Improving the feasibility of economical proton-boron-11 fusion via alpha channeling with a hybrid fast and thermal proton scheme

Ian E. Ochs, Elijah J. Kolmes, Mikhail E. Mlodik, Tal Rubin, Nathaniel J. Fisch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The proton-boron-11 (p-B11) fusion reaction is much harder to harness for commercial power than the easiest fusion reaction, namely, the deuterium and tritium (DT) reaction. The p-B11 reaction requires much higher temperatures, and, even at those higher temperatures, the cross section is much smaller. However, as opposed to tritium, the reactants are both abundant and nonradioactive. It is also an aneutronic reaction, thus avoiding radioactivity-inducing neutrons. Economical fusion can only result, however, if the plasma is nearly ignited; in other words if the fusion power is at least nearly equal to the power lost due to radiation and thermal conduction. Because the required temperatures are so high, ignition is thought barely possible for p-B11, with fusion power exceeding the bremsstrahlung power by only around 3%. We show that there is a high upside to changing the natural flow of power in the reactor, putting more power into protons, and less into the electrons. This redirection can be done using waves, which tap the alpha particle power and redirect it into protons through alpha channeling. Using a simple power balance model, we show that such channeling could reduce the required energy confinement time for ignition by a factor of 2.6 when energy is channeled into thermal protons, and a factor of 6.9 when channeled into fast protons near the peak of the reactivity. Thus, alpha channeling could dramatically improve the feasibility of economical p-B11 fusion energy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number055215
JournalPhysical Review E
Volume106
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 15 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics

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