Fusion with p11B has many advantages, including the almost complete lack of radioactivity and the possibility of direct conversion of charged particle energy to electricity, without expensive steam turbines and generators. But two major challenges must be overcome to achieve this goal: obtaining average ion energies well above 100keV and minimizing losses by bremsstrahlung x-rays. Recent experimental and theoretical work indicates that these challenges may be overcome with the dense plasma focus. DPF experiments at Texas A&M University have demonstrated ion and electron average energies above 100keV in several-micron-sized hot-spots or plasmoids. These had density-confinement-time-energy products as high as 5.0 x10^15 keVsec/cm^3. In these experiments we clearly distinguished between x-rays coming from the hot-spots and the harder radiation coming from electron beam collisions with the anode. In addition, new theoretical work shows that extremely high magnetic fields, which appear achievable in DPF plasmoids, will strongly reduce collisional energy transfer from ions to electrons. This reduction has been studied in the context of neutron stars and occurs when ion velocities are too small to efficiently excite electron transitions between Landau levels. It becomes a major effect for fields above 5 gigagauss. This effect will allow average electron energies to stay far below average ion energies and will thus reduce x-ray cooling of p11B. In this case, fusion power will very significantly exceed x-ray emitted power. While fields of only 0.4 gigagauss have so far been demonstrated with the DPF, scaling laws indicate that much higher fields can be reached.
- Pub Date:
- January 2004
- Physics - Plasma Physics
- 25 pages, 6 figures. Invited presentation, 5th Symposium "Current Trends in International Fusion Research: A Review" March 24-28, 2003, Washington, D.C V.2 corrected typos