Energy of the Future / L’énergie du futur
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Spinoff Companies Founded To Improve on Livermore’s Laser Fusion Breakthrough

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EIRNS—Several private fusion energy projects are immediately trying to follow up on the laser fusion breakthrough Dec. 5 by the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California—the first-ever experiment to achieve a net fusion energy gain (of 1.5 to 1), but one using a huge, 30-year-old laser array in a military-purposed facility. As EIR| said in December, the principles demonstrated by the NIF breakthrough can immediately be pushed further by new systems. Science magazine on Feb. 15 reported on several efforts.

NIF Director Tammy Ma is quoted by Science that “We don’t know how to build a power plant.” But a former NIF director, Dr. Edward Moses, hopes to start building a test power plant in five years at his start-up Longview Fusion, using the NIF “indirect drive” approach (directing lasers onto the walls of a capsule and generating x-rays around a fuel pellet within the capsule) but with more and much more efficient lasers applying more energy at a much higher repetition rate.

Another startup, Focused Energy, located in Texas and in Germany, is also led by NIF veterans. Its approach is to use one laser pulse to compress the fuel, as in the NIF, but a second laser to generate a beam of protons on the fuel just as it reaches maximum compression, in order to ignite it. Their aim is a demonstration plant in the early 2030s.

And a third new company, First Light Fusion based near Oxford, U.K., is trying to use a high-speed projectile instead of a laser to implode the fuel, akin to the approach of a British Columbia, Canada-based company called General Fusion (although not mentioned by Science).

At least in Science and in other reports surveyed on these startups, the role of combining a strong magnetic field, to maintain compression and fuel density as the fuel is ignited, continues to go unmentioned. ( ) [pbg]