The conventional route to nuclear fusion for power generation is based on the reaction between deuterium and tritium nuclei, which yields one alpha particle and one neutron. Formidable technology challenges, however, stem from the production and handling of tritium as well as from the radiation damage and radioactivity induced by the high-energy neutron in reactor materials. In this respect, the fusion reaction between a proton and a boron-11 nucleus to yield three alpha particles is very attractive as it involves only abundant and stable isotopes in the reactants, and no neutron in the reaction products.
Unfortunately, the hydrogen-boron plasma has an ignition temperature which is ten times higher than the deuterium-tritium one, thus proton-boron fusion is prohibitive to exploit under thermonuclear schemes.
Nevertheless, in the last 15 years it has effectively been induced by means of high-power lasers, showing an impressive progression in the reaction yield. Recent experimental findings and theoretical predictions, along with the advent of dramatically enhanced laser capabilities, call for an urgent, systematic investigation of possible ignition schemes in laser-driven proton-boron fusion.
This topic has been presented and debated during the Discussion Workshop on Proton-Boron Fusion, which was held at ELI-Beamlines (Czech Republic) on June 5th, 2020. The workshop has gathered approximately 20 specialists form different research institutions and companies (CELIA from France, INFN, FBK and ENEA from Italy, European Commission from Belgium, SNRC from Israel, IoP-CAS from the Czech-Republic, QUB from UK, and Marvel Fusion from Germany) with the goal of identifying current technological challenges and future steps, along with scientific and societal potential impacts in the field of clean energy production
Various experimental and theoretical approaches were presented and discussed, with the aim to both understand the underpinning physics and enhance the fusion reaction yield. In particular, various options for laser and target technologies, potentially suitable to optimize the production of alpha-particles from pB fusion events, were presented. Furthermore, different diagnostics to measure yield and energy of the fusion products were critically discussed, along with advanced numerical modelling.
The Discussion Workshop was also focused on a preliminary consideration of available funding opportunities, also involving industrial partners, aimed to accelerate the formation of a European network jointly working on R&D activities in the field of proton-boron fusion and applications.
More details can be found here: http://indico.eli-beams.eu/e/wpbf2020