to the second law and is a fine example of entropy in action.

        TANSTAFL. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

      • Well Bartleby, I am not overlooking anything.

        And by the way, Albert Einstein also said : E = hf, so that means that energy is actually frequency.

        And of course you have to use h or hbar depending on whether you count frequency in CPS or radians per second.

        In certain fields scientists use a system of units where c=h=1 (I think e=1 , the electron charge also)

        So they simply put E=m=f

        I see nobody has answered my question about the pulse repetition rate of these petawatt lasers.

        Anybody know how much time elapses between shots of the Lawrence Livermore whack-a-mole machine.

        Charles H. Townes warned laser aficionados in a keynote speech, that laser confinement might be interesting for studying very dense plasmas, but that they were kidding themselves if they thought it was a practical way to fusion energy availability.

        I’ve seen nothing to change that situation.

        I think I have said before that I was detecting the 14 MeV neutrons, with a Stilbene crystal scintillation counter from DT fusion experiments circa 1959/60. 80% of the fusion energy is in the KE of the neutron, so you have to deal with those neutrons to access that energy in the form of heat, and that means radioactive materials problems. The p-B path may lead directly to Electricity, but how do you make it a smooth continuous process, with pico-second laser pulses.
        It’s not like you have a continuous boron string passing through a hydrogen stream and being continuously fused by lasers.

        The automobile IC engine is about the only pulsed energy system that has been made practical.

        Hydro gives smooth continuous mechanical (potential) energy to electricity conversion with smooth output control, and many fuels do continuous chemical to thermal conversion which is restrained by the Carnot efficiency.


    • So it’s another whack-a-mole machine.

      After you whack your mole you have to clean the whole thing out an go and buy another fuel pellet to put in there and whack it.

      So how much electric power or energy does it take to get each of those lasers to put out one whack each ??

      How big does this thing have to be to replace an ordinary coal fired regular steam turbine power station ??

      Gravity works better, but gravity is so weak, you have to build very big reactors, somewhat bigger than a brown dwarf star.

      But then gravity sucks, so that is a big advantage, you don’t need that -1.4 megavolt can. Don’t even need any can.


      • Thanks for this George. See my earlier reply to the author above and to the experimenters at NSWU; you can’t get something for nothing. By injecting well focused energy they will eventually, and with the the right tools, achieve fusion. This was demonstrated decades ago by the Lawrence Livermore Labs Shiva project; it is possible to attain fusion in low gravity through the use of large amounts of energy, but the reaction isn’t net positive. I doubt very much this experiment will be any more successful at producing a net energy gain.

      • I don’t see the clamor for 11/5B + 1/1H > 3x 4/2He +8.47MeV.

        It has the lowest reaction cross-section of any of the light atom reactions. And those three 4/2He are going to split the 8.47 MeV to get 2.8233 MeV each, so I can see that a bit over 1.4 MV can stop them all from reaching the “bottle”.

        But why not use the other similar option: 6/3Li + 2/1D > 2x 4/2He + 22.4MeV .
        So you need four times the voltage or 5.6 MV but the reaction cross-section is smaller than the B-H option. Deuterium is plentiful as ores go.

        I don’t quite get the double laser pulse ignition process. The D-T laser implosion was hampered by low absorption of the laser pulse.

        It would seem to me that if you are going to extract the fusion energy as an electric current, then why not use that electric output to accelerate the input Deuterons in the Lithium process, or the protons in the Boron reaction, and be done with the lasers and their paraphernalia.

        You would gave good clean fusion electricity in to the accelerator, along with a steady flow of Deuterium; no lasers, and Helium coming out the end.
        Lithium wire in plus Deuterium, accelerate the Deuterons to 5.6 MV and collect the fused Helium current at 5.6 MV output , so one fourth of the current at four times the Voltage.

        And you could use trashed Tesla batteries for you Lithium source to get rid of that junk.


  1. This sounds exciting and practical. It is the first time I have heard of generating the electricity directly from a nuclear reaction.


  2. I’m definitely in favour of looking at fusion with other elements and other isotopes. There has to be a combination that works easier and doesn’t produce radiation.

    Deuterium and Tritium fusion produces Helium and energy but it also releases a high energy neutron in the process. ie. it produces extreme levels of harmful radiation that will also contaminate and eventually slowly disintegrate the containers it is held in. They are pretending that a lithium shell will absorb the neutron radiation but that is very limited and could never withstand a functioning reactor for very long. ie. fairy tale.

      • There is a few grams of tritium available at Fukushima Daiichi and it makes more every year, they will even pay you to remove it :-)

      • Bill, their picture shows an emerging 4He nucleus, and a neutron and then …. ENERGY ….
        So just what is this …. energy ….

        Well most of the energy is in the kinetic energy of the neutron; 14 MeV, and about the only way to access that 14 MeV is in the form of heat by slowing the neutron in materials which will get hot, and radioactive.

        The 4He nucleus will recoil at about 1/4 of the neutron velocity, but the energy splits according to 1/2mv^2, so 80% of the KE is in the neutron, and 20% in the He nucleus recoil.


      • Bill:

        Good graphic, but you left out the essential component of this reaction; mass (gravity). All known naturally occurring fusion reactions are a conversion of potential energy (gravity) to free energy. All of them. Accept no substitutes.

        In the example experiment described in this article, energy is used as a proxy for mass according to the recently derived formula E = mc². No magic, just a direct conversion of mass (gravity) to energy. Potential energy (gravity) is converted to free energy, but absent gravity (mass) the reaction isn’t net positive in energy.

        This experiment demonstrates the well understood relation between mass and energy by using energy as a proxy for mass. But it will never be net positive. It can’t be.

      • >>
        All known naturally occurring fusion reactions are a conversion of potential energy (gravity) to free energy. All of them.

        There’s no potential energy conversion in the Sun. If there was, then the Sun would be shrinking. The Sun’s size is due to a balance between nuclear processes trying to blow it apart and gravity trying to make it smaller. The Sun’s current energy source is proton-proton fusion. The Sun’s not massive enough for CNO cycle fusion.


    • That 14 MeV neutron is where most of the released fusion energy is, in the D-T reaction, so you have to deal with than neutron to get access to that energy in the form of heat, which is the trash can of the energy spectrum.


    • All of these reactions you mention are, in practice, derived from a conversion of gravity to energy. Attempts to simulate the effects of gravity by injecting energy as a proxy (which is exactly what this team is doing) will fail to produce net positive energy.

      The fusion reaction you observe in a star such as Sol (our star) is driven by gravity; it is a direct conversion of potential energy (in the form of gravity) to free energy and there are losses in that conversion. It’s not a free lunch. Injecting energy as a proxy for mass will never, can never, result in a net energy gain, else you would have perpetual motion.

      The mistake these experimenters make is in believing they’re using a hydrogen/boron fuel; it isn’t a fuel it’s merely a reagent. The seconf law precludes this reaction being net positive.

      • Greg Goodman asks: “So what is the fuel in a hydrogen bomb, and why do they produce net positive energy?”

        This is a very good question. With a hydrogen fusion weapon, the energy release of a fission reaction primer is amplified by the hydrogen reaction, but you aren’t getting “something for nothing”, you’re making the energy release more efficient than it would be. The fusion reaction is essentially pumped by the fission reaction.

        What these folks are doing is pumping the fusion reaction with a laser, which results in fusion but at a net energy deficit.

      • Another way to think of it Greg is to replace the hydrogen/boron “fuel” with wood; you can use a laser to light a wood fire in a combustion chamber, igniting it, then capture the released heat from the wood to boil water and convert that heat to electric energy via a steam turbine. It works, but it costs more (in energy) to light the wood than you’ll recover in steam power.

      • My toy example isn’t really a good one since it uses energy to prime a chemical reaction in the wood, which actually uses oxygen to burn the wood.

        It’s likely the hydrogen/boron fusion reaction would release more heat than a wood fire, but it would still be a net negative conversion.

      • Bartleby writes: “All of these reactions you mention are, in practice, derived from a conversion of gravity to energy. Attempts to simulate the effects of gravity by injecting energy as a proxy (which is exactly what this team is doing) will fail to produce net positive energy.”

        This is just pure nonsense. Both fission and fusion work because the end products have less mass than the starting ingredients. In the case of the hydrogen-boron reaction discussed here, we have one proton and one boron nucleus converted to three helium nuclei:

        Element Atomic mass
        1-Hydrogen 1.007825
        11-Boron 11.009305
        Total: 12.01713

        Converts to:

        4-Helium 4.002603
        4-Helium x 3 12.007809

        Difference: 0.009321

        That lost mass difference has been converted to energy according to E=mc^2. There is a potential barrier between the starting and ending states, so you have to push the ingredients over the barrier somehow. Maybe (as in the sun) infalling material generates the needed temperature from conversion of potential to kinetic energy. Maybe, as in the experiment discussed here, it is enabled by laser beams. But the energy that results is not from gravity (in the sun) nor from the laser (in this experiment). It is from the lost mass that was converted to energy.

      • Ron; It’s hardly nonsense and as I mentioned, you can overcome the boundary for energy release in wood using lasers too. That doesn’t allow you to harvest more energy than is put into the reaction, nor does producing a fusion reaction using the same methods.

        The boundary energy for initiating the reaction equals or exceeds the energy harvested. That’s been the failure of these attempts throughout history. Natural thermonuclear reactions depend on gravity as I explained, you can call it mass if you like or express it as energy using the classic formula, it changes nothing. It’s essentially the conversion of potential energy to kinetic.

      • Greg,

        With a H-bomb, you get one shot, which produces a lot of energy; but unfortunately it blows your fusion “reactor” to smithereens.

        The general idea here is to contain the energy of that H-bomb inside a bottle, and the only successfully demonstrated way of doing that is gravitational confinement, which is automatic, but impractically large.
        There is a theorem in electro-magnetism called Earnshaw’s theorem, which in essence says there is no EM bottle. No configuration of electric charges or magnetic poles, produces a field with a point of equilibrium where another charge or pole can be captured.

        Every containment bottle has outward bursting forces that require another bottle outside that to contain it. Gravitation needs no such bottles because it sucks instead of blowing (pushing).


      • Bartleby: “Ron; It’s hardly nonsense and as I mentioned, you can overcome the boundary for energy release in wood using lasers too. That doesn’t allow you to harvest more energy than is put into the reaction,…”
        You clearly don’t have the foggiest understanding of physics, made all the more infuriating by your supreme confidence in your faulty ideas. If your comment about wood were correct, then a forest fire could emit no more heat than the arsonist put in with the match used to start it. In both chemical and nuclear reactions, bonds in a high energy state are converted to ones in a lower energy state. The difference actually reduces the mass of the components, and that mass is converted to some form of energy, either heat or electricity or something. Some reactions go fast (explosions), some go slower, and in some, the potential barrier between the high and low energy states is so high that a continuous input of energy is needed to drive the components over the barrier. But as they go down the other side, any energy input is recovered, and more. Of course, you can also contrive to drive reactions the other way, in which case you do lose energy because the final state locks up more energy than the initial state did.
        The only difference between chemical and nuclear reactions is the much larger difference between initial and final states, and the larger height of the barrier separating them. So you need more energy to get a nuclear reaction going, and more energy is obtained from the reaction.

  3. This is where Holdren should have spent the money he wasted on 20+ bankrupt renewable energy firms.

    • “This is where Holdren should have spent the money he wasted on 20+ bankrupt renewable energy firms.”

      Wasted or stolen? Considering how fast those companies went belly up and the money disappeared, some are convinced the investment in those renewable energy firms was a scam all along. It’s more likely the money squandered on Obama’s trillion-dollar stimulus (stealfromus) went exactly where it was intended to go: into the pockets of Democratic party cronies. It’s classic Democratic “wealth redistribution”

    • To refresh memories: From “Obama’s Taxpayer-Backed Green Energy Failures”
      1. A123 Systems ($279 million)*
      2. Abound Solar ($400 million)*
      3. Amonix ($5.9 million)
      4. Azure Dynamics ($5.4 million)*
      5. Babcock and Brown ($178 million)
      6. Beacon Power ($43 million)*
      7. Brightsource ($1.6 billion)
      8. ECOtality ($126.2 million)
      9. EnerDel’s subsidiary Ener1 ($118.5 million)*
      10. Energy Conversion Devices ($13.3 million)*
      11. Evergreen Solar ($25 million)*
      12. First Solar ($1.46 billion)
      13. Fisker Automotive ($529 million)
      14. GreenVolts ($500,000)
      15. Johnson Controls ($299 million)
      16. Konarka Technologies Inc. ($20 million)*
      17. LG Chem’s subsidiary Compact Power ($151 million)
      18. Mascoma Corp. ($100 million)
      19. Mountain Plaza, Inc. ($2 million)*
      20. Navistar ($39 million)
      21. Nevada Geothermal ($98.5 million)
      22. Nordic Windpower ($16 million)*
      23. Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company ($10 million)*
      24. Raser Technologies ($33 million)*
      25. Range Fuels ($80 million)*
      26. Satcon ($3 million)*
      27. Solyndra ($535 million)*
      28. SpectraWatt ($500,000)*
      29. Stirling Energy Systems ($7 million)*
      30. SunPower ($1.2 billion)
      31. Thompson River Power ($6.5 million)*
      32. Vestas ($50 million)
      33. Willard and Kelsey Solar Group ($700,981)*
      *Denotes companies that declared bankruptcy.

      Total: $4,376,470,000.00

  4. I don’t get it. Why go for the more difficult target (hydrogen / boron) when the easy target has not yet been achieved? I understand the attraction of hydrogen / boron, but surely a proof of concept demonstrating viable net energy producing tritium / deuterium would be a good stepping stone.

    A major tritium / deuterium success would be Nobel Prize material, and would generate an endless supply of funding for further research, even if the researchers didn’t consider it the final goal.

    • “working with international collaborators on the remaining scientific challenges”

      Anyone know what the ‘remaining scientific challenges’ are? Seems to be a huge ‘gotcha’ to me.

      • “remaining scientific challenges” = “we have no idea how to do this in principle, never mind in practice” :)

      • “Where does the energy for the lasers come from? ”
        Chirped Pulse Amplification CPA via hamster wheel driven generators (with a cat thrown in for extra power).

      • @ Louis

        How much energy is used by a 1000 joule laser emitting for 1 picosecond @ 10 Hz rate for 1 hour?

        36,000 pulses @ 1000 Joules per pulse =

        36 Million Joules

        How many joules are in a Kilowatt-hour? 3.6 million

        So 10 Kilowatt-hours to operate a PETAWATT LASER for 1 hour — about $1.50

    • You won’t get a Nobel science prize for it as it is nothing more than an engineering challenge not a science knowledge challenge. We have theories for how it works, just the condition controls you require is extreme.

      • Who knows. Nobel Science prize were awarded for devices, like bubble chamber and multiwire proportional chamber, or “contribution to the development of [insert name of important device/method]”
        A working fusion device WOULD get some Nobel prize, for sure.

    • Eric: The reason to look at P-B fusion instead of the lower energy D-T reaction is because the D-T reaction yields high velocity neutrons. That means anything near the reaction will get transmuted by neutron capture. The D-T folks mostly reduce this effect bu lining the reactor with lithium, which is the source of the tritium needed in the reaction. But the reactor walls WILL become radioactive with time.

      • Think of how many atoms need to be fused every second to produce the fusion energy in a working reactor.

        That is how many neutrons will come flying off at near the speed of light from this reaction.

        In just testing, the national ignition facility produced 300,000,000,000,000 neutrons per second. Particles with mass flying off at near the speed of light.

        If a person was anywhere near this without 10 feet of lead shielding in the way, that person would literally be disintegrated within seconds. The human race has been sold a bill of goods on the D-T fusion potential. There is nothing that is going to hold this kind of radiation in.

      • Sorry, there are a few things that could hold this type of radiation in. The centre of a star, or a black hole.

      • Dan, the D-T fusion energy released in the “fusion” is simply the KE of the 4He nucleus and the n flying apart, with equal and opposite momentum (mv) But the energy is 1/2 mv^2, so the 4x velocity of the neutron wins over the 4x mass of the 4He ion. It’s the old rocket efficiency problem.
        Nearly all of the energy is in the exhaust; not in the rocket.
        So in a D-T fusion, I’m guessing you can have an exhaust hot helium stream, and you can moderate the 14 MeV neutrons with light atoms that get heated (and likely radio-active).

        But those pesky neutrons are where the fusion energy is.


    • The problem with using deuterium and tritium is that they are relatively rare isotopes and difficult to separate from ordinary hydrogen nuclei (a proton without neutrons). Since they are both hydrogen atoms, which are gaseous except at extremely low temperatures, high pressures are needed to get the atoms close enough together to fuse.

      The major benefit of using boron is that it is a solid up to about 2300 C, so that boron nuclei can be tightly packed at high temperatures, and a common hydrogen (H-1) nucleus, or proton, can fuse with it. The most common isotope of boron is B-11, and of hydrogen is H-1, so there wouldn’t be an expensive purification step needed to get equal and high concentrations of the rare deuterium and tritium isotopes.

      • Well they say that all the fusion energy the planet needs is contained in the top 1/16th of an inch of the water in San Francisco bay. So Deuterium is not rare as ores go.

        The D-D fusion can give rise to 3He + p or T + n. I forget what the ratio of those reactions is, it’s been nearly 60 years since I was around any fusion experiments.


    • Because it is a completely different type of fusion. And a different type of energy production.

      1. High intensity short pulsed laser induced plasma jet fusion
      2. Alpha particle cascade magnetic field interaction creation of current

      This is not a thermal system.

      The fusion is caused by an extremely short laser pulse (picosecond in the paper, potentially femtosecond) which allows for a multi petawatt incident power density,
      This creates a high energy plasma that interacts via alpha particle cascade with a second laser induced magnetic field to create an electric current.

      • “About four times more neurons per gained energy are produced than from uranium and other fission reactions” in the linked article.

        Besides the error, says a lot about the “promise” of fusion compared to fission.

      • Yes Karl. And Dense Plasma Focus (ie the LPPFusion team approach) is yet a third option for designing a fusion energy reactor… right now the Dense Plasma Focus technique is the one with the most mojo behind it. Tokamaks look to be a dead end; ITER won’t even start experiments until 20132; and the large laser- fusion program at Lawrence Livermore National Lab has been terminated.

  5. Color me skeptical, though I’m as keen as the next person for it to work. Even if all the energy really is produced as electricity, there aren’t any known materials that can conduct that electricity away at power station-sized currents without getting extremely hot. Or does the suite of technical advances still required include high temperature superconductors?

    • I’m wondering how much energy is required to power the lasers?

      Hopefully, less than the power being generated.

      • 1 kiloJoule Laser @ .17 picosecond pulse @ 10 HZ

        That is 60 Petwatts

        Very little energy — extremely high incident POWER which is the reason it works

      • Karl, you are dreaming.

        Almost ALL or almost almost ALL of the time the laser is doing nothing, while they clear out the ashes from the explosion, before they can put in a brand new shiny boron pellet, and then whack that one.

        The sub pico-second laser pulse will at best produce maybe electric current pulses of a few nano-seconds long depending on how large the sphere is, at no more than one foot per nano-second, and then you get to clean the apparatus of the ashes, and get ready to fire the lasers again.
        Sub pico-second laser pulses without tera-herz repletion rates will not generate a continuous electric current.


      • @ George

        Only a very small portion of the surface of the boron target is vaporized — per shot

        we are talking micrograms

    • It won’t happen in my lifetime.

      I’ve given up worrying about things that aren’t going to happen in my lifetime.

    • Or does the suite of technical advances still required include high temperature superconductors?

      I dunno. Do petawatt lasers need cooling? BTW, Amazon doesn’t seem to sell petawatt laeers. I did find a 20 watt unit elsewhere for about $12000 USD. I think we need 2*2*10**14 of those to build a power station.

      And if we’re putting two petawatts into the two lasers and we’re getting a positive return of energy, I think we’re going to need some pretty thick wires in parts of the power station. 1.4Pw is equivalent to the estimated total energy transported by the Gulf Stream.

      It IS interesting, but I think there are a few small technical problems to be resolved before we’re ready to build one of these.

    • My point was not about the net energy balance, but about the ability of the materials to remain thermally stable under allegedly non-thermally-taxing conditions. They have to be able to both absorb the laser pulses without decomposition, and then conduct away an even larger amount of electrical energy through what must be a relatively tiny mass of something that is probably a poor electrical conductor. I’m not yet persuaded.

      • The petawatt pulse turns a microgram portion of the target material into a plasma.

        Remember it is only 1000 Joules or so — which would only heat 1 gram of boron to 1000K

        It is the high incident power which causes a very small amount of the target to become plasma

  6. theyve been spinning this nonsense since the 70s with JET

    spent tens of Billions and still no where near breakeven or a reaction longer that a few minutes

    time to pull the plug

  7. the lasers we need can be bought off the shelf

    I cannot find any petawatt-scale lasers on Amazon. I wonder where he buys them?

      • “I’m sticking with cold fusion.”

        Wouldn’t it be a(another) black eye for scientific-consensus thinking it that’s where the breakthrough occurred?

      • Wouldn’t it be a(another) black eye for scientific-consensus thinking it that’s where the breakthrough occurred?

        Oh you can’t make this up.

        The lppsite is crowdfunding, so read everything thinking they’re collecting money.

      • Hugs — your fleering remarks about LPPFusion are false and borderlineslanderous. It’s true the project is being crowd-sourced funded… yes… instead of taxpayer funded… and furthermore, the LPPFusion business model is designed to achieve very low cost electricity, and not create yet another a rent -seeking monopoly. Thgus the appeal to crowd-sourcing instead of the usual VC funding route, which often is not quite so high-minded as the LPPFusion team’s style.

        Private, crowd-sourced funding reflects well on the LPPFusion team… the company is the most transparent imaginable, with results disclosed rapidly for the public as well as publsihed in the peer-reviewed literature. Progress by LPPFusion — which is quite significant— is regularly reported in the mainstream press and
        professional journals.

    • They are a little specialist in nature so would have to be acquired under contract. Similar have been used in research projects before. I just wonder what the duty cycle on them is. I imagine they would have to cool down after each pulse for quite a while even with some sort of active cooling system.

    • Actually you can build your own fusion devices at home, people have done so for years some as young as 14 .. just google “fusor”. They just don’t generate more energy than they consume but they are pretty :-)

      • If you are in the market for Aircraft Carriers, the UK has a couple at the moment. The only problem is that there are no aircraft to fly off them and won’t be for many years. This is the biggest ****-up in years, but no-one seems at all worried and everyone seems proud of these completely useless. A great example of military planning!! SARK

    • It’s the chirped pulse technology that allows for sub picosecond pulses.

      A 100 joule laser at .1 picosecond = a PETAWATT LASER

  8. A great way to convert more power into less? Can anybody explain where I am going wrong?

    OTOH “a petawatt-scale laser pulse, whose fleeting bursts pack a quadrillion watts of power”

    OTOH “…. alpha particles, converting their kinetic energy into more than a gigajoule (280kWh) of electric energy per shot”

  9. How much radiation in the form of gamma rays from the quantum realignment of nuclear shells will be released? That still seems to be a large bit of potential radiation they aren’t mentioning. Though I suppose one could place the whole apparatus at the bottom of a lake and let the water absorb the gammas.

    Radiation containment should be easily accomplished for gammas as they tend to not degrade the structures the way neutrons do.

    • I don’t know about the big ITER ones but if you google “Lockheed Martin Compact Fusion Reactor” they have the details on a baby one (well if you call 20 tons a baby). They funded it’s phase 2 in 2016 so they must be getting results and there is rumors it powered a navy rail gun for a test fire.

      It is probably the only fusion generator we are likely to see in our lifetime assuming it gets out from the military :-)

      • Then they have to convert the DC pulse to AC so there is a lot of room for smoothing. (If the scheme works at all.)

    • READ the paper — the laser pulses are extremely short .17 picosecond

      Femtosecond pulses are around the corner

      • What is the pulse repetition frequency of these soon to be femtosecond lasers. I assume that each laser pulse will destroy one each of those tiny fuel pellets so they will need to buy another one to replace it before they fire the next laser pulse.
        It’s like an internal combustion engine. You inject a wad of fuel into the can (cylinder) then you whack it, and it moves something at high speed (the piston) then you clean out the effluent, and inject a new fuel pellet.

        No much difference that I can see.


      • @ George

        and your assumption would be wrong

        read the paper — a very small portion of the target is turned into plasma at each shot.

        The paper posits A 1000 Joule Laser at 10 Hz — which would take 10Kwh to operate per hour

    • The back of the envelop is 10^7 from above. The key for conservation of energy is to look at the mass defect of the the reactants and the products. That difference in mass is where the energy comes from. That is the key to all nuclear power. In this case you create 10^7 kWh in mass defect for every kWh you put in in laser energy.

      • When he says “mass defect” he’s talking about the amount of mass converted into energy. Remember that E = MC^2.

  10. To get cynical, when they have a working device, not just a design proposal, I will regard it as an advance.

  11. What a joke – “30 to 50 years” I’ve got news. By that time the world will be powered by small modular molten salt reactors, which are every bit as safe as a fusion reactor. Damage from
    radiation is impossible. And those “toxic wastes” are not wastes at all -they represent enormous amounts of free energy that can do many things – desalinating huge quantities of seawater being but one. Now can that fusion reactor produce power for less than 4 cents per kWhr? I doubt it.
    If it can compete economically, it might very well eventually supplant other generation technologies, but those molten salt reactors which I am predicting have a very long lifespan, produce very cheap electricity, and, so far no data has been produced to support any claim by fusion advocates of any cost advantages with respect to molten salt reactors.
    I find it suspicious that no cost estimation of these fusion reactors is forthcoming. Don’t these people know by now? They certainly should, I would think.

    • The engineering problem with molten salt reactors is the plumbing materials. Molten salts tend to corrode the pipes after a short while (less than 2 years). Once that has been licked you may be correct.

      • Most MSRs using graphite moderators are quoted as requiring a complete graphite replacement every 7 to 8 years

      • Owen,

        I can’t find the reference, but I remember reading some docs from ORNL that suggested that pipe wall corrosion due to molten salts was NOT an issue. Something along the lines of “All the engineers in the program understood that xxxx was the real issue, not corrosion by the salts.” This was surprising to me since I felt like the intuitive thing was that, yes, molten salts would be highly corrosive and the piping would be difficult to maintain.

        I could be remembering this incorrectly, though. My reason for perusing those documents was for a project unrelated to MSRs…


      • Rip,
        That may be. The salts used are a little different, but that was the take I got from the engineering students working on a test unit. The professionals may have already worked that bit out.

      • @Owen
        They put 20,000 hours or almost 3 years on the test bed with no issues. Who told you there was a corrosion issue?

      • D.J

        These weren’t working on the DOE project, it was a molten salt process that some of the Georgia Tech Nuclear Engineering students worked on. They probably weren’t working with the same materials and I think their heat source was actually natural gas and were working on molten salt heat exchanger design. They kept having problems, but as seniors in nuclear engineering, they probably still had a great deal to learn.

    • Art, I’ll believe that when I see it. The technological hurdles on MSRs have been overcome, but the bureaucratic ones are MUCH higher.

      I don’t know if the NRC has drawn Trump’s attention. We shall see…

    • From what I understand about the technology, continuous outgassing of radioactive xenon and krypton is required for MSR to work. That doesn’t sound like a good idea unless they intend to capture and sequester those gases.

      • OK, it looks like that concern would be addressed

        The gas (mainly He, Xe and Kr) is held up for about 2 days until a large fraction of the Xe-135 and other short lived isotopes have decayed. Most of the gas can then be recycled. After an additional hold up of several months, radioactivity is low enough to separate the gas at low temperatures into helium (for reuse), xenon (for sale) and krypton. The krypton needs storage (e.g. in compressed form) for an extended time (several decades) to wait for the decay of Kr-85.

      • I wonder if anyone has calculated the amount of [Kr-85] storage that would be required for one MSR reactor? And the cost? Seems like there’d have to be some sophisticated filtering and compression technology at each plant.

      • The noble gases released by fission reactions are not incorporated into the body (inert after all) and are of little consequence if accidentally released. The isotopes I-131 (half life 8 d) and Cs-137 (30 y) are of greatest concern, the I-131 because it is concentrated in the thyroid and Cs because it is long lasting. Even so the molten salt designs hold the inert gases in pressure vessels or cold traps until they have largely decayed. The MSRs have the advantage of holding ions such as I-131, Cr-137 and Sr-90 in the molten salt where they do not vaporize. The Moltex reactor uses a simple sacrificial cathode to protect its molten salt tubes from corroding. Thorcon plans to switch out reactor vessels every four years, then a few years cool down before they are refurbished.

  12. Why did the American’s beat the Russians to the moon?
    Because the Americans’ Germans were better than the Russians’ Germans.
    Now the Aussies appear to be ahead on the German front.
    Plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose…

      • Don’t be silly. Just like in the 60’s and 70’s, they will decide that now burning Fossil Fuels causes cooling.

        And just like now, they will say with a straight face that no true scientist ever said anything different. It’s Fake News that we thought back at the turn of the millennium that burning Fossil Fuels caused Warming.

        Then they will call you names.

        (not sure if sarc. <¿<)

  13. Oops, at first glance I thought the title of this article was, “Laser-bourbon fusion now ‘leading contender’ for energy” ;-)

    I think I need another coffee this morning.

  14. From past and current experience, it’s becoming evident that fusion energy will always be “30 to 50 years” in the future.

  15. Imagine for a moment that instead of trying to shove CAGW down our proverbial throats and requiring the spending of hundreds of billions, if not trillions of dollars chasing false solutions, that they took a more positive and realistic approach and supported such research at a higher level. Or if they helped the world plan for environmental catastrophe natural or manmade instead of ending the security of cheap and reliable present sources of energy. When Hurricane Andrew hit Florida we were totally unprepared. While we certainly didn’t fix all our problems or raise preparedness to the highest levels we did make significant enough changes.

  16. For those interested, Tri Alpha Energy ( has been working the hydrogen-boron fusion challenge with some success. They use a Field-Reversed Configuration in a linear accelerator that creates two elongated plasma toroids and slams them against each other at extreme velocities.

    A comical irony that WUWT readers may appreciate is that, of course, fusion is “carbon-free” energy, carbon dioxide-free, that is; but the H-B fusion produces – a carbon atom as its first product, which then fissions into three alpha particles. This carbon exists only for, what, picoseconds, and never enters the environment, and never combines with two oxygens to form the dreaded carbon dioxide – BUT IT’S CARBON!!! The horror!

  17. NIF is intertial confinment, not magnetic confinement like ITER. It has zero chance of success for reasons explained in essay Going Nuclear.

  18. NIF uses inertial not magnetic confinement. Target gets hit from all sides simultaneously. Very different than ITER.

    • Actually he wouldn’t as he believed that atoms were the basic building blocks of everything and could not be split in any way

      He died two years before the first atom bomb where he would have realized his theory was rubbish. He thought he could do make energy using his own theory from New York Herald Tribune, July 9th, 1933

      What the nature of the new form of energy is he would not say beyond that it was “undreamed of,” that it was “violently opposed” to Einsteinian physics

      So as much as a genius as he was he would have been of no help at all :-)

  19. The abstract promises the conversion of the output charged alpha particles directly to electricity. I am extremely interested in details – but the article is paywalled. Do they somehow create positive alpha particles without creating electrons as well?

      • Reading through the pdf and giving this nowhere near as much thought as it possibly deserves, it looks like there are several, different issues here:

        1. Can they achieve fusion? It seems quite likely that they can. Not that hard I think. Strictly speaking, Farnsworth Fusors, Muon-catalyzers, and current Tokamaken all achieve some fusion. Just not enough.

        2. Can they achieve sustained pulsed operation? (quite possibly?) For how long? A few seconds? A few minutes? Long enough to be useful commercially?

        3. Can they tame the electric output? That’s not so clear. Reading through the pdf, it sounds like they are planning to toss a new negatively charged “reactor unit” into the grounded reactor shell every second and somehow capture the resulting Gigawatt(780A*1.4mV)? electric pulse.

        Many questions:

        ..Current petawatt lasers are laboratory curiosities, not off the shelf tools? They have tiny foci? Therefore, the “reactor units” are also tiny?
        . The ‘reactor unit’s need to be very precisely placed because the laser foci are very small?
        . The grounded shell is the cathode?
        ..What are the charge carriers?
        . Where’s the anode? The minute(?) ‘reactor units’?
        . How do they get the used reactor units out of the reactor? (If they are small maybe they just vacuum them out in the wee hours of Sunday morning?)
        . How do they actually capture the electricity. (A) coil(s)? Where?
        . Sounds like they are going to be dealing with a lot of energy in a very small space. Any inefficiencies at all in the electrical part and they will be dealing with a VERY warm reactor?

        Are there any pictures of the proposed device? That’d sure help.

      • @ Don

        I was incorrect earlier – they do identify destruction per shot.

        However, the target need not be destroyed on each shot — there are petawatt class fusion experiments that show small amounts of material being turned to plasma

        Electron energies greater than about 2 mega-electronvolts produce gamma rays that can be transformed into pairs of electrons and positrons (pair production). But using some very thin gold targets, physicist Tom Cowan and others found more positrons than expected, which may indicate that they had created an electron-positron plasma.

        EXAWATT lasers — Vulcan has 10E+21 cm^2 incident power — result in gamma excitation and electron-positron pair creation

  20. Oh yeah, when I go shopping for laser pointers, I always make sure not to confuse them with the petawatt scale units sitting right next to them.

    • that would make for an interesting ppt presentation at least. You’d have the audience’s attention every time you blasted a small hole in the screen and the wall behind it.

    • And you show your ignorance — power = work/time

      1kilojoule/10E-12 seconds = 1 PETAWATT

      Yes they can now create picosecond (E-12) laser pulses

  21. MikeW: “fusion will always be 30 – 50 years in the future”. That gave me a laugh, in 1964 I went to UT-Austin as a freshman physics major as they were starting work on their first Tokamak. Everybody said 20-30 years away and I wanted to get in on the ground floor. Two years later I realized I wasn’t cut out to be a physicist. Lucky me, otherwise I might still be chasing that dream …

  22. Fusion-capable plasma is chaos in a bottle. If plasma physicists can’t manage that for a minute, how do climate scientists expect to manage the chaos that is the earth’s climate system for a hundred years?

    • Climate science left the realm of science 25 yeas ago with the arrival of the Clinton Administration and Al Gore as VP.

  23. Coming to a power plant near you in 30 to 50 years indeed. Thanks for the info. And the laugh. I won’t be holding my breath, but interesting.

  24. I’m not sure how you convert the electricity generated into a feasible energy feed. Researchers would be better off figuring out how to convert lightning into a direct energy feed since (a) that’s natural (b) normal (c) deployable and (d) non-nuclear.

  25. 20 years ago, or less, I never dreamed that shale oil would now be so accessible. In fact, I had significant ‘bets’ in the markets to back that up. We were told 20 years ago, that yes there was significant deposits of shale oil and gas, but it would not be recoverable for a very long time, if ever. Not…did I ever get my head handed to me. I was sure on the wrong site of the bet on that one.

    Fusion energy has always been 30-50 years out, because we can’t yet manage the containment. It is not something we don’t understand about fusion itself: we understand fairly well what must be done to achieve the fusion process. It is a matter of the proper hardware, and the proper technique. I wouldn’t bet against fusion being made a deliverable at some point in the near to mid term future. Maybe beyond my lifetime, but will essentially be what replaces fossil fuels for a lot of stationary applications like electricity. This is why I think skipping some of the renewables that have fairly low capacity factors, in favour of really upgrading and hardening the electrical Grid. We will still need a grid to deliver any fusion powered electricity, unless of course, some kid in his basement figures out what Tesla was really fascinated about: Wireless Transmission of electricity.

    • Earthling2. There are different kinds of “shale oil”. For example, in Estonia they generate electricity (and presumably huge amounts of “ash”/clinker) by burning their local oil shale directly. Some oil shales will produce commercial quantities of liquid hydrocarbons when their permeability is improved by hydraulic fracturing. OTOH the vast “shale oil” deposits of the Rocky Mountain Green River formation remain largely intractable because the hydrocarbons are waxy solids entombed in impermeable rock.

  26. As some commenters have already noted above, the Boron-Hydrogen reaction takes place in two stages. The first is the nuclear fusion of boron and hydrogen, which is endothermic and produces carbon nuclei. The second stage is the spontaneous fission of the excited carbon nuclei into helium nuclei, which is exothermic and releases more energy than was required to achieve the first, fusion reaction, so an over-unity process is theoretically possible.

    My question: Why bother at all with the first, endothermic stage of the process – i.e. why not start off with carbon as the primary feedstock and simply work on finding ways of making it fission?

      • True, Paul. But if B is the point where we have an excited carbon-12 nucleus at the threshold energy-level of fissioning into three stable helium-2 nuclei, what is point A?

        Is it one unexcited boron-11 nucleus plus one unexcited hydrogen-1 nucleus? Or is it, perhaps, one unexcited carbon-1 nucleus? The pathway to B from one of these starting points is likely to be more efficient than the other, but unless we research both of them we won’t know which one actually is.

    • The energy does not come from carbon. The carbon nucleus is created in a highly excited – unstable – state by a H-B reaction. Then it splits into an alpha and boron, which in turn splits into two alphas.

      You could also add energy to a C12 nucleus, forcing it into this process. But the energy needed is much higher than the energy of these three alphas. Carbon is more stable than helium.

      • Curious George December 14, 2017 at 2:03 pm:

        The energy does not come from carbon…

        Thanks for those interesting details, George, but I think you’ve just demonstrated that the energy output does indeed come from carbon, albeit that the carbon is in a suitably excited state.

        You could also add energy to a C12 nucleus, forcing it into this process. But the energy needed is much higher than the energy of these three alphas….

        Why is that? Effectively, the boron–hydrogen fusion process is adding the required energy to a C12 nucleus, isn’t it? But is there an easier, more efficient and perhaps more controllable way of doing it? Perhaps by supplying electromagnetic radiation in precise resonance with specific energy-levels of the C12 nucleus?

    • Cassio December 14, 2017 at 10:51 am
      As some commenters have already noted above, the Boron-Hydrogen reaction takes place in two stages. The first is the nuclear fusion of boron and hydrogen, which is endothermic and produces carbon nuclei. The second stage is the spontaneous fission of the excited carbon nuclei into helium nuclei, which is exothermic and releases more energy than was required to achieve the first, fusion reaction, so an over-unity process is theoretically possible.

      My question: Why bother at all with the first, endothermic stage of the process – i.e. why not start off with carbon as the primary feedstock and simply work on finding ways of making it fission?

      Because we’re releasing the binding energy from the more tightly bound nuclei, if we started with C we’d have to put in as much energy as we would get out.

      The nuclear binding energy curve. is below. The formation of nuclei with masses up to Iron-56 releases energy, while forming those that are heavier requires energy input. This is because the nuclei below Iron-56 have high binding energies, while the heavier ones have lower binding energies, as illustrated above.

    • Lop say that the side reactions will produce less radioactivity than burning coal – which apparently usually includes a small proportion of radionuclides. Don’t forget even people and bananas are radioactive.

    • When you talk about processes that revolve around the D-T reaction, I’d tend to agree with you. But some of these new ideas seem much more doable, and in my lifetime (I’m 55).

  27. And with no thermal mass involved, the electrical output could be dispatchable on very short time scales, so useful for more than just baseload power.

  28. Yawn! Wake me up when a demonstration fusion reaction (a) generates more power than it requires, and (b) is sustained for more that 1 minute.

  29. Fusion is a complete dead end; it will never happen.

    Fusion is, in essence, the conversion of mass to energy and depends on gravity. By the now classic formula E = mc². There are no substitutes known.

    Stars convert potential energy to kinetic energy by gravity, which is a property of mass. It is true that mass can be converted to energy by Einstein’s equation. It’s also true that energy can be used as a proxy for mass by that same equation, which is what the experimenters are doing. They’re putting large amounts of energy in a small space and therefore creating gravity, which causes their “fuel” to fuse. But there’s always loss in that conversion. Hydrogen and Boron aren’t a fuel in this use, they’re simply reactants.

    There can be no net energy gain in this reaction according to the second law of thermodynamics. This entire project is completely useless and a waste of time and energy; it cannot succeed.

  30. Proton-boron fusion has been discussed in high-beta designs like FRCs and Polywells for decades. The “aneutronic” reactions might be as much as 1/100,000 as D-D or D-T reactions, but this buys you surprisingly little because the shielding requirements don’t actually change all that much (it basically saves you a few inches of concrete), even before you consider the side reactions that will occur in the tails of the thermal distribution.

    What made p-b fusion compelling was the fact you could spin the resulting alphas into a deceleration grid and produce DC power directly — no steam turbines needed!

    Of course, laser fusion is strictly a showy novelty and always has been — the three factors in a fusion reactor are density, containment (how fast you lose energy), and temperature. Tokamaks and related magnetic confinement devices have good containment, but are challenged on temperature and density. High-beta devices usually have good density, but struggle with containment and temperature. Lasers have temperature, but containment and density are basically ignored.

    It’s very unlikely a laser system can repeatedly produce and harness more energy than it takes to generate the laser, but I look forward to some amusing and possible clever designs.

  31. “simulations” There is that pie in the sky word again. You can make simulations do whatever you want with the proper input. The true point of the paper is “we need more money.”

  32. Who is this guy “Bartleby”? A scrivener? I’m surprised few have called him out on the ridiculous claim that the sun is powered by gravitational collapse. The inability to account for its actual power output by this mechanism prompted Hans Bethe to propose hydrogen fusion. The physics of fission and fusion have been verified over the past half century by experiment and practice. There is no violation of the 2nd Law. And the jury is out on lasers, but no one doubts the utility of a spark plug in igniting the fuel and air in an Otto Cycle engine, or claims that the spark plug uses more energy than the combustion of the fuel. Same thing for laser ignition of a fusion reaction. Not having to deal with a 14 MeV neutron is a great convenience. I wish them success.

    Energy conversion, direct through an electromagnetic field, or by running the resultant plasma through an MHD generator, or by some other method, is an engineering detail. Not a trivial one, but in principle one with technology options that have not been optimized yet.

  33. “From an engineering perspective, our approach will be a much simpler project because the fuels and waste are safe …..”

    Stop me if you have heard this sc@m before!!

    Society needs a finite supply of energy. The power industry is not having a problem delivering it.

    The premise presented by armchair quarterbacks is that there are terrible problems.

    I am an engineer, I have checked, no terrible problems. I have observed many coal plants and even lived next to one. I have not seen a dirty one in 30 years. Natural gas works great too.

    The nuclear industry has demonstrated that we can fill the gap.

    Engineering is about the practical. If you want to debate hypothetical things like fusion and MSR, I am going to tell you it is not practical.

    When your grandchildren have an operating prototype, they can compare it to the the 100 year old LWR that is still running.

  34. I was initially puzzled by the question of why don’t the small fusion teams use D-T instead of p-B in their early experiments, as D-T should be able to work at lower temperatures and densities. Perhaps the answer is that T is unavailable to them, while H and B11 are simple to get. But then, what about D-D?

    • Here is a possibility: How do you make a pellet of deuterium and tritium? Frozen to solid form at 14 K? With hydrogen and boron, you can use decaborane (B10H14), which is solid at room temperature.

      Also, what is the point? D-T results in the 14 MeV neutron, which is a gross inefficiency, and not nice to be around.

  35. My thanks to Paul Penrose, Curious George, Karl and Phil. for replying to my question of December 14, 2017 at 10:51am as to why we cannot dispense with the first stage of the H-B reaction and simply start with excited Carbon instead. I now understand that this would be counterproductive energy-wise because the second stage of the process (i.e. from C¹² to 3xHe⁴) is in fact endergic and not exergic as I had thought.

    I must say though, as a novice in the field of nuclear physics, that simply bashing atomic nuclei into one another in order to make some of them fuse together and express energy seems, to me, a very crude, hit-or-miss kind of approach that is almost certainly bound to produce all kinds of unwanted and problematic side-reactions, by-products and consequences. Surely, there must be an easier, more intelligent way of approach that exploits the intrinsic key properties of atomic nuclei to advantage, so that the participating nuclei will naturally do, of their own accord, what we want them to do and nothing else? Such an approach could lead to controllable cold fusion-power from small units, but it is hard to see how the current ultra-high temperature and pressure approach, which seeks to recreate the conditions that prevail in the sun’s core, ever could.

    Here’s a suggestion. We understand from fundamental physics that atomic nuclei consist basically of particles (or “wavicles”, to be more precise) in various states of vibration and that it is the interlocking harmony of vibrations within them that holds each stable nucleus together as a single entity. In order for two nuclei to unite to form a third nucleus, their respective vibration-patterns must also harmonise. If they do harmonise, they will fuse together and cohere automatically as soon as they come close enough together for the attractive strong nuclear binding force to overcome the repulsive electromagnetic force of the protons in the respective nuclei.

    So I think the challenge before us could be viewed as being to so arrange matters that the nuclei which we are wanting to unite are in compatible vibration-states and are not prevented from uniting by the protonic repulsion. Since bare atomic nuclei are electrically ionized they are susceptible to electromagnetic manipulation and this property may enable us to fulfil both of the necessary preconditions that I’ve just mentioned.

    Suppose, for example, the nuclei were to be given just the right quantities of spin and aligned along a common spin-axis, pole-to-pole, and suppose they were made to spin in opposite directions so that their electromagnetic force of protonic repulsion turned into the electromagnetic force of attraction between two opposing electric currents, surely there would then be nothing to prevent them from fusing together along the spin axis. Voila: Cold fusion!

    Of course, fusion could only happen in this way between vibrationally compatible nuclei and developing the techniques of electromagnetic manipulation that would bring those nuclei into the right vibrational and spin states might be a big challenge in itself, so quite a lot of R&D may still be needed before this method could yield results. But to me it looks potentially easier than hot fusion in the long run.

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