An optically thin p-11B plasma loses more energy to bremsstrahlung than it gains from fusion reactions, unless the ion temperature can be elevated above the electron temperature. In thermal plasmas, the temperature differences required are possible in small Coulomb logarithm regimes, characterized by high density and low temperature. Ignition could be reached more easily if the fusion reactivity can be improved with nonthermal ion distributions. To establish an upper bound for the potential utility of a nonthermal distribution, we consider a monoenergetic beam with particle energy selected to maximize the beam-thermal reactivity. Comparing deuterium-tritium (DT) and p-11B, the minimum Lawson criteria and minimum ρR required for inertial confinement fusion (ICF) volume ignition are calculated with and without the nonthermal feature. It turns out that channeling fusion alpha energy to maintain such a beam facilitates ignition at lower densities and ρR, improves reactivity at constant pressure, and could be used to remove helium ash. On the other hand, the reactivity gains that could be realized in DT plasmas are significant, the excess electron density in p-11B plasmas increases the recirculated power cost to maintain a nonthermal feature and thereby constrains its utility to ash removal.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Condensed Matter Physics