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Patent
Tri Alpha Energy | Date: 2017-01-25

A negative ion-based neutral beam injector comprising a negative ion source, accelerator and neutralizer to produce about a 5 MW neutral beam with energy of about 0.50 to 1.0 MeV. The ions produced by the ion source are pre-accelerated before injection into a high energy accelerator by an electrostatic multi-aperture grid pre-accelerator, which is used to extract ion beams from the plasma and accelerate to some fraction of the required beam energy. The beam from the ion source passes through a pair of deflecting magnets, which enable the beam to shift off axis before entering the high energy accelerator. After acceleration to full energy, the beam enters the neutralizer where it is partially converted into a neutral beam. The remaining ion species are separated by a magnet and directed into electrostatic energy converters. The neutral beam passes through a gate valve and enters a plasma chamber.


News Article | May 11, 2017
Site: www.prnewswire.com

In his new role – which recognizes his leadership – Binderbauer will continue to report to CEO Steve Specker. As Tri Alpha Energy pursues the development of its fusion technology, Binderbauer will focus on the strategic direction and execution of the company's efforts. "Tri Alpha Energy is on the way to validating our environmentally-friendly fusion solution, thanks to rapid advancements in technology and the near-completion of our 5th generation Plasma Electric Generator," said Dr. Specker. "Having already proven his effectiveness in managing our people and progressing our science, this appointment will allow Michl to broaden his successful oversight in the company." "Having dedicated my professional career to help building this company, and seeing how close we are to realizing the dream I shared with Norman 25 years ago, assuming the role of President allows me to further catalyze our efforts and expands my commitment to our team as we hone in on our final technical milestones and realize our shared vision of providing limitless, clean and affordable energy technology to the world," said Binderbauer. The company is backed by more than $500 million in private capital from some of the world's leading energy and technology investors and is well along the path to validating both the science and engineering integration. Tri Alpha Energy is unique in the use of its advanced, abundant and affordable feedstock of hydrogen and boron, which makes it the only company pursuing a path to fusion that does not create harmful byproducts. Its latest Plasma Electric Generator, intended to prove that it can achieve temperatures "hot enough" to validate the path to fusion power, will begin operation this summer. About Tri Alpha Energy  Tri Alpha Energy is leveraging breakthrough science and engineering to solve the quintessential problem of our time: harnessing an unlimited and powerful source of clean, renewable energy. With a unique fusion energy pathway empowered by nature's own processes, the company's purpose-built approach applies advanced particle accelerator and plasma physics in order to create a commercially competitive fusion power plant that is compact, safe, carbon-free and sustainable. From its headquarters in California, Tri Alpha Energy is solving energy for the world. For more information, please visit www.trialphaenergy.com. To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/tri-alpha-energy-appoints-cto-michl-binderbauer-as-company-president-300455747.html


Flash Physics is our daily pick of the latest need-to-know developments from the global physics community selected by Physics World's team of editors and reporters Tiny particles of silver could boost the performance of tomorrow's optical computers. That is the claim of Tim Liedl and colleagues at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet in Munich and Alexander Govorov and team at Ohio University, who have shown that the addition of silver nanoparticles to a chain of gold nanoparticles makes the chain much more efficient at conducting plasmons. Computers could be much faster and more energy efficient in the future if they used light to transmit and process information, rather than the electrical signals used today. However, the light that is most efficient at transmitting data over optical fibres has a wavelength greater than 1 μm, which is huge compared to the current size of computer circuits. One way of creating tiny optical circuits is to "shrink" the wavelength of the light by converting it into a plasmon – an oscillation in the conduction electrons of a metal that occurs when the material interacts with light. Once converted to plasmons, data within an optical signal could be processed in high-density chips. Plasmons can be conducted through a circuit using a chain of tiny gold particles, with diameters measuring just tens of nanometres. One problem, however, is that plasmon transmission in gold results in the generation of a significant amount of heat – making such conductors no more efficient than those found in conventional computer circuits. Liedl, Govorov and colleagues have shown that putting a silver nanoparticle (diameter 30 nm) between two gold nanoparticles (diameters 40 nm) results in plasmons being conducted along the chain with almost no energy lost to heat. The research is described in Nature Physics. An icy debris ring surrounding a neighbouring planetary system has a chemical kinship with solar-system comets. An international team reached this conclusion after making the first complete image of the rubble ring using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submilimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. The planetary system is 25 light-years from Earth and a tenth the age of the solar system. Orbiting Fomalhaut – a young star with twice the mass of the Sun – the system contains one of only 20 planets that scientists have imaged directly. Debris rings are common features for young stars and are thought to be caused by collisions between comets and planetesimals during the system's chaotic early life. Light from Fomalhaut is absorbed by the rubble and re-emitted as radio waves before being captured by ALMA. The new image shows Fomalhaut's ring in full, revealing an elongated band of icy dust. "We can finally see the well-defined shape of the disc, which may tell us a great deal about the underlying planetary system responsible for its highly distinctive appearance," says Meredith MacGregor of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in the US. The researchers estimate the band is about two billion km wide and around 20 billion km from Fomalhaut. They also found that the ring's relative abundance of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide resembles comets found in the solar system. This suggests the system is going through its own Late Heavy Bombardment – a period four billion years ago when the solar-system planets were frequently struck by asteroids and comets left over from the system's formation. Two papers presenting the work have been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal. The nuclear physicist and former head of the US Department of Energy (DOE) Ernest Moniz has joined the board of directors of Tri Alpha Energy. Based in Foothill Ranch, California, the privately held company is trying to develop an "aneutronic" fusion power system that is based on nuclear-fusion reactions that do not produce large amounts of neutrons. If it can be made to produce energy on a commercial scale, the company's ion-beam-based system would not have to contend with the damaging neutron radiation that would be generated in other fusion power schemes. Moniz served as US energy secretary under Barack Obama in 2013–2017 and is currently an emeritus professor of physics and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Upon joining the board, Dr. Moniz added that, "as someone dedicated to innovation breakthroughs for a low-carbon energy future, I am pleased to join outstanding colleagues at Tri Alpha Energy who see the company's technology offering the real possibility of just such a game-changer." Moniz served as the Secretary of Energy from May 2013 to January 2017.  As Secretary, he advanced energy technology innovation, cutting-edge capabilities for the American scientific research community, and environmental stewardship.  He strengthened the Department of Energy's (DOE) strategic partnerships with its seventeen national laboratories and with the Department of Defense and the broader national security establishment.  Moniz's involvement in national energy policy began in 1995, when he served as Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President. He later oversaw the Department of Energy's science, energy and security programs as Under Secretary from 1997 to 2001.  He was also a member of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology from 2009 to 2013 and received the Department of Defense Distinguished Public Service Award in 2016. Before his appointment as Secretary in 2013, Moniz had a noteworthy career spanning four decades at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Dr. Moniz was Head of the MIT Department of Physics during 1991-1995 and 1997, and was the Founding Director of the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) and Director of the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment.  He was a leader of various multidisciplinary technology and policy studies on the future of energy in a low-carbon world.  Currently, he is the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems emeritus, Special Advisor to the MIT President and has been announced as co-chairman and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative.  Dr. Moniz is also a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Harvard Belfer Center and the inaugural Distinguished Fellow of the Emerson Collective. Moniz has served on numerous public and private boards, including the Department of Defense Threat Reduction Advisory Committee and the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.  He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Humboldt Foundation, and the American Physical Society. Tri Alpha Energy is leveraging breakthrough science and engineering to solve the quintessential problem of our time: how to harness an unlimited and powerful source of clean, renewable energy. With pioneering work in advanced plasma physics, and an abundant and safe fuel source found in common beach sand, Tri Alpha Energy is recreating the same natural process that occurs in stars: the fusion of hydrogen atoms in a hot plasma gas, releasing tremendous amounts of energy. The company applies advanced particle accelerator and plasma physics in order to create a commercially competitive fusion electric generator that is compact, safe, carbon-free and sustainable, creates no environmental or health hazards, produces only helium, is not a controlled substance, and is non-radioactive. From its headquarters in California, Tri Alpha Energy is solving energy for the world.  For more information, please visit www.trialphaenergy.com. To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/former-us-energy-secretary-ernest-moniz-joins-board-of-directors-for-fusion-energy-leader-tri-alpha-energy-300459608.html


News Article | December 2, 2016
Site: www.theguardian.com

“We are standing on the ground that could change the future of energy,” says engineer Laurent Pattison, deep in the reactor pit of the world’s biggest nuclear fusion project. Around him is a vast construction site, all aimed at creating temperatures of 150mC on this spot and finally bringing the power of the sun down to Earth. The €18bn (£14.3bn) Iter project, now rising fast from the ground under the bright blue skies of Provence, France, is the first capable of achieving a critical breakthrough: getting more energy out of the intense fusion reactions than is put in. “It is a bet that is very important for humanity,” says Johannes Schwemmer, the director of Fusion for Energy, the EU partner in the international Iter collaboration. “We need to get this energy once and for all.” The long allure of nuclear fusion is simple: clean, safe, limitless energy for a world that will soon house 10bn energy-hungry citizens. But despite 60 years of research and billions of dollars, the results to date are also simple: it has not delivered. Fusion is in danger of following its atomic cousin, conventional fission nuclear power, in over-promising – “electricity too cheap to meter” – and under-delivering. The Iter project itself, which stems from a cold war Reagan-Gorbachev summit in 1985, has seen years of turmoil. The US pulled out entirely between 1998-2003 and in 2008, Iter had to treble its budget and shift its deadline back a decade. But leaders representing half the world’s population – through the Iter partners, the EU, China, Russia, US, India, Japan and South Korea – are now making the €18bn wager that fusion can deliver and have radically overhauled Iter’s management to fix the mistakes of the past. The goal is to trap a plasma in a huge magnetic ring and force heavy hydrogen isotopes to fuse together to release prodigious amounts of energy – four times more than the splitting of uranium atoms produces in conventional fission reactors. “We are convinced we can deliver hundreds of megawatts through Iter,” up to 10 times more energy than is put in, says David Campbell, the director of science and operations at Iter (which means “the way” in Latin). To achieve that breakthrough, Iter will use a donut-shaped magnetic cage called a tokamak to trap the plasma. More than 200 smaller tokamaks have been built around the world and Campbell says the decades of physics and engineering that Iter is building on is a strong guarantee of success. But nothing has ever been attempted on the scale of Iter. The world record for fusion power – 16MW - was set in 1997 at the JET reactor in the UK. The longest fusion run – six minutes and 30 seconds – was achieved at France’s Tore Supra in 2003. Iter is aiming for 500MW and 50-minute runs. The site is a cathedral to the fusion dream: it spans the equivalent of 60 football fields and the reactor building will weigh 320,000 tonnes, all resting on rubber bearings in case of an unlikely, but not impossible, earthquake. The reactor itself will weigh 23,000 tonnes, three times more than the Eiffel Tower. It is the most complex engineering project in history. More than 2,800 tonnes of superconducting magnets, some heavier than a jumbo jet, will be connected by 200km of superconducting cables, all kept at -269C by the world’s largest cryogenic plant, which will pump 12,000 litres per hour of liquid helium. Millions of precision components will be shipped in from the seven partners to be assembled by thousands of workers. This is all aimed at keeping just two grammes of plasma hot enough and stable enough in the 30m-diameter tokamak for fusion to take place. Iter’s schedule is to create the first plasma in 2025, then start firing tiny 5mm frozen pellets of heavy hydrogen – deuterium and tritium – into the plasma and generating energy. Deuterium is easily refined from seawater and fuses with tritium, which is harvested from fission reactors but could be self-generated in Iter in future. The aim is to reach its maximum power output by 2035 and, if so, Iter will be the foundation of the first fusion power plants. Bernard Bigot, the director general of Iter, is certain it will produce plentiful power, “but what is not granted so far is that this technology will be simple and efficient enough that it could be industrialised,” he says. The point of Iter is finding out, says Bigot: “The world needs to know if this technology is available or not. Fusion could help deliver the energy supplies of the world for a very long time, maybe forever.” Even if things go well, getting real fusion power plants online before 2050 would be a triumph, raising an awkward question: what if fusion comes too late? Climate change is driving an accelerating transformation to low-carbon energy and drastic cuts in emissions are needed by 2050. If these are achieved, will there be a need for fusion power, which will be expensive at the start? “It is certainly not going to be too cheap to meter,” says Campbell. But it’s a question of timescale, he says: “In the long term there are very few available options: renewables, fission and fusion.” For Schwemmer, there is only one long-term option. “You would have to cover whole continents with wind turbines to produce the energy needed for 10 billion people,” he says. “And if our children’s children are not to sit on piles of [fission] nuclear waste, we have to make fusion work. Even if it takes till 2100, we should still do it.” Nuclear fission is also limited by uranium supplies, perhaps to a few decades if it were to play a large role. Bigot said: “People have to realise, if we want a breakthrough [that could provide energy] for millions of years, 10 or 20 years is nothing.” He thinks fusion may still come in time to meet the need to move the world to zero emissions in the second half of the century to defeat global warming. As a nuclear technology, some will remain implacably opposed to fusion. While fusion reactions produce only harmless helium, the high-energy neutrons also ejected irradiate the walls of the reactor, leading to radioactive waste. Again, the key is timescale, says Campbell. Waste from fission can remain radioactive for 250,000 years, making plans to store dangerous waste for many times longer than the whole of human civilisation speculative. In contrast, fusion waste will decay on the scale of decades. “Looking after the waste for 100 years is credible,” he says. Fusion is also intrinsically safe, with the large meltdowns seen in fission accidents such as Fukushima and Chernobyl physically impossible. Part of the reason is the tiny amount of fuel in a fusion reactor at any one time and part is the temperamental nature of plasma, a boiling gas of ions and electrons. “If you lose control of the plasma, it doesn’t just sit there, it disappears like that,” says Campbell, clicking his fingers. “After Fukushima, we thought we would be flushed down the toilet like all nuclear,” says Sabina Griffith, a communications manager at Iter. “But the opposite happened – governments thought if not fission, then what?” There are other fusion reactor designs that might be better and, in particular, smaller. A €1bn reactor opened in Germany by chancellor Angela Merkel earlier in 2016 uses a stellarator, in which the plasma ring is shaped like a Mobius strip. This makes it potentially more stable and, crucially, able to operate continuously, rather than in pulses like a tokamak. There are also numerous private companies, staffed by serious fusion researchers, promising much smaller reactors, including the UK’s Tokamak Energy and Tri Alpha Energy and General Fusion in Canada. “There are technology routes that might let you build something smaller – in principle,” says Campbell. But he says they either rely on unproven “exotic” ideas or underestimate the heavy engineering needed to contain burning plasmas. “Iter is the size our present technology allows us to build,” he says. Politics remains a challenge to delivering Iter and uncertainty has been ramped up by the election of Donald Trump as president of the US, where some powerful voices want to leave the project for good. Britain’s vote to leave the EU has also added to the uncertainty. But Bigot believes the need to know if full fusion power is feasible will keep the partners in. “To be frank, the US is only 9% of the project, if they were to leave alone, I believe we could go on,” he said. “But it would be the wrong signal [showing] the most powerful country in the world is not preparing for its future.” On Brexit he says: “It would damage Iter a little, but it would damage the UK a lot,” given its long and continuing research in fusion. The political problems usually boil down to costs and the governments of Iter partners wanting to reduce the taxpayers’ money spent on the project. “Iter looks very expensive to the ordinary person in the street,” says Campbell. “But the cost is spread across half the world’s population. Seen in that context I don’t think it is such a big investment to make.” The world spent $325bn on fossil fuel subsidies in 2015 alone, according to the IEA, and $150bn on renewable energy support. Fusion supporters such as Campbell also suggest fusion has geopolitical benefits because its key fuel – heavy hydrogen – is accessible to all. “No one has a monopoly on the fuel so no one is going to fight each other over it.” The 1985 Reagan-Gorbachev summit that kickstarted the Iter project called for “the widest practicable development of international collaboration” in nuclear fusion to obtain “energy which is essentially inexhaustible, for the benefit of all mankind”. So how far is the world from achieving that, 30 years and numerous stumbles on? Many still point to the answer given by Lev Artsimovich, the father of the tokamak and head of the Soviet fusion power programme for more than two decades until his death in 1973. Fusion power, he said, will arrive “when mankind needs it – maybe a short time before that”. • This article was amended on 2 December 2016 to correct General Fusion’s location.


Patent
Tri Alpha Energy | Date: 2016-03-31

Systems and methods for the conversion of energy of high-energy photons into electricity which utilize a series of materials with differing atomic charges to take advantage of the emission of a large multiplicity of electrons by a single high-energy photon via a cascade of Auger electron emissions. In one embodiment, a high-energy photon converter preferably includes a linearly layered nanometric-scaled wafer made up of layers of a first material sandwiched between layers of a second material having an atomic charge number differing from the atomic charge number of the first material. In other embodiments, the nanometric-scaled layers are configured in a tubular or shell-like configuration and/or include layers of a third insulator material.


A high performance field reversed configuration (FRC) system includes a central confinement vessel, two diametrically opposed reversed-field-theta-pinch formation sections coupled to the vessel, and two divertor chambers coupled to the formation sections. A magnetic system includes quasi-dc coils axially positioned along the FRC system components, quasi-dc mirror coils between the confinement chamber and the formation sections, and mirror plugs between the formation sections and the divertors. The formation sections include modular pulsed power formation systems enabling static and dynamic formation and acceleration of the FRCs. The FRC system further includes neutral atom beam injectors, pellet injectors, gettering systems, axial plasma guns and flux surface biasing electrodes. The beam injectors are preferably angled toward the midplane of the chamber. In operation, FRC plasma parameters including plasma thermal energy, total particle numbers, radius and trapped magnetic flux, are sustainable at or about a constant value without decay during neutral beam injection.


Patent
Tri Alpha Energy | Date: 2011-01-01

Systems and methods for the conversion of energy of high-energy photons into electricity which utilize a series of materials with differing atomic charges to take advantage of the emission of a large multiplicity of electrons by a single high-energy photon via a cascade of Auger electron emissions. In one embodiment, a high-energy photon converter preferably includes a linearly layered nanometric-scaled wafer made up of layers of a first material sandwiched between layers of a second material having an atomic charge number differing from the atomic charge number of the first material. In other embodiments, the nanometric-scaled layers are configured in a tubular or shell-like configuration and/or include layers of a third insulator material.


Patent
Tri Alpha Energy | Date: 2015-03-03

A negative ion-based neutral beam injector comprising a negative ion source, accelerator and neutralizer to produce about a 5 MW neutral beam with energy of about 0.50 to 1.0 MeV. The ions produced by the ion source are pre-accelerated before injection into a high energy accelerator by an electrostatic multi-aperture grid pre-accelerator, which is used to extract ion beams from the plasma and accelerate to some fraction of the required beam energy. The beam from the ion source passes through a pair of deflecting magnets, which enable the beam to shift off axis before entering the high energy accelerator. After acceleration to full energy, the beam enters the neutralizer where it is partially converted into a neutral beam. The remaining ion species are separated by a magnet and directed into electrostatic energy converters. The neutral beam passes through a gate valve and enters a plasma chamber.


News Article | November 14, 2016
Site: www.greentechmedia.com

GTM has charted the rise and fall of more than 150 solar startups. A few failed magnificently, but most of the others just faded away -- victims of greed, sloth, pride or any of the other deadly sins of startups. Bloo Solar falls into the latter category -- the one where investors don't perform adequate due diligence and the company goes forward with a technology based sheerly on collective self-deception. Sources close to the company claim that the startup is winding down and selling off its assets. We've reached out to CEO Larry Bawden for comment but have not yet received a response. The startup originated with IP from UC Davis based on nanostructured silicon and later aimed at building nanostructured “bristles” with cadmium telluride as the PV absorber material. More recently, the company settled on amorphous silicon as the PV absorber. Bloo claimed that "each bristle in the brush is an individual solar cell with a conductive core that converts and channels energy efficiently to a conductive backplane." According to Bloo, the technology's advantages over existing planar solar cells included more optical volume, better light trapping and minimized recombination by providing a long photon absorption path and a short carrier collection path. Bloo also claimed that the energy yield of its cell could be "two to three times higher than current technologies." That claim would serve as a red flag to anyone with a bit of solar technology experience. Bloo Solar's patent portfolio included "[m]ethods for forming nanostructures and photovoltaic cells implementing same," with an abstract citing "a photovoltaic nanostructure [that] includes an electrically conductive nanocable coupled to a first electrode, a second electrode extending along at least two sides of the nanocable, and a photovoltaically active p-n junction formed between the nanocable and the second electrode." Acadia Woods Partners was the main investor in Bloo, with about $20 million deployed over the last decade. Acadia Woods is helmed by Jeff Samberg, son of Art Samberg of Pequot Capital Management, at one time one of the world's larger hedge funds with over $15 billion under management. Art Samberg is also chairman of the board at Tri Alpha Energy, a fusion energy science project. I spoke with a half-dozen ex-employees of Bloo -- none wishing to be quoted or quoted with attribution. Some common themes emerged: frustration; wasteful spending; people were "misled" with "no path forward." There were tales of difficult firings, early employees in acrimonious relationships with management, an idiosyncratic physicist (in truth, more colorful adjectives were used), and an inept top leadership which was apparently unfamiliar with the laws of thermodynamics. From a technological standpoint, the company had to shift from its early materials experiments with cadmium telluride to a more manufacturable "meta materials" platform depositing amorphous silicon on microimprinted polymer structures. Along the way, the company acquired an expensive cluster computer to perform computational modeling to determine whether the company's "belief" in a "novel" theory of light absorption on a 3-D structure, dubbed the "volumetric effect," was real. Sources familiar with the firm said that there was improved "absorption of photons in the infrared band-edge on a 3-D structure compared to a similarly thick (or thin) planar absorber," but not the level of improvement that would lead to 2x or 3x gain in energy yield claimed by the company's leadership. Sources told GTM that the company's "volumetric effect" was not in accord with photonic theory. Technologists that worked for the firm said the real value proposition for the company was not improved efficiency, but rather the ability to use thinner absorber layers by extending the photon absorption path length and decreasing the carrier collection distance. So, is there anything to be learned from this disaster? Almost all the Bloo sources spoke of the need for investors to do better vetting of technologies, consulting with credible solar industry experts. Sources regretted their own lack of vetting in taking jobs at the company. This was deep science requiring fundamental research -- not the typical domain of venture investors. The startup was never able to attract any traditional venture capital, and when the one large investor lost interest, it was lights out.

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