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Power The Almighty Buck

Fusion Power By 2020? Researchers Say Yes and Turn To Crowdfunding. 280

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the will-research-particle-physics-for-food dept.
Luminary Crush (109477) writes "To date, the bulk of fusion research has been channelled towards a plasma containment and stabilization method. This is the approach used by ITER's tokamak reactor, the cost of which could exceed US$13.7 billion before it's online in the year 2027 (barring further delays). Researchers at LPP Fusion, in a project partially financed by NASA-JPL, are working in a different direction: focus fusion, which focuses the plasma in a very small area to produce fusion and an ion beam which could then be harnessed to produce electricity. It is small enough to fit in a shipping container, can double as a rocket engine, and would cost US$50 million to produce the working 5 MW prototype. To reach the next hurdle and demonstrate feasibility, LPP Fusion has started an Indiegogo campaign to raise $200K."
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Fusion Power By 2020? Researchers Say Yes and Turn To Crowdfunding.

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  • FIRST! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ..also, here's a TED talk about fusion power https://www.ted.com/talks/michel_laberge_how_synchronized_hammer_strikes_could_generate_nuclear_fusion

  • by lennier1 (264730) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @04:20AM (#47044621)

    14 billion? That's less than it costs to supply that little adventure in the Iraqi desert with toilet paper!!!

    • by AGMW (594303)
      Indeed ... in the UK the great unwashed spend more on DMR ('distant male regent') ring tones than we spend on fusion research!
    • Yawn.

      Quite a lot of tech and research in plasma physics and fusion paid for from the defence budget. You know, like most of it.
    • by microbox (704317)
      Yeah, and think of all the high technology jobs the UK would have created. Granted the military industry has big hooks into the government... and all that money talks...
    • But for that $14B we actually got toilet paper. We've spent tens of billions of dollars on fusion research over the past 30 years- and all we have to show for it is the promise that if we spend tens of billions more that we might be able make a major breakthrough sometime in the next 10 years.

  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @04:27AM (#47044647) Journal
    So at what pledge tier do I get a Mr. Fusion?

    Seriously, I'm happy to through some cash their way, but you'd think that for something this significant they'd be able to find $200k from actual investors or research funds to take the next step, especially since they are apparently already funded by JPL.
    • by Immerman (2627577)

      > but you'd think that for something this significant they'd be able to find $200k from actual investors or research funds to take the next step

      Why? They've got an idea that looks good on paper - but they haven't even achieved fusion yet, whereas lots of the other equally promising techniques on the field have accomplished that years or decades ago, and then been stymied by their inability to achieve a net energy gain. Maybe these guys have really found a "holy grail" and will have smooth sailing betwe

  • Bad move (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Katatsumuri (1137173) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @04:36AM (#47044671)

    They didn't have much credibility to start with, and turning to crowdfunding only makes it worse.

    It is not a mass market product with quick deliverables, it is an industrial solution. So the natural financing source would be venture capital, rather than crowdfunding. If they have to turn to indiegogo, it can only mean they failed to convince anyone relevant and are desperately trying to ride the "fusion is cool" fans, and disappoint them in the process.

    As much as I would love to see fusion plants soon, it looks like this is not the company that will deliver them.

    • Re:Bad move (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @05:00AM (#47044733)

      But for 300 bucks you can get a copy of his 1991 book refuting the Big Bang.
       
      I'll let the rest of you fund this maverick grad-skool dropout and his wacky ideas about standard fysix. I'd love for him finally to prove the world wrong in their assessment.

    • Re:Bad move (Score:5, Insightful)

      by thegarbz (1787294) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @05:23AM (#47044801)

      This. They are asking for $200k. If that's all that is needed to make a difference they could easily get that funding if their ideas were even remotely sound. It's quite telling that people will find the ITER to the tune of $13bn but won't give these guys the left over pennies from the bottom of the jar.

      • by AikonMGB (1013995)

        Unfortunately, since fusion would be an incredibly revolutionary technology, there is a tremendous amount of money to be gained by being "first to the post". Any investor with money already in one technology will push hard for only that technology to be funded, at the expense of all other lines of research. Fusion research is sadly driven by economic politics.

        • Re:Bad move (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:24AM (#47045219)

          If there's a low entry cost, multiple risky options, and a potentially enormous payoff to whoever gets there first, you want to fund as many options as possible. That's why funding agencies and private investors alike take a pretty scatter-shot approach to lab-scale, sub-million-dollar energy research.

          Of course, if you have a high cost to entry, and a few high-viability options, as with tokamaks, then you have to be choosy.

        • Re:Bad move (Score:5, Interesting)

          by bloodhawk (813939) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @08:39AM (#47045633)

          you have fallen for there bullshit marketing blurb hook line and sinker. That is NOT how venture capitalists invest at all, in fact it is exactly the opposite of the way they work, They never put all there eggs in one basket and they weigh up the potential returns verses the risk and investment costs, any successful one also knows when to cut losses and switch horses at a moments notice (don't throw good money after bad if a new horse has arrived on the scene). Given the absolutely massive returns here and very low entry bar the only logical conclusion is they are a complete scam that doesn't hold up to even the most basic of scrutiny that is required by most investors or they would be having investors fighting over each other to get in on the deal. the whole thing seems to be targeted at suckering the uneducated out of there money.

      • by thsths (31372)

        ITER's funding is a massively political issue. I would argue that it is funded exactly because it is expensive. My scientists involved in fusion research work in, on or with ITER - do you really think they would give good marks to a simple fusion technology in a peer review?

        I am not saying that what they propose is sound - not even the proposal does that. But I would say that the fact that they cannot get traditional funding does not go against them.

        Remember cold fusion? It certainly works, but it does not

        • Re:Bad move (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:26AM (#47045227)

          Given that the physics that this device is based on go back to the '50s and are well-accepted, yes, they do give these ideas good marks in peer review.

          Cold fusion most certainly does not "certainly work"! The reason it doesn't scale is that the effects disappear as your data gets better.

        • by jythie (914043)
          Having worked in physics research, yes, a simple fusion technology would probably get very good marks and a lot of enthusiasm.

          It should also be noted that 'cold fusion' did not work. It was not an issue of scaling, it was an issue of not actually creating a fusion reaction. There are still quite a few die hards around and there was some interesting offshoot work for creating neutron sources for medical work, but as a power source it was abandoned because it never existed in the first place.
      • Re:Bad move (Score:5, Insightful)

        by taiwanjohn (103839) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:16AM (#47045169)

        Part of the problem is that Mr. Lerner also favors a steady-state model over the Big Bang theory, so he is not taken seriously by the mainstream scientific community. OTOH, he does appear to know a lot about plasma behavior, and has gotten some interesting results with the small-scale "garage" experiments he's done thus far. If $200k is enough to get his work to the next level where he can show some more compelling evidence, maybe that will be enough to get some VC guy like Khosla to give him a few million more.

        In any case, he seems harmless enough. And he doesn't appear to be blatantly trying to rip people off, like so many of these "free energy" gurus... I say let him proceed, and see what he can come up with.

        If you're curious about the approach, watch his Google Tech-Talk [youtube.com] for the details. It's one of the more novel methods I've seen.

        • Re:Bad move (Score:4, Informative)

          by afxgrin (208686) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @08:27AM (#47045553)

          Some criticism of Mr. Lerner's DPF fusion approach by a person who seems to know what they're talking about. http://mikebhopkins.wordpress.... [wordpress.com]

          It really does look like he's just rebuilt a standard pinch device.

          • That is interesting. Thanks for the link. I wish I had the expertise to follow the argument in detail, but I'll just have to take "their" word for it (on both sides) and wait and see how it all turns out.

            That said, I confess that I hope Lerner can make his method work. From an engineering POV, it's an elegant solution to the problem of plasma instability... don't fight it, use it to your advantage. The history of science may be littered with "elegant" ideas that didn't pan out, but there are also quite a fe

            • Re:Bad move (Score:4, Informative)

              by afxgrin (208686) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @10:56AM (#47046961)

              Well this Mike Hopkins guy is mostly comparing neutron yields from the D-T reaction LPP were testing with. Lerner inevitably wants to use the p-B reaction which produces no neutrons (aside from residual gas sources), however to test his pinch device using D-T is much easier as the fusion temperature is lower. It also makes for a good comparison to other pinch devices. Since the p-B reaction yields mostly photons they seek to make a fusion device from the charged particles (a stream of electrons and ions) and the photon energy collected via photoelectric current. Some of those gammas are uncapturable but the energy still captured is supposedly a net gain once they can get a high enough plasma temperature.

              Engineering the Photon Capture Sphere Thing (PCST) to capture photons and electrons while not activating all the material with a 100-year half-life used in its construction, nor having it rip itself apart from dissimilar metals and thermal gradients, not having an unacceptably high rate of particles sputter the crap out of inside, is all non-trivial and would require significant trial-and-error builds. This is of course assuming they manage to make a working p-B reaction with their pinch. Best of luck to Lerner, but I'm not counting on seeing any significant results unless some billionaire type takes a risk on him.

      • This. They are asking for $200k. If that's all that is needed to make a difference they could easily get that funding if their ideas were even remotely sound. It's quite telling that people will find the ITER to the tune of $13bn but won't give these guys the left over pennies from the bottom of the jar.

        They're funded by NASA.

        I suspect this is more for the publicity than the money.

      • by microbox (704317)
        Right, that would fit into an NSF grant. Also, their promo video says that they were the most read paper (in some time frame), but really, it would be more interesting to know how many times they are cited.
    • by msobkow (48369)

      I had the same thought right off. A paltry $200K for something that is supposed to serve the trillion dollar energy markets of the world? If this thing had any chance of working, there would be energy market investors lining up with the chump change they're asking for.

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Yeah. At less than the annual cost to hire 2 (or possibly even 1) person qualified to work in this field. Also, when you see numbers like "50 million to produce the working 5 MW prototype", I seriously doubt that these people have any idea what it costs to build things. My city spent $5 million just to build a pedestrian bridge. Building a fusion rector would probably cost at least 100 times more.
    • Re:Bad move (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Rei (128717) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @06:23AM (#47044951) Homepage

      I expected to see Slashdot drooling and rushing to catch a ride on the latest "ITER = Bad; everyone without much funding = good but repressed" bandwagon. Good to see the discourse is higher than that.

      That doesn't mean that ITER (or NIF, or any of the other major names) is going to be the best solution. Honestly, while there's little doubt in even most critics mind that ITER *could* lead to (via DEMO) a viable way to produce power, I seriously doubt it'll lead to an *economical* way to produce power. But the concept that none of the world's energy companies had an interest in a $200k power source that will change the world... sorry, but no. They looked at it, checked the science, and all decided it was a big "pass".

      Personally, I have the most hope for HiPER [wikipedia.org] leading to an economical fusion source. It's like NIF (ICF fusion), but uses far weaker (and thus dramatically cheaper) compression pulse, and makes up for the difference with a heating pulse. Basically, the capital costs are far lower and it gives more than an order of magnitude better gain than standard ICF. It piggybacks on the data from existing ICF fusion research, adding only a few new requirements of its own (such as research on how the heating pulse will interact with the high-energy state resulting from the compression pulse). And there's the standard challenges of any such pulsed fusion system, mainly about achieving a sufficient repeat rate. But it looks doable.

      • I wouldn't say ITER = bad, so much as ITER = big. For the amount of money that's been spent on that project, where's the harm in spreading a few million around the smaller projects too? You never know if any of them will bear fruit, and it'd be nice to be able to build a fusion reactor without needing superconducting magnets the size of a house.
      • by MickLinux (579158)

        I'm all for exploring ideas that are energy-economically feasible, as well as potentially resource-econemically feasible.

        However, I really think that the cold-fusion idea was killed by stupidity prematurely, and --no offense -- I think that for those who want to work on a cheap fusion alternative, they should look at protein-folding to see if there is a way to get nuclei momentarily within a reasonable tunnelling cross section.

        Point being, they could work on their protein folding designs on a computer to th

        • by Sockatume (732728)

          No. Proteins simply can't withstand the conformational energy involved in forcing two nuclei together past the coulomb barrier, and even if they could, they'd be promptly atomised by the energy liberated in the reaction.

    • by felrom (2923513)

      I didn't see the funding option for, "Donate $500 and we'll pay your electric bill for a decade." If they think they're so close to such a breakthrough they should be offering more than t-shirts and posters.

    • I expect to see them on Shark Tank.

      I also love that they changed the name from the British Dragon's Den to Shark Tank, because - what - too satanic sounding for middle America?
      • I also love that they changed the name from the British Dragon's Den to Shark Tank, because - what - too satanic sounding for middle America?

        Maybe it's because of that lady with the car rental business (and famous for what has to be the worst business website); she came for capital to expand her successful business, which the "dragons" were willing to provide with much reservation. After hearing their offer she replied that for giving up 40% of her company to them she'd be better off just going to a bank, and to the surprised reactions to her turning down the offer on the table, she scoffed: "I'm Chinese. We eat dragons for breakfast".

    • by bloodhawk (813939)

      shush this looks wonderful. I have not heard of such an excellent scheme to divorce fools of their money for weeks now. seriously the only think that shocks me more is that they are still finding fools to con into this thing. They have been flogging this crap for 5 or 6 years and they still expect people to believe they have found the magic bullet that they refuse to show anyone proof of because someone will steal it and they simply can't find anyone in the world willing to make billions and billions by inv

    • by Zobeid (314469)

      > "natural financing source would be venture capital" . . . "they failed to convince anyone relevant"

      I suspect most of those "relevant" people remember the whole Cold Fusion flap and have had it drilled into their heads that Fusion Is Bogus. Also, every time I even raise the subject of fusion in conversation, somebody retorts with the well-traveled saying that, "Fusion power is forty years away -- and always will be!", as if that was the definitive, final word on the subject.

      For venture capital, the dec

    • They didn't have much credibility to start with, and turning to crowdfunding only makes it worse.

      It is not a mass market product with quick deliverables, it is an industrial solution. So the natural financing source would be venture capital, rather than crowdfunding. If they have to turn to indiegogo, it can only mean they failed to convince anyone relevant and are desperately trying to ride the "fusion is cool" fans, and disappoint them in the process.

      As much as I would love to see fusion plants soon, it looks like this is not the company that will deliver them.

      They only need $200k for a proof concept to get investors excited. NASA is already one of their sponsors, so it's not like this is pie in the sky. You likely haven't been paying attention but Fusion research has really taken off recently. There are several Fusion reactors around the world that now produce more energy than they consume. It's a very exciting time. I suspect we'll have real commercial fusion reactors very soon. They're safe enough they could even be used by the public... so yes, I foresee havi

      • Re:Bad move (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Katatsumuri (1137173) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @08:00AM (#47045411)

        I did pay attention. It is one thing to get net positive energy in an experiment, and another thing to capture that energy and to sustain the reaction in a feasible way.

        I would argue in favor of this experiment for the possible interesting scientific results, but by trying to market it as a viable power plant before 2020 they are turning it into a scam.

      • by careysub (976506)

        ... There are several Fusion reactors around the world that now produce more energy than they consume....

        No there aren't. Not one.

        The only one hoping to reach Q=1 (scientific breakeven) is the small Tokamak in the UK called JET which may reach this point this year (or next). But this is simply validating the ITER approach which as you know is a decade or more off, and won't produce any electricity. For a viable power plant we must have Q > 20, ITER will only achieve Q=5 is everything goes right.

  • For me to be anything but skeptical of this claim.

    I want to believe... but seriously how many of us here are proficient enough in the physics and engineering to really have a clue.

    All we can do is believe... and as much as I want to believe... i also don't want to be taken for a fool. I hope its real... but suspect its bullshit.

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @04:46AM (#47044697)

      I want to believe... but seriously how many of us here are proficient enough in the physics and engineering to really have a clue.

      That's why you have Wikipedia...which will tell you [wikipedia.org] that aneutronic fusion needs much higher temperatures, in addition, at least fifty times the density-time of D-T fusion, and generates three orders of magnitude lower power density. Which is the reason why everyone goes for D-T. Yeah, I want to believe, too, but it's like wanting to believe that the brick wall you're heading into at 60 mph in your car isn't there, you can't wish it away.

      • That's why you have Wikipedia...which will tell you [wikipedia.org] that aneutronic fusion needs much higher temperatures, in addition, at least fifty times the density-time of D-T fusion, and generates three orders of magnitude lower power density.

        In their paper in Physics of Plasmas [aip.org] they report having achieved the density and temparature necessary for aneutronic (hydrogen-boron) fusion. The new electrode will enable them to demonstrate a reaction which creates more energy than is required to trigger it - not a finished device, but one which will demonstrate its practicality and attach the funding necessary to commercialise it.

        For more detail, an interview with the project founder [libsyn.com] can be found on the Future and You podcast here [libsyn.com].

    • It's just that you're used to this:
      "We have X that is a complete solution for your problem! You just have to fork $200k to this bank account and we'll send it to you for FREE"
    • by jythie (914043) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:48AM (#47045333)
      Kickstarter and Indigogo are new venues for this kind of scam, I see 'alternative tech' projects pop up (and get wiped) from kickstarer every couple weeks. Most people do not have the first hand domain knowledge to evaluate physics heavy projects, so the posters depend on pulling people's mythology and trying to tie their project to some kind of anti-status-quo narrative.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @04:47AM (#47044699)

    The article states that operations are to begin at ITER in 2027. This is actually the date where ITER will be operated using a Tritium and Deuterium plasma, as opposed to a Deuterium only plasma. Nearly all tokamak experiments currently undertaken are using Deuterium-only plasmas to investigate how the devices operate. Adding Tritium to the mix means that a Tokamak can reach fusion temperatures, but it requires extremely delicate handling. A Tritium plasma is safe, but it's important to keep track of all of it (and that includes losses to the vacuum vessel of the tokamak, we really don't want any going missing!).

    Plasma experiments are set to begin in ITER much earlier, with a `first plasma' date in November of 2020 using a Deuterium plasma. It should not be understated what we can gain from experiments using a Deuterium-only (which means no fusion) plasma. ITER will be used in this manner for several years, while we gain better understanding of plasma physics on these scales. When we have a good feel for the machine, then we will start to produce fusion with a `DT' (Deuterium-Tritium) plasma.

    I'm very busy right now and have only had a cursory glance at the article, but I'm reading things such as `Moreover, because the end product of the reaction is moving charged particles, those can be converted into electricity directly', and thinking that at least the writers do not have a detailed knowledge of plasma physics. Tokamak power plants would use the energy of the 14MeV neutron produced by the DT fusion reaction to heat water to steam and generate it directly. `Moving charged particles' is just a plasma, just like in a flurorescent light bulb. You can make a current out of it, but not electricity.

    • `Moving charged particles' is just a plasma, just like in a flurorescent light bulb. You can make a current out of it, but not electricity.

      I thought that's what MHD generators were for? Given that the output would be in form of plasma, it just seems a natural solution to the problem, even if you recover the remaining energy using a steam cycle. (Of course, in tokamaks, that particular design might be difficult or infeasible. Of that, I haven't really thought yet.)

    • by multi io (640409)

      Tokamak power plants would use the energy of the 14MeV neutron produced by the DT fusion reaction to heat water to steam and generate it directly. `Moving charged particles' is just a plasma

      Uh, a plasma contains charged particles, but is neutral overall (normally). And the particle motion is undirected. What they claim to get out it is a pulsed, directed beam of multi-MeV 4He ions (and only those -- the electrons fly away in the opposite direction), which could be converted into electricity directly (via induction).

    • by Gibgezr (2025238)

      "A Tritium plasma is safe, but it's important to keep track of all of it (and that includes losses to the vacuum vessel of the tokamak, we really don't want any going missing!)."

      My Google-fu was weak on this one: could you perhaps elucidate why exactly we really don't want any going missing? Is it rare and valuable? I am trying to figure out just what Tritium plasma is...my physics background ended at first year uni, so it all sounds like "dilithium crystals" to me, and means about as much.

  • EROEI? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Noryungi (70322) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @05:13AM (#47044773) Homepage Journal

    I am sorry, that sounds like a suspiciously "pie in the sky" project to me.

    First of all, nuclear fusion is insanely difficult. OK, maybe not *that* difficult, more like: "Easiest way to get fusion is to get 1.99x10^30 Kg of hydrogen in one place" difficult.

    Now, coming out of nowhere, we have people saying: "Give us US$ 1,000,000 and we will give you portable, safe fusion within 6 years!". Sure, people, what makes you think you can do better than, say ITER? New approach, yadda yadda yadda, sure, I have heard that one before. Whatever the "new approach" was, it did not work the first time, it probably won't work now. Insanely difficult problem, overconfidence of the new kid on the block, and all that

    Second, the old "Fusion power is clean!" saw. No, it is not. Fusion generates insane temperature and neutron radiation. What makes you think you can put everything in a small container? What happens to all that energy dissipation? To the container and its surroundings? If you RTFA, these people are saying thay can generate up to 5MW in a containment chamber "small enough to fit in a garage"! Excuse me? No dangerous radiation, perfect containment in a completely secure, small package? Hmmm... The Engineering does not seem strong in this one.

    Third argument against: EROEI. Sure, you can get fusion going in a very small spot. We know this, it has been done before, using several different technologies (See Z-Machine at Sandia National Lab, for instance). BUT... (a) how much power do you have to pump into these capacitors to even *create* fusion in the first place? (b) creating fusion can be done... but what about *sustaining* a fusion reaction? In other words, if it takes you 20MW of power to sustain 5MW of power generation, where is your EROEI? Oooops... There is none.

    Final nail in the coffin: "We were financed by NASA-JPL". So what? NASA funds thousands of projects per year. JPL, probably hundreds. And don't get me started on the NSF or DARPA, (or whatever local equigvalent exist in your country), OK?They certainly fund some pretty weird things, just on the off-chance that XYZ wild theory could prove interesting. Or, even better, that XYZ wild theory will be conclusively disproved. That, in itself, does not mean anything. It certainly does not mean your project is headed by cool-headed, super-smart, seasoned engineers and scientists: just that your weird project received a bit of money from whatever popular government entity you could contact.

    As a matter of fact, if your project was so smart and so innovative, *and* headed by cool-headed, super-smart, seasoned engineers and scientists, you probably would not have to ask for money on IndieGogo or other: smart money would flow, by the millions, into your coffers, again just on the off-chance that super-duper weird idea could prove to be the real, "fusion in a box" thing that could change the world. Seriously. And don't give me that conspiracy crap that big oil does not want you to be independent yadda yadda yadda: there is so much money floating around right now, looking for ROI, and so many (rich) people ready to tweak the nose of Govt (See: The Intercept) that a serious project like this would get funded 10 times over. WhatsApp sold for *billions* of dollars for Pete sake! What makes you think portable fusion reactors could not get funded? Get Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg on the phone!

    All in all, this does not sound very serious. More like the romantic fantasy of the genius guy in a garage changing the world one micro-fusion reactor at a time. Sorry.

    Fund this? Sure, why not. But I'll pass this one, thank you very much.

    • Re:EROEI? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @06:06AM (#47044915)

      They are claiming aneutronic fusion that converts plasma to energy directly, so shielding-wise it could well fit in a container. And the argument "if that would be possible, someone would have done it already" undermines the whole concept of scientific research.

      The problem I have with this project is that they are making extraordinarily bold claims (they even have a power rating for the product) which should require extraordinary proof, and need to be vetted by very serious scientists to be believable. Should that happen those scientists would have no problem getting the funds from governments or private investors, banking on their reputation alone. The fact that they have convinced no reputable scientist and have no peer-review scientific output, but have already embarked on a commercial venture should be a huge red sign, this is not some smart gadget you can patent and make a fortune on, it's hard science where theoretical results are typically decades ahead practical applications.

  • by ssam (2723487)

    There are some pretty dubious energy projects on indiegogo.
    https://www.indiegogo.com/expl... [indiegogo.com]

    Also:
    "The Department of Energy decided forty years ago to put all its fusion money on one device, the tokamak, and is not funding anything else"
    What about NIF? or is that DoD?

    • by mbkennel (97636)

      The NIF is a nuclear weapons project, not an energy project. It is financed by DOE NNSA, National Nuclear Security Agency.

      The primary goal is to generate calibration data for nuclear weapons simulations. There some minor lip service to energy research, but the engineering approach is 70 years behind where the tokamak is for energy production.
  • If you believe that the smartest people on Earth are working on a 17 billion euro machine like ITER, when they could be building cheap focus fusion machines for 1000x cheaper, then I have some shares in the Tower Bridge to sell you...

  • I want an n/200,000 share of all patents, publications, and corporate assets produced in the next 10 years in return for my n contribution. And you can keep the ferro-fluid and the shout-out.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @06:13AM (#47044935) Homepage
    When we need crowdfunding, kickstarting, and bake sales to advance meaningful discoveries in theoretical scientific research, but shit like the F35 fighter plane can quietly blow through 5 billion dollars without producing a single useable aircraft outside of testing. Even sadder is knowing its projected cost is over one trillion dollars along 50 total years of development, and the only comment was in 2011 from the senate armed services committee which basically amounted to a high five.
    • by Jiro (131519)

      We don't need crowdfunding to advance meaningful discoveries in theoretical research. This project only went to crowdfunding because it doesn't have enough merit that it can get funding through the normal channels. You think any big company wouldn't be all over this if it actually had a chance of success?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @06:27AM (#47044965)

    This article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aneutronic_fusion describes the pros and cons of using different fuels for radiation free fusion. By using Hydrogen-Boron you can avoid the neutron radiation problem. But in exchange you have to have a temperature 10 times what we've failed to produce for a long enough time to get energy back from the more common fuels. The article also mentions that a lot of the energy released would be photons, which are harder to convert into electricity.

    Hydrogen-Boron and radiation free would be nice and so raises the profile of this work and perhaps makes it more crowd funding friendly. But without more explanation makes me even more suspicious that they are saying all the too good to be true parts and skipped mentioning all the reasons it's not likely to work. On the other hand it would be nice if boards of competent scientists could invest some real money in slightly crazy ideas that were allowed to fail without politicians going nutso that when you tried 10 things with a chance of success of 10% only one worked.

  • Honestly, it's tech we probably aren't going to see, even by 2027.

    I'd rather we funneled energy research money into something we could implement wide-scale by then. Like LFTR.

    Once we've got plentiful energy, THEN we can go chasing after fusion.

  • by InterGuru (50986) <.jhd. .at. .interguru.com.> on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @06:29AM (#47044977) Homepage

    This was tried as the Trisops Project [wikipedia.org] 35 years ago but lost funding because all of the fusion energy project's focus was on the Tokamak.

    Trisops was an experimental machine for the study of magnetic confinement of plasmas with the ultimate goal of producing fusion power. The configuration was a variation of a compact toroid, a toroidal (doughnut-shaped) structure of plasma and magnetic fields with no coils penetrating the center. It lost funding in its original form in 1978.
    The configuration was produced by combining two individual toroids produced by two conical pinch guns, located at either end of a length of Pyrex pipe with a constant magnetic guide field. The toroidal currents in the toroids were in opposite directions, so that they repelled each other. After coming to an equilibrium, they were adiabatically compressed by increasing the external field.

    Disclosure: I was an author on the paper and of the referenced Wikipedia article;

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by leomekenkamp (566309)
      Do I understand correctly that you have worked on that project? If so, could you comment on what the people on LPP Fusion are doing? Is is feasible / safe / sustainable?
      • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @12:49PM (#47048323) Homepage

        I'm passingly familiar with the compact toroid concept, having written *that* article on the Wiki.

        Generally speaking it appears the approach is unworkable. In spite of great interest in self-stable configurations, confinement time remained on the order of nano-to-micro seconds, and energy losses were higher than expected. It was not clear whether these could be solved, but it was clear that finding out would cost a lot more money. The apparent low-cost path to fusion did not appear to be so low-cost, and that seems to be the reason the funding was cut.

        In the case of DPS it's not clear to me that anything new has been demonstrated. A quick look over the cites on various wiki pages show a very low level of development and nothing that could be considered any sort of non-linear progress. In the case of LPP, their announcement of a 1.8 billion degree plasma after 30 years is hardly encouraging, given how quickly progress had been prior to then.

        More controversially, many of the claimed benefits of the design are supposed to come out of a never-before-seen interaction which remains undemonstrated. I remain skeptical that such a thing even exists, and certainly don't take Mr. Lerner's computer models as a reasonable argument - consider LASNEX.

        It is worth mentioning that CT's form the basis of at least some MTF systems, and these *are* seeing a significant amount of development today. Whether this is the path to the moon or simply another finite tree remains to be seen. Some consider spherical tokamaks to be CT's (I am *not* one of those) so they add MAST and similar to the list, but these projects have also apparently hit their brick walls.

  • Just for reference, this appears to be a Google TechTalk presentation by their chief scientist about the subject. It's 7 years old no less.

    Focus Fusion: The Fastest Route to Cheap, Clean Energy [youtube.com]

  • The company's Chief Scientist is listed as Eric Lerner, a name I thought I recognised. Turns out he's a noted plasma cosmology crank.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      This isn't to say that the guy's not credible - if he knows anything, it's plasmas - but it's odd to see his name come up in this context.

    • by OneAhead (1495535)

      Yeah, and Linus Pauling, one of the most influential chemists in history, was a noted megavitamin crank. Not that I'm trying to elevate Lerner to that level, just saying that being a crank in one field doesn't necessarily preclude doing good science in another. I know plenty of good scientists that have the weirdest ideas about some things that are not their core specialty. It seems to be a pattern.

      The idea of DPF is fundamentally sound, and Lerner's company LPP has a few papers in serious peer-reviewed jou

  • by asylumx (881307) on Tuesday May 20, 2014 @07:11AM (#47045137)
    I just don't see how making promises like this is good for anyone. Clearly they are just looking for funding; no scientist or researcher in their right mind would promise something they can't already do by a specific date unless they were lying (or guessing, call it what you want) in order to get funding. This is the kind of crap that makes simpler people no longer "believe in science."
    • by asylumx (881307)
      Just wanted to add: If there is research that needs to be done that is not, by itself, profitable, then I believe we should consider funding it without forcing the researchers to make PR statements like these because who knows what ideas or conclusions that research might actually lead to -- It's really too bad that we are so focused on all research building profits for someone. We, as a society, suck at thinking about anything long-term.

      Crowdsourcing... well if we have a government of the people then
  • After reading this story and this older story [slashdot.org] (which has 5 backers and a nice 390 Euro beer kitty) I can't help thinking I want in on this action.

    Do I need to invent a ridiculous company idea or is it enough to just ask for donations for my holiday fund?

  • This would be a wonderful joke to play on ITER. All those bureaucrats would be so ticked to have to actually go back to science. What I love about FirstFusion is that not only does promise to be a small reactor, but that in all likelihood when it starts to work properly that people will figure out all kinds of improvements to make it smaller and more efficient.

    People think about how this will change the world; but I suspect that it would result in all kinds of interesting and new things well beyond the u
  • In a few years, they will rename the device to "Mr. Fusion".

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