Why Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Results are Not Even Wrong; a Detailed Analysis.

I recently responded to a claim from Lawrenceville Plasma Physics that they were close to a commercial fusion reactor.  I was annoyed that such claims were being made and even more concerned that such claims were not receiving a strong criticism from the scientific community.  I read the paper published in the journal – Physics of Plasma by Lerner and his colleagues.  The journal is a reputable peered reviewed publication. It was clear to me that the paper was not significant. Dense plasma focus devices are well understood and have been modelled in detail. The results quoted by Lerner did not show that the focus device which he has developed was significantly better than other devices and there was no evidence that a commercial fusion device was any closer.

Read the full blog post — Lawrenceville plasma physics results are not even wrong detailed analysis 


20 thoughts on “Why Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Results are Not Even Wrong; a Detailed Analysis.

  1. P Liddi

    Great blog, Mike. The net is full of new ideas and claims but people never hear first hand from experts. Best of luck to LLP and anyone pursuing fusion power, but lets keep it real.

  2. Alvaro

    But is focused fusion a device fundamentally capped in its possibilities?
    Could you ilustrate a bit on the history of it and why you think it cannot succeed?

  3. Wooaa neddy. According to the legend of the graph above (and accompanying text) this whole piece is an “annoyed” rebuttal based as it is on LPP results seeming to fit somewhat neatly on a plot of neutron yields from typical DPF experimentation into deuterium+tritium fusion.

    While on first glance that all seems sensible, if in fact the LPP red dot for neutron flux was generated by a side reaction of LPP’s aneutronic fusion of p+B11 (and NOT a principally neutron-yielding deuterium-tritium reaction) then this article runs the risk of missing the point to an alarming degree.

  4. Gavriel State

    Does the CCHEN nanofocus device fit this linear scaling? Looking at http://www-naweb.iaea.org/napc/physics/meetings/2nd-RCM-Working-Material/Papers/Soto.pdf and they are showing ~10E3 neutron production for a device that has a peak current of 15 kA. With a similar calibration factor to the other devices in your list, that seems to put their neutron production well above your line, at least according to my crude on-screen estimates.

    Could there not be a possibility of similar higher output from LPPs device, given that they too are pushing larger currents through a smaller electrode geometry?

  5. Dennis T

    Never mind my question. I just learned that Coulomb interactions are electrostatic interactions, not electromagnetic.

  6. The empirical factors you refer to may be due impurities in the fusion fuel such as vaporised electrode. LPP has confirmed copper ions are present. The empirical factors may be common to all prior DPFs but probably not to LPP when they install their tungsten electrodes, which should resist vaporisation much better than their current copper electrodes.

  7. As Dr. Mike Hopkins is not posting his criticism in peer-reviewed journals, reply coming from the Indiegogo Crowdfunding QA:
    >On the Web, links lead to an analysis by Mike Hopkins calling your results “not even wrong.” What is your reply?
    Dr. Hopkins’ analysis misses the whole point of our July 2012 paper, which was about our demonstrating record-breaking temperatures in our confined plasma. Hopkins complained that we had not demonstrated record-breaking fusion yields. But yields depend not only on temperature but on densities as well and we were not claiming any superior density or yield. The paper was about the record temperatures. It was demonstrating that this temperature—sufficient to ignite hydrogen-boron fuel, was indeed confined in a small plasmoid that made our paper the most-read one of 2012 in Physics of Plasma, the leading journal in our field. Evidently a lot of our colleagues got the point, even if Dr. Hopkins missed it. As to densities, we expect to greatly improve them and achieve record fusion yields as well in our next series of experiments.”

  8. Andrea Di Vita

    Admittedly, LPP paper focussed on temperature, not on DD neutron yield. However, Dr. Hopkins s right when invoking well-known scaling laws in assessing LPP performances. The interested reader may find further discusson in A. Di Vita, Eur. Phys. J. D (2013) 67: 191. In my opinion, Lerner’s arguments neglect the adverse role of Joule dissipation, and lead therefore to overoptimistic predictons. Few strategies in order to overcome this problem are also discussed in the paper. . ,

    1. In your paper you suggest reflecting Bremsstrahlung energy may help things considerably. How feasible is this? Also, you contributed to the LPP forum. Did Lerner engage with you about these issues at all?

      1. Andrea Di Vita

        @ marcus H. I had a rather long discussion with Lerner. He observed the scaling laws I have adopted in my paper include no information concerning atomic weight of ions. Basically, in his point of view such laws may scarcely describe the decaborane plasma he’s going to use after fixing present problems with LPP anode. Admittedly, people used to work with isotopes of hydrogen, and available scaling laws refer to plasmas made of hydrogen and/or deuterium.

        I replied that Lerner has overlooked the role of electron-related Joule dissipation due to anomalous resistivity triggered by turbulence. Such resistivity has been observed in the Eighties, and has been consistently referred to since then by many researchers. Of course, anomalous resistivity raises Joule heating, thus spoiling useful energy. Nonetheless, Lerner discusses its impact nowhere.

        As for Bremsstrahlung, a friend of mine, an optical engineer well acquainted with laser technology, suggests suitable mirrors coud do the job. The question is twofold: a) as for physics, it is not clear how many Bremsstrahlung photons reflected by these mirrors may be reabsorbed in the plasma (should the whole system work e.g. as an hohlraum?) b) as for funding, these mirrors are quite expensive, Moreover, it is not at all obvious that these mirrors can withstand many shots (i.e. how much their required replacement may impact costs). Defiitely, LPP lacks adequate funding. They’re stil engaged with anode. Pity, as their work is far from being junk.

        Too many questions remain open. This is why I strongly recommend further funding of LPP research, even if based on shaky grounds.

    2. I’ve been researching fusion since grade school and came to the conclusion that solar flares/CMEs provide the data points humans will need to understand, interpret, and refine to our environment a suitable method to facilitate power production through dense plasma fusion. In school I called it ‘kinetic fusion’ due to the momentum of the ions and the added heat due to friction of ion interaction. That said, I know I will throughly enjoy reading all of your papers. A new set of thought experiments from another’s perspective is always exciting.

  9. It sounds like Dr. Hopkins is simply pointing out that the LPP method follows long-established scaling laws for plasmas. This implies that getting usable amounts of power require scaling up to the sizes of “conventional” fusion plasma machines. We likely will still need an ITER-scale machine costing $billions, even if dense plasma focus fusion works.
    In the bigger picture, it appears that we have forgotten the knowledge hard-won by the professional nuclear physicists and engineers of the 1950’s and 1960’s. This a case where six years in the lab saves six hours in the library!

    1. Even in such a scenario, LPP’s focusfusion will opt out better since ITER is nothing but a big water boiling teapot that is even unstable at best and still providing potential radioactive pollution if anything goes wrong. And it is far more expensive too.

      And since you are mentioning 50’s and 60’s physicists, there are quite some theories out there which was developed back then and later proved wrong or has been adjusted. One should not forget that. So when Mr. Hopkins states that “Dense plasma focus devices are well understood and have been modeled in detail.” and uses that “model” to disprove the work of LPP, he is doing nothing else than what Mr. Lord Kelvin once said when stating that “All there is to know is known, its just a matter of resolution” (slightly rewritten). He was wrong and so are Mr.Hopkins.

      Mr. Hopkins also fail to reply to the fact that the plasma field in the old dpf was contaminated by copper evaporating from the copper electrodes. The new tungsten electrode will most likely eliminate that…. He also fail to understand what LPP is trying to do. As Mr.Lerner is well educated into dense plasma physichs my guess is that he knows very well where in Mr. Hopkins plot he lays. But this is not the point. Mr. Lerner needs a well functioning DPS and all Mr. Hopkins has provided is a proof that LPP has exactly that. A well working DPS. Thank you for your support Mr. Hopkins! But other devices does not use radial anodes and thus LPP introduces something new here aswell.

      I do not say that the LPP team won’t meet new and challenging problems but the only persons that finds new pathways are does that dear go on further. The others will only see the pathways already known, believing it is the whole world they see.

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