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Hydrogen-Boron in Australia—more colleagues than competition

on Feb 26 2020

Update from LPPFusion Chief Scientist Eric J. Lerner:

A recent press release announcing patents for a hydrogen-boron fusion idea from HB11 Energy, a new start-up in Australia has attracted wide interest. What’s the story? The main researcher here is Dr. Heinrich Hora, Professor Emeritus at the University of New South Wales. Heinrich is a friendly colleague, about 15 years my senior (I'm really a young guy in this field!) and we have long exchanged ideas about pB11. His work (not on pB11) was cited in one of my first papers in fusion.

His approach to getting hydrogen-boron fusion is similar to ours in one important way—he also aims for high densities and short confinement times. But his concept is to use a laser to produce a beam of protons in a solid hydrogen-boron pellet. Because the resulting plasma will be mostly confined by its own inertia, it has to be a lot bigger than our tiny plasmoid. In a future generator based on his ideas, 16 thousand times more energy will be released in a single pulse than with our Focus Fusion device—1 GJ (billion J) of energy rather than 60 kJ (60,000 J). This means a much larger and more expensive device than ours as well.

HB11 Energy’s project is at a much earlier stage than ours. Dr. Hora has participated in preliminary experiments at other facilities, such as the PALS laser in Czechia, but HB11 Energy have no facility of their own yet, and must raise a lot of money to build one. They also need to scale up the energy obtained far more than we do. As explained in the last update, we need to go from ¼ J now to 30 kJ for net energy and 60 kJ in a generator, a total scale-up of 240,000 times. HB11 needs to go from about 1 mJ (1/1000th of a J) in the PALS experiments to 1 GJ, a total scale-up of a trillion times.

Since both Dr. Hora’s group and LPPFusion have taken an open approach to sharing results, we expect to continue to collaborate where possible. That’s the fastest route to fusion energy.

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