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You are here: > News > March 18, 2006

Top 100
U.S., Chilean Labs to Collaborate on Testing Scientific Feasibility of Focus Fusion

Lawrenceville Plasma Physics and Chilean Nuclear Commission initiate a three-year, three-phase experimental collaboration to duplicate earlier results, improve and optimize efficiencies, and test alternate input fuels in the focus fusion process.

Cropped view.  The vacuum chamber in Texas with and without insulation. The copper coils were for heating it in preparation for using decaborane fuel.
The vacuum chamber used by Lerner, et al. at Texas A&M University, 2001. (Ref.)
Lawrenceville Plasma Physics and the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission (CCHEN) have agreed to collaborate on a three-year experimental test of the “focus fusion” approach to fusion energy. The project will use the Speed-2 plasma focus device at CCHEN’s Thermonuclear Plasma Laboratory in Santiago, Chile, one of the two largest plasma focus devices in the world. The experimental team at CCHEN of four scientists, headed by Dr. Leopoldo Soto, will collaborate with Eric Lerner, President of LPP and Executive Director of the Focus Fusion Society, and with other researchers.

The project will consist of three phases. In the first, beginning in July, 2006, the team will duplicate and improve on the experimental results earlier obtained at Texas A&M University indicating that the plasma focus can achieve the high ion energies, above 100keV (the equivalent of one billion degrees C), that is needed to burn hydrogen-boron fuel. Hydrogen-boron fuel can produce energy in the form of charged particles, eliminating radioactivity and potentially allowing inexpensive direct conversion into electricity. The experiments will considerably extend the earlier work because the new tests will be conducted at higher peak current, will have better diagnostic instruments, and will have more optimized electrodes.

In the second phase, the electrodes will be modified in order to improve and optimize the efficiency of energy transfer into the dense, hot plasmoid where fusion reactions take place. In both of these first two phases, the gases used will be deuterium and helium and mixes of the two. These gases are easy to use and, in the case of helium, have atomic mass and charge fairly similar to that of the target fuel, hydrogen-boron.

In the third phase, mixtures of helium and decaborane, a compound of hydrogen and boron and, later, pure decaborane will be used to test the feasibility of the focus fusion approach, which relies on this fuel to produce fusion energy. In these experiments, the team will determine if it is possible to reach extremely high magnetic fields, billions of times stronger than that of the earth. If such fields are reached, this phase will study the magnetic field effect that will reduce the emission of X-rays and retard the cooling of the dense plasmoids. The experiment will determine if enough fusion energy can be produced from hydrogen-boron fuel to allow net energy production with reasonable energy conversion efficiencies.

“The aim of these experiment it to see if net energy production is scientifically feasible.” explains Lerner. ”To actually achieve continuous production of net energy will require a subsequent substantial engineering effort aimed at developing a prototype reactor.”

The collaborative agreement was finalized during Lerner’s visit to Chile in February, where he was a visiting scientist at the European Southern Observatory, also located in Santiago. He was able to visit the Thermonuclear Plasma Laboratory and have extensive technical discussions with the team there, as well was with other plasma focus groups at Catholic University in Santiago and at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina.

The three-year-long experimental work in Santiago will be financed by CCHEN, with an estimated budget of about one million dollars. LPP will be contributing an additional $700,000 to the project to finance planning, data analysis and simulations. This will be raised from private investors. Given this funding, LPP will be collaborating with researchers at George Mason University and Naval Research Laboratory to develop a highly innovative simulation to help guide and understand the experiments.

LPP and CCHEN will share equally in all income from intellectual property developed during this experiment, and both will be free to exploit the technology. LPP also has additional intellectual property of its own in the form of a patent application covering the main concepts of focus fusion.

Background on Speed-2

The Speed-2 plasma focus device was first constructed in Dόsseldorf, Germany. When the Dόsseldorf team was about to dissolve due to retirements, Dr. Soto was able to obtain the device for the Chilean Thermonuclear Lab. The device is capable of achieving a peak current as high as 4 MA (million amperes) with a maximum charging voltage of 300kV and has routinely operated at 2.4 MA. By comparison, the range of current theoretically predicted to be optimal for focus fusion is 2.4-3 MA. When operating at 3 MA, the capacitor bank of Speed 2 produces nearly 700 GW of power for 0.4 microseconds. During that brief pulse it is producing about as much power as is produced by the entire electrical supply system of North America.

Dr. Soto’s lab not only uses Speed-2 but has also developed a series of plasma focus devices ranging downward in size to the Nano-focus, whose electrodes are smaller than a pen.

# # #


  • LPP Press Release


Eric Lerner <elerner {at} >
New Jersey

Aaron Blake <blake_aaron {at} >
Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts

Related Coverage by PESN

  • Featured / Best Exotic FE: Nuclear > Fusion > Focus Fusion >
    Fission Tragedy Could be Averted - The communications industry pumps 25% of their revenue back into research. The result? Slim iPhones and androids and many amazing communications wonders. Meanwhile, we starve energy research for funds with just 0.3% of the energy budget going to R&D, and wring our hands over oil spills and meltdowns. (PESN; March 15, 2011)
  • Focus Fusion poses competition to Tokamak - Purports to be a far more feasible and profoundly less expensive approach to hot fusion, in contrast to what the international project (ITER) in France is pursuing. Lawrenceville Plasma Physics is currently researching and developing the Plasma Focus Device for hydrogen-boron nuclear fusion. (PESN; Nov. 2, 2005)

Other Resources

See also

Editing by Mary-Sue Haliburton
Page posted by Sterling D. Allan March 17, 2006
Last updated December 24, 2014




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