Milestone Update - June 10, 2010
An update of progress so far along the 8 milestones.
Milestone 1: Achieve pinch on FF1 machine
This milestone was already achieved before the last milestone update in November 2009.
Milestone 2: Achieve pinch at 25kV and 1MA, determine optimum gas pressure
In April we achieved a pinch at 30kV and 1MA. Optimizing the gas pressure is ongoing.
Milestone 3: Test theory of axial magnetic field
In March we saw clear evidence that an initial axial magnetic field increases fusion yield.
Milestone 4: Achieve pinch at 45kV and 2MA with deuterium
Milestone 5: Confirm Texas results with better instruments
Milestone 6: Optimize for heavier gasses
Deuterium has an atomic weight of 2. A 50/50 mix of hydrogen and boron-11 has an average atomic weight of 6. There are some plasma parameters that depend on the atomic weight of the particles in the plasma. As we shift to heavier atomic weight we will need to adjust the length of the electrodes, the initial fill pressure, shot timing, etc. to maintain optimum plasmoid conditions. We will do this by mixing in helium (atomic weight 4) and nitrogen (atomic weight 14) to add weight without adding the complexity of nuclear reactions.
Milestone 7: Achieve fusion with pB11
This is an important step where we switch from the nuclear-inert gasses helium and nitrogen to boron that can fuse with protons. If we achieve our previous milestones and create plasmoids with high enough temperature and density then fusion should just happen and this milestone won’t require any additional adjustments, but it will still be nice to finally see it happen.
Milestone 8: Achieve positive net energy
Obviously, the goal of this work is to create more energy than we consume. Here’s how we plan to do this. The capacitor bank in FF1 holds about 100,000 Joules of energy. When we flip the switch that energy goes in to the electric currents and magnetic fields in the plasma. The energy isn’t gone, it’s just in a different form. Then fusion reactions add energy to the plasma. For this milestone we hope to create 33,000 Joules of fusion energy with each shot. Then that 133,000 Joules of energy has to be converted back to electricity. But it can’t be converted with perfect efficiency. There will be some losses. If we can get 80% of that 133,000 Joules back into electricity then we will have 106,400 Joules of electricity. That’s more than we started with. 100,000 Joules can be sent to the capacitors for the next shot, and 6,400 Joules can be siphoned off as power output. This experiment won’t actually convert the plasma energy back into electricity, but by measuring the plasma energy we can show that we could create a power producing reactor. That is what we mean by the term “demonstrate scientific feasibility” and that’s the goal of this milestone.