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Eric Lerner of Focus Fusion

Discussion in 'Energy, Environment, and Policy' started by Dutchie, Feb 1, 2014.

  1. Dutchie

    Dutchie Member

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    #1 Dutchie, Feb 1, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2014
    Besides Tesla, another endeavour which I have been following for a while is that of Focus fusion Focus fusion is a small startup working on clean and endless energy through hydrogen boron fusion. With very limited resources Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (LPP) was founded a couple of years ago. Focus fusion is part of LPP. The parallel with Tesla is apparent. Like Tesla, focus fusion was laughed at in the beginning. However, now the laughing has stopped (mostly) as the scientific community is taking notice.
    For nuclear fusion to happen three things need to take place simultaneously: the temperature needs to be high enough, the duration and the density. Focus fusion have to date reached two of those milestones namely the temperature and the duration. With some modification the density will hopefully be proven high enough later this year.
    Funds are very limited for LPP so they are staring a crowd funding action later this year.

    Please see article here about tesla/LPP The Mother of All Alternative Energy Investments

    I have made myself available as volunteer in this endeavour. They need more volunteers. Please see

    Calling Volunteers to join us
     
  2. Robert.Boston

    Robert.Boston Model S VIN P01536

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    I'm not a physicist, so I'll say nothing about LPP. It does bother me, though, that many business journalists invoke Elon Musk. In this article, the author says the Dr. Lerner and Elon are alike because they are both "out of the box thinkers." Sorry, many people think outside the box, and most of them fail miserably. Elon has an incredibly rare mix of skills: technical chops, persistence, entrepreneurial drive, the ability to gather outstanding executives, an uncanny sense of how to stretch the envelope, and the ability to turn ideas into real products that generate profits. Probably more. As I see it, Dr. Lerner has demonstrated technical chops and persistence. The rest remains to be seen.

    Don't mistake me -- I wish Mr. Lerner well, as I do every other person who is trying to find cost-effective solutions to serious problems facing humanity. But Elon Musk he isn't.
     
  3. PeterJA

    PeterJA Member

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    I am the author of the article about LPP. Thanks, Dutchie, for calling attention to it.

    I agree with Robert that Elon Musk and Eric Lerner do not have identical skills. (I don't think two people must be identical to be alike.) However, let me add two points:

    1) One of Elon's rare and wonderful skills is "thinking from first principles." He does not solve problems "by analogy" or copying what other people have done, but starts from the fundamental scientific principles that govern any solution. This is evident in the design of the Model S, in his forthcoming fully reusable rockets, and in his plans for the battery gigafactory, all of which no one ever did before. This skill is so important that it is listed as part of Tesla's corporate culture in their recent investor presentation.
    http://files.shareholder.com/downloads/ABEA-4CW8X0/2921970389x0x720221/5647bed2-1c27-4b40-abd3-dd11f8bc474e/Investor%20Presentation%20-%20Jan%202014.pdf

    Eric Lerner has this rare and wonderful skill. The device he is using (called a Dense Plasma Focus) to generate fusion energy was invented by others 50 years ago, and has been studied by dozens of groups around the world. Those groups design their devices using computer models based on trial-and-error experiments. But Lerner went back to the fundamental scientific principles (Maxwell's electromagnetic equations and quantum mechanics) that govern the device, and derived a mathematical model of the device based on those proven principles. No one else did this. It is Lerner's mathematical model, not hope or dreams or analogies to other people's work, that predicts the device will achieve fusion ignition.

    2) Lerner does not need to have all of Elon's skills to achieve his goal of bringing fusion power to the world. He does not plan to run a huge manufacturing company like Elon does. After LPP has achieved ignition (likely in a year or two) and designed a prototype fusion generator (using capital and engineering talent that will flock to LPP after ignition is announced), LPP plans to license the technology nonexclusively to several huge manufacturing companies that are expert in producing and marketing hardware. Lerner is a scientist, but he is gathering business experts around him to complement his skills. He is not Elon Musk, but he doesn't need to be.

    Further discussion of my article is here:
    The Mother of All Alternative Energy Investments | The Contrarian Investor Discussion Board
    Alternative Energy Investor Discussions (formerly SCTY thread) - Page 297
     
  4. Dutchie

    Dutchie Member

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    Wow, that is a is a coincidence! Or may be not as we, as early adopters, are interested in similar issues/problems of society and seeking new and innovative ways to solve them. I think we all in some way or other are on the assumption that we are currently on a tipping point in history in making this world a better and cleaner place and we are probably all interested in people who might achieve that like Elon Musk or Eric Lerner.

    No, Eric has not achieved so far what Elon has achieved. He is a scientist. However, if he pulls this one off I think the world will be stunned. He will get a Nobel price for sure. Hack, even Elon might want to work with him as s dense plasma focus can also be used as a rocket engine.

    Thanks Peter for your input. You are much better in writing than I am. This is very interesting. May be you want to become a volunteer too?



     
  5. Twiddler

    Twiddler Member

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    #5 Twiddler, Feb 2, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2014
    I have several hours this weekend researching LPP and have made initial contact. There is also a wealth of information over at TCI. I was wondering what our TMC physics community thinks about this (looking at you, Mario), as I am a little out of my element on this one. What I have read is largely promotional articles from the company itself, so I am having a hard time finding negatives outside of the high risk of angel funding itself. Strongly considering investing 15-25K as a means to diversify out of the general market once (if) we rebound from this little slump.
     
  6. PeterJA

    PeterJA Member

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    #6 PeterJA, Feb 2, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2014
    Thanks Twiddler. Those of us who don't fully understand LPP's science (I include myself here, although I partly understand it) naturally want to know what more knowledgeable people think of it. Mario Kadastik told me he is interested in LPP, but hasn't read their scientific papers yet and may not have time soon.

    In the meantime, let me suggest you check out the opinions of people who are extremely knowledgeable about fusion science in general, and about LPP's work in particular: the independent expert committee who just reviewed LPP's work. Take a look at their credentials, and their conclusions. You can find a link to their report here:
    Former US Fusion Chief: Focus Fusion Merits Higher Investment
     
  7. xhawk101

    xhawk101 Active Member

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    This independent panel appears to have been commissioned by the company. Therefore the degree of independence may be suspect? Please correct me if I am wrong. I would love for this technology to work and may consider investment as well. I am wondering if it is promising then why is there not already angel investors?
     
  8. PeterJA

    PeterJA Member

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    Thanks for your questions. Probably other people are thinking the same.

    Actually the expert committee was commissioned by an investor in the company. Take a look at the committee members' credentials and decide if a one-time paycheck for a week's work was sufficient incentive for them to alter their conclusions and risk their reputations.

    http://lawrencevilleplasmaphysics.com/images/lpp_review_committee_evaluation-nov_28_2013.pdf
    (page 6)

    Regarding "why no angel investors already," I answered that frequently-asked-question here:
    The Mother of All Alternative Energy Investments | The Contrarian Investor Discussion Board
     
  9. Robert.Boston

    Robert.Boston Model S VIN P01536

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    I am reminded of the (apocryphal) story of two economists walking down a London street. One says to the other, "Look, there's a £20 note on the ground!" His companion replies, "No, there isn't; if there were such a note, someone would have already picked it up."
     
  10. mkjayakumar

    mkjayakumar Active Member

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  11. PeterJA

    PeterJA Member

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    There is no relationship between LPP and this company and others who claim to produce energy by "cold fusion," which violates known laws of physics and chemistry. LPP's work is built on known scientific laws, is published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and is open to inspection by anyone who visits their laboratory.

    Blacklight's slightly garbled press release seems to say that they are running electricity through a device containing water and a catalyst, and getting more energy out than they put in. Andrea Rossi makes similar claims about his "energy catalyzer" (E-cat), but he won't let anyone look inside the device, and won't let anyone measure the energy output using a simple and accurate calorimeter (water bath with a thermometer in it). I haven't investigated Blacklight, but I would expect them to play similar games.

    It is always possible that these secretive inventors have discovered new physical phenomena that will require revision of known scientific laws. But Blacklight's claim that they produce "a new form" of hydrogen (one of the most thoroughly studied elements in chemistry) does not bode well.
     
  12. PeterJA

    PeterJA Member

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    Also, I've just been told that venture capital firms generally are set up to invest tens of millions of dollars per deal, and are not interested in a $1M deal, such as LPP needs to complete their current research phase and demonstrate hydrogen-boron ignition.

    Also, I'm told VCs invest in projects with a 3-5 year time to first profits. LPP is only now getting close to the long end of that range.

    This summer, when LPP's new electrodes start showing much higher fusion yields, VCs may get interested and close the door for us smaller investors.
     
  13. derekt75

    derekt75 Member

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    Blacklight Power has been making announcements like that for 20 years, and it's resulted in tens of millions of dollars invested in them rather than invested in real science.
    It amazes me that they can keep doing it. How can some people be both consistently believed and consistently wrong for decades?

    I wonder if even Randell Mills believes in his blacklight power any more, or if he's just keeping up appearances to keep getting money.
     
  14. nwdiver

    nwdiver Active Member

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    It will be somewhat interesting to see how this plays out. However... keep in mind that fusion is still a thermal plant and therefore requires all the support equipment necessary to efficiently convert heat into usable electricity. With the precipitous fall in the price of solar PV my prediction is that solar will be able to produce electricity cheaper than a thermal plant even if the source of heat is free before any new source of nuclear power becomes commercially viable. IMO it's becoming clearer every day that our future will be powered by fusion... indirectly from the sun.
     
  15. PeterJA

    PeterJA Member

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    #15 PeterJA, Feb 4, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2014
    You are correct that conversion of heat into electricity (via steam turbines running generators) is expensive. You are correct that such a "thermal plant" is required for most types of (hoped for) fusion reactors such as tokamaks and inertial confinement systems.

    However, a thermal plant is not required for LPP's type of fusion generator.

    As stated in my article, tokamaks and IC systems are intended to fuse deuterium and tritium, which releases energy in the form of high-energy neutrons that can heat water and run steam turbines. The neutrons also damage the machinery and turn it radioactive. In contrast, LPP's device is intended to fuse hydrogen and boron, which produces no high-energy neutrons. Most of the fusion energy is released as a high-energy beam of helium ions, which converts directly to electricity in a wire coil wrapped around the beam, similar to a particle accelerator in reverse or a step-down transformer. No steam turbines are required. Some fusion energy is also released as x-rays, which can also convert directly to electricity without a thermal plant. A small fraction of the fusion energy is released as heat, which will be vented or used for residential or industrial heating, as in cogeneration plants in Europe.

    I agree that solar photovoltaics may eventually produce electricity cheaper than thermal plants fueled by fossil fuels, nuclear fission, or deuterium-tritium fusion. However, calculations show that LPP's "aneutronic" (without neutrons) fusion will produce electricity cheaper by an order of magnitude. Solar PV will still have niche applications (small, remote, or mobile), but acres of solar panels will not be cheaper than a machine that fits in a small room and powers 2000 homes day-and-night.
     
  16. JRP3

    JRP3 Hyperactive Member

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    Plus you have to factor in storage for solar.
     
  17. J in MN

    J in MN S60 P12635

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    I did some work an a Tokamak as a grad student, so am certainly curious. But at first glance it sounds a bit like EEStor. Will have to read more.
     
  18. PeterJA

    PeterJA Member

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    Thanks for your interest. I looked up EEStor, and don't see any resemblance to LPP, except both are tech startups. Wikipedia says: "Many in the [capacitor] industry have expressed skepticism about [EEStor's] claims." However, no one has disputed the quantitative theory or experimental results that LPP has published in peer-reviewed physics journals, including Physics of Plasmas, Journal of Fusion Energy, Nukleonika, and Proceedings of the International Conference on Phenomena in Ionized Gases.
     
  19. Dutchie

    Dutchie Member

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    I am following Eestor too. The founder of Eestor (Dick Weir) is a very odd fellow, very secretive. I don't see the resemblance with LPP's Focus Fusion, other than they are both startups with potential disruptive technology. What I like about Focus Fusion, compared to i.e. Eestor, Blacklight power or Rossi's ECat, is that LPP is open in what they are doing and sharing their results with the scientific community through peer reviewed papers. Further, the science does not have to be rewritten as with the other mentioned startups, which gives LPP's Focus Fusion so much more credibility.


     
  20. J in MN

    J in MN S60 P12635

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    The similarities I saw at first glance:
    1. Promising a breakthrough well beyond current state of the art.
    2. Relying on private funding since the DoE won't touch them with a 10 ft pole. (Seems LPP applied for DoE funding for an x-ray source, but haven't yet found evidence that they received any.)
    3. An endless series of "milestones" which seem to be mostly geared towards securing additional funding, rather then making meaningful progress towards the "promise".

    Add to that his book "The Big Bang Never Happened", and my opinion is that he is more successful as a science fiction writer than the person who will develop terrestrial fusion as an energy source.

    - - - Updated - - -

    We get more solar nuclear fusion energy than we can imagine what to do with. It is just a matter of harvesting it, and either storing or distributing it (e.g. superconducting transmission lines) effectively and efficiently.

    Terrestrial fusion (if done on large scale) will just add more heat to the planet.
     

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