Friday, December 18, 2009

IEC 2009 - Wisconsin

The reports from IEC 2009 are available. Lots of meaty pdfs and Power Point presentations.

It looks like work on IEC Fusion has picked up compared to 2008.

H/T Tall Dave

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Current State Of Fusion

Alan Boyle at Cosmic Log has the latest broad look at the state of Fusion. He discusses the state of laser fusion. The the $3.5 billion American National Ignition Facility seems to be doing well. But what excites me is that he has some indirect news on The Polywell Fusion Reactor experiments.
The dark horse in the fusion race is an approach known as inertial electrostatic confinement fusion, or Polywell fusion. This method, pioneered by the late physicist Robert Bussard, involves designing a high-voltage cage in such a way that atomic nuclei slam into each other at high speeds, sparking fusion.
That is the hope. Now what about some news?
In September, EMC2 Fusion was awarded a Navy contract, backed by $7.9 million in stimulus funds, to develop a scaled-up version of a Polywell fusion reactor. Development and testing of the device is expected to take two years, and there's an option to spend another $4.4 million on experiments with hydrogen-boron fuel (known as pB11).

In the past, EMC2 Fusion's Richard Nebel has been able to describe the team's progress in general terms, saying that he was "very pleased" with the performance of an earlier test device. But now, with more Navy money on the line, Nebel has been constrained from saying anything about the project. The fact that the research is continuing, however, appears to indicate that the results have been promising enough to keep the Navy interested.
My sources on the project have dried up as well. No one is talking. I am running on unsupported rumors and conjecture. Some think that the silence is a cover up for failure. Being a fanboy I'm more inclined that they are so wildly successful that the Navy doesn't want to let the cat out of the bag any sooner than they can help. Reality is probably some where in the middle or worse. The design is so simple that if the Navy gets it to work no country is more than 5 years behind in producing a working model from scratch (given a crash program).

As you know I have been closely following the progress of the WB-X contracts at EMC2. If you want to get deeper into them:

WB-8 Contract Progress

Polywell Gets The Dough

The Boys At Talk-Polywell Have Struck Paydirt

WB-8 In The Works

Polywell Gets In On The Act

You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics.

And the best part? We Will Know In Two Years

H/T rschaffer8 at Talk Polywell

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

ITER Back To The Drawing Board

The ITER fusion test reactor project is getting a schedule review [pdf] because the project is seriously out of whack.
The scientific and engineering team building the ITER fusion reactor failed to win an expected endorsement from the project’s governing council last week. The council, which represents the seven international partners in the project—China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States—sent the team back to do more work on the proposed construction schedule for the mammoth undertaking.
So what is being done to fix this mismatch between means and ends?
...ITER staff have been racing for months to get the final project baseline documents, which describe the design, cost estimates, and planned schedule, ready for the 18–19 November council meeting at Cadarache (Science, 13 November, p. 932). But some council members voiced concern that the schedule, which aimed to start the reactor by 2018, was not realistic and that there was too high a risk that some part of the immensely complicated effort could go wrong.

A slip in the schedule would invariably mean increased costs, and the council is already concerned about budget estimates, which, sources say, may have doubled from 􀀀5 billion since the partners signed up in 2006. So the council told ITER staff to nail down more firmly the risks, both technical and organizational, involved in the schedule and come back in February with earliest and latest possible start-up dates.
And they are not even going to discuss costs until they get a schedule estimate. Good.

I wonder if the fact that Focus Fusion, and Tri-Alpha Energy, and General Fusion, and other groups promise results much sooner at much lower costs also has something to do with the reevaluation.

Of course you all know my favorite. The Polywell Fusion Reactor. You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics. And the best part? We Will Know In Two Years.

Here is a good page to keep up with ITER news. I love what it says at the top of the page:

18 Years Until 1st Q = 10 DT pulse 400s long at 500MW on ITER

Plasma Physicist and author of Principles of Plasma PhysicsDr. Nicholas Krall said, "We spent $15 billion dollars studying tokamaks and what we learned about them is that they are no damn good."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tom Ligon On Space Show

Tom Ligon is going to be on the Space Show this Sunday from 12 to 1:30 PDT. You can call in or listen. Information at the link.

Update: 29 Nov 2009 2020z

I had my dates mixed up. Tom will be on the Space Show for Tuesday evening, December 22, 7-8:30 PM California time. There is a good chance I will be on the show as well.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Designing Computer Chips

My latest article at ECN discusses how to design computers in the context of FORTH chips.

Friday, November 20, 2009

First Fusion

Prometheus Fusion has announced his first fusion neutron.

Drop by and give him an atta boy.

H/T Talk Polywell

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The DOD Looks At Energy Security

The gentlemen and gentlewomen at Talk Polywell have come across a couple of major finds. The first is a discussion of American energy security and its military implications. Energy & National Security: An Exploration of Threats, Solutions, and Alternative Futures [pdf].
Abstract – Findings of multiple Department of Defense (DoD) studies and other sources indicate that the United States faces a cluster of significant security threats caused by how the country obtains, distributes, and uses energy. This paper explores the nature and magnitude of the security threats as related to energy—some potential solutions, which include technical, political, and programmatic options; and some alternative futures the nation may face depending upon various choices of actions and assumptions. Specific emerging options addressed include Polywell fusion, renewable fuel from waste and algae cultivation, all-electric vehicle fleets, highly-efficient heat engines, and special military energy considerations.
Interesting (to say the least) that Polywell gets a mention in the very beginning of the paper. We have come a long way since the Polywell program was nearly permanently shut down in 2006.

The second paper is about funding for various quick reaction [pdf] programs by the DOD. The interesting bits are on page 11 of the document. Look at just how small the effort was in fiscal year 2008.
EMC2/IEF
Boron Fusion The objective of this project is to continue research towards a proven, validated, and reviewed and approved final design basis for engineering development and construction of full-scale clean nuclear power plants. Boron/hydrogen reactions are radiation-free and non-hazardous and well-suited to direct electric power applications to Navy propulsion, as well as to modest scale ground power plants/systems, able to be run without fossil fuels. Such power plants would revolutionize DoD power systems applications and requirements.

FY 2008 Accomplishments:
This project continued research towards a proven, validated, and reviewed and approved final design basis for engineering development and construction of full-scale clean nuclear power plants. Payoff would be elimination of the need for fossil fueled plants. Boron/hydrogen reactions are radiation-free and non-hazardous and well-suited to direct electric power applications to Navy propulsion, as well as to modest scale ground power plants/systems, able to be run without fossil fuels. Such power plants would revolutionize DoD power systems applications and requirements.
Things are picking up speed in the Polywell research. You can find out more about the latest funding for Polywell at WB-8 Contract Details and at WB-8 Contract Progress.

You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mach-Einstein Drive

I have a new article up at ECN Magazine on experiments testing out the possibilities of a Mach-Einstein Drive. I call it: Maching Einstein.

Why is this important? If the experiments work (and even if they don't) we will learn more about how our universe is constructed. If they do work we can get propulsion without having to build huge rockets. Earth to Mars travel in a few days would be a definite possibility. If it works really really well faster than light speed travel is a definite possibility.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

WB-8 Contract Progress

The US Navy has just published a Justification and Award for EMC2's Polywell Fusion Reactor experiment.

The highlights:

* The award is for $10 million
* WB-8.0 report to be delivered 30 March 2010
* WB-8.1 report to be delivered 30 March 2012

The WB-8.1 effort is contingent on success with WB-8.0 experiments.

What does all this mean? It is possible that there has been much more progress than was expected. You can read about the expected progress at: We Will Know In Two Years. That was published in May of 2009. The minimum time expected for results when that was published was 18 months which would have been November of 2010. Actual time from the prediction to the end of the WB-8.0 contract is 10 months. Of course this is speculative. It may be that we won't know until March of 2012. Which would make the actual time line almost three years and not two.

You can read some of my previous posts on the WB-8 contract at:

Polywell Gets The Dough

The Boys At Talk-Polywell Have Struck Paydirt

WB-8 In The Works

And if you are not familiar with fusion in general or Polywell in particular may I suggest:

Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

The American Thinker has a good article up with the Polywell basics.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Major Electronics Magazine Covers Polywell

ECN Magazine has an article up on Polywell and other small fusion efforts. You will never guess who the author is. Heh.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Polywell Gets The Dough

EMC2 has gotten almost eight million dollars to do further experimentation on the Polywell Fusion concept.
Energy Matter Conversion Corp., (EMC2)*, Santa Fe, N.M., is being awarded a $7,855,504 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for research, analysis, development, and testing in support of the Plan Plasma Fusion (Polywell) Project. Efforts under this Recovery Act award will validate the basic physics of the plasma fusion (polywell) concept, as well as provide the Navy with data for potential applications of polywell fusion. Work will be performed in Santa Fe, N.M., and is expected to be completed in April 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif., is the contracting activity (N68936-09-C-0125).
I think this is the award based on the solicitation discussed here and here and here.

Evidently the $2 million promised in May was just a place holder and the actual funds are significantly greater. This means that the work on WB-8 and the engineering for WB-9 will go forward with the next milestone in April of 2011. Which is in accord with Rick Nebel's promise that We Will Know In Two Years.

If you would like to keep these reports coming visit Five Years of Blogging and do what you can.

You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics.

H/T Marc Bruggeman via e-mail.

Thanks to Instapundit for the link!

Update: 14 Sept. 2009 22:59z

There is new information about the award:
Research Development Test Evaluation (RDT&E) Plan Plasma Fusion (Polywell) project. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake has awarded a Cost Plus Fixed Fee contract for research, analysis, development, and testing to validate the basic physics of the plasma fusion (polywell) concept as well as requirements to provide the Navy with data for potential applications of polywell fusion with a delivered item, wiffleball 8 (WB8) and options for a modified wiffleball 8 (WB8.1) and modified ion gun. The requirement is sole sourced to Energy/Matter Conversion Corporation (EMC2) who is the original developer of the plasma fusion (polywell) approach and holds the proprietary data rights. The address for EMC2 is 1202 Parkway Dr, STE A, Santa Fe, NM 87507-7253. Award includes an option for a Wiffleball 8.1 for an additional $4,455,077.
By dividing up the contract this way there are probably milestones that need to be met before further work is authorized.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Word For The Sceptics

I was looking at the comments to my American Thinker article Fusion Energy and came across an interesting sequence of comments I had missed earlier. The first comment is by a sceptic. There are earlier comments by him in the comment section.
Posted by: WR Jonas Jun 19, 01:18 PM

I have spoken out here about my skepticism based on a provable dynamic and truth. There will always be ample reasons to spend other peoples money. To give this research or any other some noble purpose or cause does not necessarily make the aims correct or worthwhile.

If we were still shooting rockets at the moon and coming up empty or failed we would have stopped it a long time ago. This canard of ,try until we run of money, is the basis for continuing a proven failure. Because it is Navy project doesn't give it any greater chance of success.

So , how about we put the fusion research industry on a time, results or dollar limit to see if it is ever going to produce anything. Any takers?
I added the emphasis. And then there is a reply to the question by Rick Nebel:
Posted by: rnebel
Jun 23, 04:11 PM

Mr. Jonas:

I'll take you up on that.
It seems Rick is confident of getting a yes/no answer on time and within budget for the question "Is it worthwhile to scale up the Polywell Fusion Concept to the size of a modest (~100 Megawatts) net power reactor?

And what is Rick's time frame? The answer Rick gives is "We Will Know In Two Years."

You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics. (same article referenced above)

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Feynman Physics Lectures Video

Eric F via e-mail alerted me to the fact that Microsoft has made the Feynman lectures on physics freely available. You can watch them here.

And as a very helpful adjunct may I suggest the book version:

The Feynman Lectures on Physics

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Room Temperature Superconductors One Step Closer

We are one step closer to room temperature superconductors.
Menlo Park, Calif.—Move over, silicon—it may be time to give the Valley a new name. Physicists at the Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have confirmed the existence of a type of material that could one day provide dramatically faster, more efficient computer chips.

Recently-predicted and much-sought, the material allows electrons on its surface to travel with no loss of energy at room temperatures and can be fabricated using existing semiconductor technologies. Such material could provide a leap in microchip speeds, and even become the bedrock of an entirely new kind of computing industry based on spintronics, the next evolution of electronics.

Physicists Yulin Chen, Zhi-Xun Shen and their colleagues tested the behavior of electrons in the compound bismuth telluride. The results, published online June 11 in Science Express, show a clear signature of what is called a topological insulator, a material that enables the free flow of electrons across its surface with no loss of energy.
Pretty darn exciting. It all depends on something called topological insulation. The article gives some details on how that works. Which gets a bit heavy on the physics. I'm going to skip that here. However, if you have heard of the Pauli exclusion principle it is worth a read.

There are some limitations. For now.
Topological insulators aren't conventional superconductors nor fodder for super-efficient power lines, as they can only carry small currents, but they could pave the way for a paradigm shift in microchip development. "This could lead to new applications of spintronics, or using the electron spin to carry information," Qi said. "Whether or not it can build better wires, I'm optimistic it can lead to new devices, transistors, and spintronics devices."

Fortunately for real-world applications, bismuth telluride is fairly simple to grow and work with. Chen said, "It's a three-dimensional material, so it's easy to fabricate with the current mature semiconductor technology. It's also easy to dope—you can tune the properties relatively easily."

"This is already a very exciting thing," he said, adding that the material "could let us make a device with new operating principles."
Bismuth Telluride is a semiconductor that is currently used for solid state refrigerators. It is also used to generate electricity from small temperature differences. That means the semiconductor industry has more than a little experience in fabricating the material.

If the lab boys have developed a repeatable formula it is possible we might see useful devices using this superconducting property in as little as three years. One use of such properties might be to make a super low noise microwave filter that doesn't require cooling to Liquid Nitrogen temperatures (77° Kelvin). That could be very helpful.

I will be keeping an eye on this one.

If "normal" superconductivity interests you this book is a good place to start:
Introduction to Superconductivity

And if you are a little further along and contemplate building a fusion reactor in your garage, this book could help:
Case Studies in Superconducting Magnets: Design and Operational Issues

More books:

Superconductivity

Handbook of Superconductivity

Engineering Superconductivity

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Boys At Talk-Polywell Have Struck Paydirt

The boys at Talk Polywell have uncovered the details of the WB-8 contract [pdf]. Those details can give us some insight into how WB-7 has gone. From the looks of things - rather well.
The current effort will build on what has been completed under these previous contracts as well as requirements to provide the Navy with data for potential applications of AGEE with a delivered item, wiffleball 8 (WB8) and options for a modified wiffleball 8 (WB8.1) and modified ion gun. The objective of this procurement is validation of the basic physics of the AGEE concept as well as requirements to provide the Navy with data for potential applications of AGEE. It builds upon previous concept-demonstration bench top versions of plasma wiffleballs. As such, it comes under the FAR 35.001 definition of applied research. The contract will be for a wiffleball 8 with 2 options for modifications to the wiffleball based upon it’s success.
OK. They are going into deeper validation. Which means WB-7 went OK.
3.1.1 The Contractor shall construct and test a small-scale MG Insulated, Wiffleball Polyhedral Device, WB8. WB8 shall be built based on results of WB7 (built under contract N68936-03-C-0031) and shall utilize design and performance knowledge gained from test of prior WB machines.

3.1.2 The design shall use circular coils around each main face cusp axis. The device shall use emitter electron gun arrays and an ion beam drive. The machine will be operated in magnetic fields with pulsed currents. WB8 shall be operated at a magnetic field strength of approximately 0.8 Tesla, which represents an increase of 8 times the magnetic field strength of previous WB machines. Improvements over previous WB machines in WB confinement, ion energy and fusion reactivity are expected as a result of these changes to WB machine design.

3.1.3 Within 20 days of completion of testing of the WB8, the contractor shall deliver a report detailing the results of the experimental testing of this MG Insulated, Wiffleball Polyhedral Device, WB8. The report shall provide sufficient information to guide programmatic and design decisions about further, refined design efforts for similar devices. The report shall address the plasma dynamics of WB devices, and shall address the scaling laws that apply to polywell fusion. (A001)
Circular coils means that there will be no significant change in geometry. That is good. Apples to apples comparisons. An increase of field strength by a factor of 8 means - if the scaling laws hold a factor of about 4,000 increase in power out. If WB-7 was similar to WB-6 it means an increase from 3 neutrons a shot to 12,000. A real countable number i.e the error bars will be much lower. A count of 3 can actually be considered a count of 3 +/-2. That is a big error bar. For 12,000 the error bar is on the order of +/-100 about 1%. That makes improvements or degradations of 5% easily detectable. Where as in the first situation (WB-6/7) changes that doubled or halved the output rate would be hard to detect.
3.1.4 Within 30 days of build and test of WB8, the contractor shall provide a predictive model of WB behavior including data points for detailed 2D/3D profile measurements of plasma density, ion energy and WB magnetic field structure during follow-on tests to validate the scientific basis for a Polywell fusion power reactor, and guide further research. The contractor shall coordinate with the Government for a program review meeting at the contractor’s facilities to be held no later than 40 days after the testing of the WB8 and shall provide the detailed predictive model and data points at this program review meeting.

3.1.5 The contractor shall deliver a periodic progress report specifying status information of the experimental testing of the MG Insulated, Wiffleball Polyhedral Device, WB8. (A002)
The magnetic profile of an operating device is critical for knowing how the device actually operates. Without that it is very difficult if not impossible to design in improvements.
3.1.6 The contractor shall deliver a conceptual design for a follow-on fusion demonstration device, WB-9. Conceptual studies will focus on the feasibility of extending the WB-8 results to this device and determining the suitability of this concept as a fusion reactor. This design will be delivered at the end of the contract.
So the program is starting to take on a life of its own. A WB-9 device is already under consideration even before experiments on WB-8 are even completed. This indicates a fair amount of confidence in the forthcoming results. Excellent.

Now here comes what I consider the most critical requirement of WB-8testing.
3.2.1 Enhanced Ion Drive with PB11 (proton/boron 11): Based on the results of WB8 testing, and the availability of government funds the contractor shall develop a WB machine (WB8.1) which incorporates the knowledge and improvements gained in WB8. It is expected that higher ion drive capabilities will be added, and that a “PB11” reaction will be demonstrated. The contractor shall investigate and validate the plasma scaling laws with respect to B-field, voltage and reactor size. The contractor shall investigate the feasibility of a neutron-free fusion power reaction using a polywell WB machine. It is anticipated that improvements in WB confinement, ion energy, and fusion reactivity will be demonstrated in WB8.1. Improvements over the WB8 predictive, computational model are expected, which should yield a better understanding of the WB fusion reaction thus allowing optimization of the WB machine.

3.2.2 The contractor shall deliver a report detailing the results of the experimental testing of WB8.1. The report shall provide sufficient information to guide programmatic and design decisions about further, refined design efforts for similar devices. The report shall address the plasma dynamics of WB devices, and shall address the scaling laws that apply to polywell fusion, and the feasibility of the PB11 reaction. The report shall address the conceptual requirements for a polywell fusion reactor capable of generating approximately 100mW. (A0001)

3.2.3 Within 30 days of testing, the contractor shall update the predictive computer model of WB behavior created under paragraph 3.1.4 using the PB11 reaction and shall deliver the model within 30 days of completion of initial tests specified in paragraph 3.2.1.
The fact that they are contemplating work on the pB11 reaction is very encouraging. That fuel is one of the most difficult to burn in a fusion reactor. Which means testing with lesser fuels (or simulated fuels) has gone very well indeed.

At 100 milliwatts for a follow on reactor they are starting to get into the power range. If they can get that kind of power with .3 m dia. coils and .8 T fields, then a reactor with 3 m coils and 10 T fields should produce about 2.5 Mega Watts if the scaling laws hold.

And just as a little kicker:
3.3.1 The contractor shall develop an enhanced ion drive system that is compatible with Wiffleball 8.1 and projected future wiffleballs. The ion drive system shall be capable of injecting protons (ionized Hydrogen), and ionized Boron 11. The ion drive system shall be capable of generating ions in sufficient quantity to fully fuel the wiffleball fusion machines.
If they are going to fuel even a small machine the ion guns are going to have to be capable of multi amp currents - each.

Well that is my first cut at digesting the news. If you want to figure out more a look at all the links at Talk Polywell will be helpful. I especially liked this inventory [pdf] of items purchased since about 1999.

All in all the new contract has a lot of good news. To sum up:

What it means about past work: it went well.
What it means for the future: verifying engineering rules
More: there is a plan to test the Hydrogen/Boron 11 fuel combination
More: They must be confident of results since they are planning a WB-9

You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics.

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Feynman Physics Lectures



The Feynman Lectures on Physics

Let me put it to you straight and simple. If you do not own this set of books and peruse it as bedtime reading three times a week or more you will not be able to fully participate in the Polywell Project except as an interested observer. Of course if you have the time put in an hour or two a day of serious study.

Don't get me wrong. This project needs tens of millions of interested observers. I welcome every one. Bring your friends and relatives, children, cats, and dogs. Parrots too. Especially parrots named Poly.

But if you are going to do physics or engineering these books are treasures. Not just for the understanding behind them but also for the feel Feynman has for the subject.

Friday, May 29, 2009

ITER Delayed, Scaled Back

Nature News is reporting that the ITER fusion experiment is in big trouble. Very big trouble. It is way over budget, way behind time, and the experimental efforts are being scaled back.
ITER — a multi-billion-euro international experiment boldly aiming to prove atomic fusion as a power source — will initially be far less ambitious than physicists had hoped, Nature has learned.

Faced with ballooning costs and growing delays, ITER's seven partners are likely to build only a skeletal version of the device at first. The project's governing council said last June that the machine should turn on in 2018; the stripped-down version could allow that to happen (see Nature 453, 829; 2008). But the first experiments capable of validating fusion for power would not come until the end of 2025, five years later than the date set when the ITER agreement was signed in 2006.

The new scheme, known as 'Scenario 1' to ITER insiders, will be discussed on 17–18 June in Mito, Japan, at a council meeting that will include representatives from all seven members: the European Union (EU), Japan, South Korea, Russia, the United States, China and India. It is expected to be approved at a council meeting in November.

Indeed, the plan is perhaps the only way forward. Construction costs are likely to double from the €5-billion (US$7-billion) estimate provided by the project in 2006, as a result of rises in the price of raw materials, gaps in the original design, and an unanticipated increase in staffing to manage procurement. The cost of ITER's operations phase, another €5 billion over 20 years, may also rise.
All the while a five man team in New Mexico that is actually getting results and is expected to solve the fundamental problems of their fusion method in two years or less is being starved for funds. I'm referring to the Polywell Fusion experiments being done by EMC2. Now it is true that Polywell might not work. But it is also true that at the level of funding they are getting they may be unable to do the all the experiments and tests that would speed the project along. All this for a project whose funding is in the millions per year vs ITER at billions per year. I don't get it. Well maybe I do. ITER has loads of political support. Lots of engineers scientists, and government labs have their thumbs in the pie. The support for Polywell is a grass roots rag tag effort. That effort has done some good. It has gotten the US Navy to restart the efforts in August of 2007 after the project was considered dead in 2006. So there is that.

One year of the USA contribution to the cost overruns on the ITER project could fully fund Polywell to a working 100 Mega Watt demonstration reactor (if that is feasible) in four to six years. What are we waiting for?

I will leave you with the usual message I leave at the end of posts on fusion:

You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

Friday, May 22, 2009

WB-8 In The Works

EMC2 has just been awarded (a solicitation actually but sure to go through) a contract for a WB-8 and WB-8.1 device under the America recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. I reported on the prospects for this in mid April in my post Polywell Gets In On The Act. Here is some of the text of the solicitation:
THIS OPPORTUNITY IS AVAILABLE ONLY TO CONTRACTORS UNDER theAmerica recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Research Development Test Evaluation (RDT&E) Plan Plasma Fusion (Polywell) project. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake intends to procure on sole-sourced basis, a Cost Plus Fixed Fee contract for research, analysis, development, and testing to validate the basic physics of the plasma fusion (polywell) concept as well as requirements to provide the Navy with data for potential applications of polywell fusion with a delivered item, wiffleball 8 (WB8) and options for a modified wiffleball 8 (WB8.1) and modified ion gun. The requirement is sole sourced to Energy/Matter Conversion Corporation (EMC2) who is the original developer of the plasma fusion (polywell) approach and holds the proprietary data rights.
It looks like EMC2 is getting closer to full funding and will be building a follow on machine to WB-7 and WB-7.1. There is still a ways to go (about 18 to 24 months) but it is fair to say we have come a long way since early summer of 2007 when it seemed like the project was dead in the water with no prospects.

You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

H/T marc b via e-mail

Sunday, May 17, 2009

An Interview With Tom Ligon



Tom Ligon is an engineer who worked with Dr. Robert Bussard on Polywell Fusion. Tom explains the technology and his work with Dr. Bussard. There are seven videos in the series. You can watch the rest of them here:

Tom Ligon Interview 2
Tom Ligon Interview 3
Tom Ligon Interview 4
Tom Ligon Interview 5
Tom Ligon Interview 6
Tom Ligon Interview 7

My thanks to Matt M. who did the interview and posted the videos.

You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering.

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

We Will Know In Two Years

Rick Nebel, the head of EMC2 Fusion (Polywell), has a few words to say in the comments at Next Big Future about the progress he is making in understanding The Polywell Fusion Reactor and its chances for power production.
rnebel
I believe we will know the answer for the Polywell in ~ 1.5-2 years. I haven't looked at MSimons design, but I know he has a lot of good ideas. We'll probably take a closer look at D-D reactors over the next 2 years.
I'm honored Rick thinks that I have made some useful contributions to the advance of this technology.

What most excites me is that we will probably know in two years or less if this technology is viable. That is very exciting.

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

If you want to learn more about the basics of fusion (Polywell is a little more complicated) may I suggest:

Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering.

H/T Roger Fox via e-mail. You might want to have a look at Roger's video IEC Fusion for Dummies v5.7

Thursday, April 30, 2009

LANL Helps Polywell

Los Alamos National Laboratory gave the Polywell Fusion Experimenters some critical help when they needed it.

It all started out with this program.
Northern New Mexico businesses are getting financial help from Los Alamos National Laboratory, and there are plenty of ways LANL can help boost local economies, according to LANL Director Michael Anastasio.

"There are plenty of challenges the country faces, and the lab has a lot to offer in that regard," Anastasio told guests at a recent breakfast meeting where lab personnel and prominent northern New Mexicans, including Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, met to discuss LANL's role in economic development around the region.
And the help the Polywell folks got was not a grant. It was a loan of some equipment.
Richard Nebel's Santa Fe company EMC (which stands for Energy/Matter Conversion Corp.) has much grander designs. Like saving the world.

"If this works, we can end dependence on oil, end global warming," Nebel said of a radiation-free nuclear fusion technology he's developing called "polywell," which "is clean, inexpensive and has enormous potential."

Nebel emphasizes polywell is "risky, because the physics may not work. It could be great or it could be a bust."

When EMC hit technological roadblocks, it got an assist from Northern New Mexico Connect's New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program. The whole experiment, Nebel said, had cost EMC about $200,000 when the company realized it needed the assistance of highspeed cameras -- which run more than $200,000 apiece. The program enabled EMC to use LANL's cameras.

"The stuff we do operates at hundredths of a second," Nebel said. "The cameras were critical."

"Northern New Mexico has tremendous resources of people," he said. "We're a hightech company, and I can find experts around here to help with anything."
I'm glad to get some more of the details of the Polywell Fusion Experiments.

As you can see the experimenters are starved for funds. So far the US Navy and the DoD are very interested in the experiments but the funding has been sparse. Upping it from its current rate to about $40 million a year would get us answers (like can it work) a lot faster. Now does this mean that the efficiency per dollar put into the work will decline? Of course. However, sometimes it is worth trading money for speed. I think this is one of them. If it can work it will change everything in America and the world. You can find out more by reading:

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

50 Years of Stories: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

and if you want to read about Los Alamos:

Secret Mesa: Inside Los Alamos National Laboratory

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

H/T an e-mail from reader LCO

Thanks to Instapundit for the correction. LANL is Los Alamos National Laboratories. Corrected above.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Polywell Gets In On The Act

Polywell Fusion looks to be getting a $2 million boost from the DoD Recovery Act Plan. Here is what the DoD has to say about their plan.
Today, March 20, 2009, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its EXPENDITURE PLAN for the projects to be funded with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Recovery Act provides $7.4 billion to the Department largely for projects that are located at Defense installations spread across all fifty states, District of Columbia and two U.S. territories. The report includes $2.3 billion in construction projects, including two major hospital construction projects: Camp Pendleton, California; Fort Hood, Texas; and a hospital alteration project at the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida. The plan also contains $3.4 billion for nearly 3,000 facility repair and improvement projects that will immediately generate additional employment in communities around Defense installations. Furthermore, the plan details how $300 million for near-term energy technology research will be allocated. The allocation of the remaining $800 million for Defense facility infrastructure investment be announced at a later date.
There is a pdf of the plan. On pdf page 166 there is a small item under the heading Domestic Energy Supply/Distribution. It is as follows:
Plasma Fusion (Polywell) Demonstrate fusion plasma confinement system for shore and shipboard applications; Joint OSD/USN project. 2.0
The "2.0" is the amount of funding in millions. This indicates the military has a fair amount of confidence in Polywell and the progress made so far in the research.

There is no doubt that if Polywell can be made to work a shore installation would probably be the first and easiest application. Next would come size reductions for shipboard use. And if we can get the weight down enough - rockets for space. Or perhaps use as low cost power supply for a ground based laser propulsion system.

I just looked at Amazon and there is no book out yet on Polywell Fusion. I have heard rumors of people writing books on the subject so maybe we will see one in the coming months.

In the mean time you can look at this www page to get some understanding of what is involved:

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

H/T KitemanSA at Talk Polywell

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In The Dark

Rick Nebel, the lead guy in Polywell Fusion Research has a few things to say about his current state of knowledge with reference to the Polywell Fusion Reactor. He also discusses some rather technical questions about his research and findings. You can read those by following the link.
To a certain extent we are in the same boat as everyone else as far as the previous experiments go since Dr. Bussard’s health was not good when we started this program and he died before we had a chance to discuss the previous work in any detail. Consequently, we have had to use our own judgement as to what we believe from the earlier experiments and what we think may be questionable.
That may explain why the US Navy has contracted Rick's company, EMC2 Fusion, (formerly run by Dr. Bussard until his death) to do several different measurements on the plasma including density, and magnetic fields.

In various Polywell discussion groups a lot of the talk is focused on how little published information there is about Polywell. The above may be part of the explanation.

I must say that this news is a surprise to me. I was under the impression that the knowledge was out there. Now it appears that however much there was a lot of it died with Dr. Bussard. However, some very big names in plasma physics, like Nicholas Krall, who wrote Principles of Plasma Physics are interested in the progress of the Polywell reactor. In fact Dr. Krall who famously said, "We spent $15 billion dollars studying tokamaks and what we learned about them is that they are no damn good.", wrote a paper with Dr Bussard titled Forming and maintaining a potential well in a quasispherical magnetic trap. So despite our current state of knowledge I'd have to say the effort to find out more is very worthwhile. Especially given the relatively low cost of knowledge. So far the US Navy agrees. Here is what Dr. Nebel recently said about what the experiments show.
"There's nothing in there that suggests this will not work," Nebel said. "That's a very different statement from saying that it will work."
If we upped the burn rate of the project from $2 million a year to $10 million a year we could learn more faster. Which means faster decision making. And that is almost always a good thing. Right now we are in the position of not having enough solid information. More is better.

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wait Until The Last Possible Moment

Here is some good system level advice as it pertains to electronic engineering. I think it is true of other branches of engineering as well.
System-level design is all about thinking early and implementing later. So why not apply what we already know? We even have statistics. Fifteen years ago, I was part of projects where we measured how effective methods like manual code inspection were in preventing bugs from propagating into the next project phase.

Everybody seems to know and agree that it becomes more difficult to find and fix defects the further a project has progressed. More recently, studies sponsored by NASA show that an embedded software bug introduced in the requirements phase is 130 times more expensive to fix during integration and 368 times more expensive after rollout of the embedded device.
So what do you do? Prototypes for one. And not just hardware. Software too. Sometimes it is only in the process of implementing a solution that you come up with a better idea. How do you make sure that idea does not wind up on the drafting room floor? Delay the decision to commit big resources to the last possible moment. Which means a manager must not only be a master of technology. The manager must also be a master of logistics and the PERT Chart.

You also have to recognize the pressures to decide quickly: top management asks, "what is your plan?" and you have to say "I don't have one yet, I'm looking at the options." It requires a lot of trust. And a lot of program time discipline when it comes to execution because you will be using a lot of your project time margin to make sure you get it right the first time.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Big Motor For The Electric Navy

Here is something I should have posted here a while ago.

Superconducting Motor

Last week I did a post on the the science of electric motors that featured a learning kit for kids that provided the parts required for a kid (of any age) interested in the science and technology of electric motors to build a small one. I'd estimate that the motor, which you could hold in in the palm of your hand, produced less than 1/1,000th of a horsepower. Here is a motor whose power is about ten orders of magnitude bigger. And that is a whole lot bigger.

The Next Big Future reports on the really big motor that uses high temperature superconductors.
American Superconductor Corporation, a leading energy technologies company, and Northrop Grumman Corporation announced today at the Surface Navy Association’s 21st National Symposium the successful completion of full-power testing of the world’s first 36.5 megawatt (49,000 horsepower) high temperature superconductor (HTS) ship propulsion motor at the U.S. Navy’s Integrated Power System Land-Based Test Site in Philadelphia. This is the first successful full-power test of an electric propulsion motor sized for a large Navy combatant and, at 36.5 megawatts, doubled the Navy’s power rating test record.
The Business Wire tells a little more of the story.
This system was designed and built under a contract from the Office of Naval Research to demonstrate the efficacy of HTS motors as the primary propulsion technology for future Navy all-electric ships and submarines. Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) funded and led the successful testing of the motor.

Incorporating coils of HTS wire that are able to carry 150 times the power of similar-sized copper wire, the motor is less than half the size of conventional motors used on the first two DDG-1000 hulls and will reduce ship weight by nearly 200 metric tons. It will help make new ships more fuel-efficient and free up space for additional warfighting capability.

“The successful load test of our HTS motor marks the beginning of a new era in ship propulsion technology,” said Dan McGahn, senior vice president and general manager of AMSC Superconductors. “This motor provides the U.S. Navy with a truly transformational capability relative to size, stealth, endurance and survivability, providing our Navy with a clear performance advantage for years to come. We are grateful for the steadfast support from the Office of Naval Research, Naval Sea Systems Command and the Naval Surface Warfare Center.”
A different branch of the Navy, Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, is funding work that may lead to a shipborne fusion power reactor. Which would be kinda handy to have to power two or four of those electric motors turning the screws of an aircraft carrier. You can read about the latest contract for development of the Bussard Naval Fusion Reactor at IEC Fusion Technology.

And that is not the only electric propulsion system that future aircraft carriers will use. There is also the electric catapult being developed by General Atomics (GA).
GA and its Team have completed the Program Definition and Risk Reduction (PDRR) phase of the Navy's electromagnetic aircraft launch system (EMALS) program and have been selected to perform the System Development and Demonstration phase. The goal of the EMALS SDD phase is to develop the existing design chosen during PDRR into an integrated shipboard system that is both operationally suitable and effective, thus replacing steam catapults with an electric system that will reduce maintenance and provide flexibility and growth potential for carrier aviation throughout the 21st century.The GA Team EMALS design is a robust, highly reliable launch system that will meet or exceed all Navy performance goals. This design will provide significant reductions in installed weight, volume, and workload compared to the existing steam catapult. The design uses state-of-the-art technologies that we believe will demonstrate our system is affordable and producible.
There are more details at the link.

And guess what else the US Navy is working on? A real honest to God beam weapon. The Free Electron Laser
The Navy is pushing ahead with a five-year, $163 million dollar plan to bring the "Holy Grail" of energy weapons up to battlefield strength.

For decades, scientists have been slowly working on a laser that never runs out of shots -- and can be "tuned" to blast through the air, at just the right wavelength. For most of that time, all they could get was a laser at lightbulb-strength. But in 2004, researchers at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility finally managed to assemble a "Free Electron Laser," or FEL, that could generate 10,000 watts of power. Now, the Navy has started an effort to design and build a new FEL, 10 times as strong. That would bring the laser up to 100 kilowatts -- what's considered the minimum threshold for weapons-grade. But it would also be just a stepping stone, on the way to an energy weapon as powerful as any produced. If ray gun researchers can get the thing to work, that is.
And lest we leave out projectile weapons how about an offshoot of the electric aircraft catapult. The rail gun which fires projectiles with electricity at a muzzle velocity of better than 8,000 ft per second.
The Navy is researching rail guns because they would weigh less than conventional ones, and since they rely on electromagnetics to fire rounds, you wouldn't need a big, dangerous pile of explosives stored in a magazine. All of that means a lighter ship, and a much more deadly ship: a combat-ready rail gun would be able to fire Mach 5 projectiles over 200 miles with pinpoint accuracy, hitting 5 meter targets.

Yesterday's test firing at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division used just some of the potential 32-megajoules the laboratory test gun is capable of, and that's only half the 64-megajoules the Navy is aiming at for the final weapon.
If you follow the link you can watch some really cool videos.

It looks like the US Navy has a plan. And you know? I just love it when a plan comes together.

H/T just_an_observer at Talk Polywell

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Solid State Photomultiplier

A company called Amplification Technologies has invented something called a solid state photomultiplier.
Amplification Technology Inc. has developed a new solid-state semiconductor technology solution for low-level signal detection: multichannel Discrete Amplification (DA).

The patented DA platform technology, invented by company scientists, is a breakthrough in the design of photon detectors, providing these detectors with unique competitive advantages. Use of DA in semiconductor detectors increases their sensitivity markedly, and enables the creation of new detector systems for various applications including medical diagnostics, security systems, telecommunications, environmental monitoring and drug discovery.
They really don't give many details of their technology but if it works as stated it could be a real boon to designers of particle detectors. The output of the device is low impedance (50 ohm) so that it should be much less susceptible to electric field noise such as is found in installations that depend on high voltage for their operation.

Tube photomultipliers, because they are high impedance devices, are notorious for their susceptibility to electric field noise. Like a photomultiplier this device is inherently high speed. The company recommends a standard microwave amplifier rated at 4 GHz for use with the device. Such solid state amplifiers are available for a dollar or two in small quantities. Pulse lengths of under a nanosecond are resolvable. In that respect their performance is similar to a photomultiplier and like a photomultiplier it can detect single photons with about the same efficiency as a photomultiplier. The gain of the device is around 1E5. Similar to that of a photomultiplier.

The question of course is: are all these improvements available at a reasonable price?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Engineering Plan

I was having a discussion with a correspondent about how to organize a Polywell Fusion engineering program. I though I had discussed that here but it turns out that I made my remarks at NASA Spaceflight. So I would like to revise and extend those remarks.

==

Since I'm thinking along Manhattan Project lines I think we need a name for our little venture. I propose the "Rock River Engineering District". I don't know, it just came to me. So how should the Rock River Engineering District be organized?

We start with a project management (PM) team with representatives from each of the labs and the main functional groups. Project management is above all responsible for results. Budgets and schedules too. The job of PM is to make sure all the horses are pulling in the same direction.

Now what about project teams? Start with a power reactor group. A thermal group. An electrical group (power and control). A test reactor group. And a support group consisting of mathematicians, metallurgists, electronic design, etc. and administrative support - purchasing, contracts, etc.

The reactor group alone is going to have to have subgroups: electron guns, fuel injection, vacuum group, magnetics group, collection grid group, plasma physics. Possibly others - all working with the thermal group. Plus you want to have some mathematicians on staff for helping the engineers with the hard stuff. Reduce the engineering to algebra/trig or computer programs with graphical and table outputs.

Then you have to have some one who can ride heard on this collection of prima donnas. If they aren't prima donnas I don't want them on the program. Think Manhattan Project. Or Rickover re: nuke subs. We want very smart experienced people with an excess of confidence. With a pessimist riding herd.

I think it took the Naval reactor group from 1948 to 1953 to get delivery of the sub reactor prototype. With 6 years prior experience in low power and low power density reactors.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

So I'm Discussing With Art Carlson

So I'm discussing with Art Carlson whether it is worth it to look deeper into the Polywell Fusion Reactor design and do some experiments with superconducting coils and continuous operation of a test reactor. Said experiments to cost about $10 million. Well Art is sure that the explanation that Physicist Robert Bussard gave for how the device works can't possibly be true and it is all just a bunch of believers. Cultists if you will. He did not hold back when expressing his views.
StevePoling wrote:
Can anyone articulate an experiment that would falsify either proposition? I mean something cheaper than building a fully-operational Wiffleball-N?
I spent some more time pondering this. I was thinking in the direction of leaving out the cusp itself and just investigating a pencil of plasma propagating along a field through hoops of various potential. Then I realized this is pointless because whiffle-ball theory is not falsifiable.

I mean, suppose I set up an experiment involving cusp physics and electric fields and I showed that it all worked as I expected. What would the polywell proselytes say? That the real polywell has (unspecified) non-Maxwellian effects that my setup didn't take into account. That is basically the last answer I got from Rick Nebel. Of course I can't refute that because nobody has ever said what those effects might be in detail. Maybe if I worked real hard for a year or so (Are there any volunteers to pay my salary?), I could prove a fairly general theorem that would rule out a large class of options. (My shining example for this type of calculation is Todd Rider.)

Basically, there is no whiffle ball theory, only some handwaving with manifest inconsistencies. On the experimental side, there is no published, robust evidence that anything unusual is happening at all. What are we doing here?
But it is falsifiable at least ultimately in an engineering way. Either you get more power out than you put in or you don't.

For $10 million we build the Super Conducting coil job and that should tell us if a power producer is possible. It should also be possible to measure the wiffle-ball. Lasers. Microwaves. Field probes. Whatever.

Or we might go with a lower cost liquid nitrogen cooled copper magnet coil version. It would have a much lower magnetic field than a superconducting coil. But you can build it faster. Vary the current through the magnet coils and see how the losses scale.

I must say though that I'm starting to feel like a tokamak guy: "there are problems that can only be worked out at the next larger level". It must be a plasma physics disease.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Interesting Power Supply Company

Commenter windmill at Talk Polywell has brought to my attention an interesting power supply company Diversified Technologies Inc. Here are a couple of short (under 10 pages) papers that explain the technology.

Solid State High Voltage DC Power Distribution & Control [pdf]

Here is the key point from the above [pdf].
The largest cost components in this design are the semiconductors (IGBTs). Because of their widespread use in locomotive engines, subway cars, elevators, and a wide range of electrical motor drive and power supply systems, these devices are evolving at a rapid pace, especially in comparison with vacuum switch tubes. In the last decade, we have seen the switching speed and power handling capability of IGBTs increase by an order of magnitude (200 kVA to 4 MVA), at essentially constant prices. This puts high power electronics, for the first time, on a favorable, long term cost reduction path. This is the equivalent of the computer industry’s Moore’s Law of continually higher performance per unit cost, but applied to power systems.

Today, a 100 kV, 2MW buck regulator, with a series switch, can be built for approximately $500k USD. This cost will decline due to increased semiconductor performance and decreased manufacturing costs. In contrast, estimates for the equivalent conventional approach are $2- 3M USD, and show no trend towards cost reduction.
Quite so. IGBTs with a voltage rating of 6,500 Volts and a 600 Amp current rating are now off the shelf.

A Solid-State Switch for 13.8kV Power Distribution [pdf]

The company claims to be able to make power conversion equipment that costs in the range of 10¢ a watt in production quantities. That is a very good number. Diversified claims specifications for their supply technology that are very not too bad. An adjustable 100 KV DC supply can deliver 1% regulation and .1% ripple. That is just the ticket for Polywell Fusion experiments using D-D. For pB11 at the resonance peak I'd like to see tighter regulation. Say .1% regulation and .01% ripple. I have some ideas.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion

I thought it was about time to post this here. Originally posted at: Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion. Let me note that Low Radiation is more apt than no radiation. The main reaction between Hydrogen and Boron 11 produces only alpha particles which can be stopped with a layer or two of aluminum foil. However there are side reactions which will produce about one millionth the neutron flux of an operating fission reactor. If construction materials are chosen carefully there should be no long lived radioisotopes.

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?

==

Justin at Classical Values has put up a posts about fusion energy machines way different from the magnetic confinement and heating machines the government is building.

You can read the post here. Eric of Classical values has another post on the subject.

For more details on the physics visit EMC2 Fusion. You can also make a donation there to help the work go forward.

An interesting question is: when was the first steady state (operation times of at least 10s of seconds) electrically operated nuclear fusion machine which produces at least 10s of millions of fusions a second built? The astounding answer? 1959. So far 18 experimenters have produced similar machines including this young experimenter.

The next question is: why have advances been so slow in since then? The answer (and a lot more) is given in this video by Robert Bussard. (note: dial up is going to be incredibally slow as the video is around 1 hour and forty minutes - aproximately 170 mega-bytes) The video tends to the technical and I will have to study it a few times to get all the details. However a fair understanding of high school physics should suffice. Even if you don't understand the physics the general concepts are easy to understand and Dr. Bussard's enthusiasm is infectious.

In any case the idea is to build a fusion device that produces no long lived nuclear radiation and that works with the forces of nature instead of against them. The voltage required to make these devices work is on the order of 10 to 20 thousand volts or less. About the same voltage as you would find in a tube type monitor or TV set. Nothing very exotic. For a full scale power producer it is predicted that you would need about 2 million volts. Well within the range of current technology for small scale devices. Currently the highest voltage used in electrical transmission is 1.15 million volts. Scaling that up to two million volts for production devices should not be too difficult.

Near the end of the lecture (about 1 hour in)Dr.Bussard gets to the heart of the matter by listing the advantages of this type of power plant.

Stop Greenhouse Effect

Eliminate Acid Rain Sources

Decrease Thermal Pollution Sources

Stop Nuclear Waste Production

Destroy Nuclear Waste Inventory

End Water Shortages Forever

Cheap Fuel Free Electric Power

Clean Low Cost System

Fresh Water From The Sea

Practical Space Flight

Global Economic Stability

Cheap, Clean Thermal/Electric Power Readily Available

Fixed Energy Prices Stabilize Economy

Low Value Cane In Third World Countries Becomes High Value Export Product

Third World Nations Can Become Economically Viable

Profitable Industrialization Possible

Destroys World Market For Gasoline

Eliminates Effect Of Oil Cartels

Oil States Suffer Drastic Income Losses
(audience: laughter - ed.)

Desalinization Plants Allow Irrigation Of Arid Lands

Cheap Water Allows Effective Agriculture

Low Cost Power Stabilizes Industrial Nations

Oil Wars Vanish

Mid-East Stabilized by Economics

Third World Becomes Fiscially Responsible
(comment: not likely, more energy does not fix bad government - ed.)

End Use Market Price Ca. $5,000 B In Year 2000 $
(all products the machine can replace - ed.)

Sell/Lease Systems To Supply Energy Plants/Production

Royalty/Lease Fees at 2% of Market Price Equivalent To Ca. 2m/kWhr Surcharge Yields Net Income (Profit) at Ca. $100 B/Year
(which means an estimated electrical cost of 100 mills/kWhr - ed.)


Dr. Bussard says he needs $200 million dollars and five years to build two full scale demo plants. The first year of his five year plan will replicate with improvements his last experiments to get data on the process that can be verified by a review comittee. The First year will cost $2 million dollars.

He says that a computer to do proper simulations on the system would cost $8 million dollars.

Wiki on Dr. Bussard:
In the early 1970s Dr. Bussard became Assistant Director under Director Robert Hirsch at the Controlled Thermonuclear Reaction Division of what was then known as the Atomic Energy Commission. They founded the mainline fusion program for the United States: the Tokamak.
George Miley at the University of Illinois is doing some work in the field. As is Gerald L. Kulcinski at the University of Wisconsin. Here is the U. Wisconsin IEC Fusion page.

A review of the lecture.

Dr. Bussard Talks


An executive summary of Dr. Bussard's Google talk.

The Bussard Reactor for space propulsion.

A number of links to Dr. Bussard's work. Scroll down.

More good links including links to the Farnsworth patents.

Update: 15 Dec'06 0431z

Mark Duncan in the comments left a link that refers to the Bussard paper given in Valencia, Spain [pdf].

A transcription of the Google presentation [pdf] with illustrations.

Mark has more at Fusion.

Here is a follow up article on the engineering: Reactor Scaling

Hendrik J. Monkhorst did some interesting work on a linear (as opposed to the Bussard spherical design) reactor. Here are a couple of articles one from Science 278 and another one from The University of Florida. Another Monkhorst paper: Science 281. Here is the patent for the Monkhorst/Rostoker design.

Wiki has a nice discussion of the reactions and some techinical details of the various Nuclear Fusion schemes including Dr. Bussard's Boron 11 - Hydrogen reaction.

Update: 11 May 007 0202z

Dr Bussards contract with the Navy has been extended for a year without funding.

Please write your Government and ask them to fund the contract:

House of Representatives
The Senate
The President

and sign this on line petition and send it to your friends to get Dr. Bussard's work funded.

Update: 30 Aug 007 0032z

The US Navy has funded the next phase of Polywell research. This is no reason to let up. The Navy plans a five year program to construct a 100 MW test reactor. With more money they could speed up development. With enough cash a three year time line ought not be difficult. Two years is an outside possibility if we really pour it on.

Update: 20 Sept 007 1012z

If you want to get more into the design details of the Polywell Reactor you might want to try:

IEC Fusion Newsgroup

Details on the design of an open source fusion test reactor.

IEC Fusion Technology blog

Update: 29 Dec 2007 2112z

I should have posted this here months ago. It is a link rich overview of Dr. B's life. He died in early October 2007. The work goes on with Dr. Nebel and Dr. Park of Los Alamos National Laboratories leading the effort:

Dr. Bussard has died.

==
Some books on fusion:

Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

New Developments in Nuclear Fusion Research

Plasma Physics and Fusion Energy

Introduction to Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion

==

Here is a report on what is going on at the lab.

Bussard Fusion Update

Update: 19 June 008 0739z

Here are some recent additions you might find useful.

Starting A Fusion Program In Your Home Town

The World's Simplest Fusion Reactor Revisited

Fusion Report 13 June 008

Rick Nebel Updates The Latest News (Dec 2008)

Polywell Fusion - Keeping It Alive

Another short term contract [pdf] for wiffle ball fusion is out for bid by the US Navy. Here is the interesting part.
3.1.1 Contractor shall review the results from Contracts N00014-93-C-0224, N00014-96-C-0039, contract N68936-03-C-0031, and any other publically available current documentation regarding the technical research and development in the field of energy production using a fusion reaction.

3.1.1.2. The review shall primarily investigate the effects of parallel electron heat loss to the coil joints with respect
to plasma stability and electron confinement time.

3.2 TESTS

3.2.1 The contractor will modify/upgrade the existing wiffleball #7 (WB-7) device by installing compact, high temperature coil joints to investigate the electron parallel heat loss. This modified device shall hereafter be identified as Wiffleball #7.1 (WB-7.1).

3.2.2 The Contractor shall test the WB-7.1 to measure the plasma beta (ratio of plasma pressure to the applied magnetic field pressure) and to monitor the wiffleball formation process. The contractor will deploy multiple magnetic field probes inside the device to generate time varying magnetic field mapping to investigate the wiffleball formation.

3.3. The contractor shall take the results of the review specified in 3.1 and tests specified in 3.2 and provide a report detailing workable instrumentation set-ups to resolve the plasma production and physics questions raised in the review and tests for a final report for contracts.
This doesn't look like it amounts to any more than a few weeks of work. I'm going to look into the contracts mentioned and see if I can figure out the intention here.

Update:

Contracts
N00014-93-C-0224 Jan 1995
N00014-96-C-0039 Jan 1996
N68936-03-C-0031 March 2003

H/T KitemanSA at Talk Polywell

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration? IEC Fusion Technology blog.

What Next For Polywell Fusion?

Dr. Bussard thought that a full scale net energy Polywell Fusion program could be done for $200 million. What could be done to advance the knowledge base that wouldn't require that kind of commitment?

I have been giving some thought to what the next step in the Polywell Fusion experiments might be. Here is what I have so far:

I think a continuous operation experiment (LN2 cooled Cu magnet coils described at WB-7x Design) could reach .45 T for about $20 million. Most of that going into power supplies. That is a rough estimate: +/- 5 million is probably 1 sigma.

If I was begging that is one place to start.

Or maybe forget the big power supplies and go for a pulsed small superconducting model. If a lot of neutrons (1E12/sq cm Second) were not generated (or only generated in pulses) MgB would be a good candidate for the coil material if the coils were totally custom.

Heck it might be good just to buy an MRI machine for the coils. An MRI can be had for about $1 million. If you can get just the coils they might only be $200K. A WB machine built like that could be done for probably $5 to $7 million. If it shows good pulsed results pony up for the power supplies. And start thinking about a 100 MW machine.

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Polywell Fusion

It seems to me that funding for the Polywell Fusion Project being run by EMC2 Fusion has stalled.

So I want to do something about that. When ever you post a comment on a blog use this tagline:

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded?


If the blog allows embeded urls you can post this:

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded?
http://iecfusiontech.blogspot.com/

or this:

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded?
<a href="http://iecfusiontech.blogspot.com/">IEC Fusion Technology blog</a>




Contact your Congress Critters and President too.

House of Representatives
The Senate
The President

What is Polywell Fusion?

Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion

Rick Nebel Updates The Latest News

Monday, January 12, 2009

Room Temperature Superconductors?

We normally think of carbon as a high resistance material. The first practical electric light bulbs produced by Edison had carbon filaments. However, there is a new kid on the block based on carbon and it is not a superconductor, but it is close. Some recent research in nanotube properties shows very high current carrying capacities.
Relatively early in the research of nanotubes, Thess et al. calculated the resistivity of ropes of metallic SWNTs to be in the order of 1E-4 ohm-cm at 300 K. They did this by measuring the resistivity directly with a four-point technique. One of their values they measured was 0.34E-4 ohm-cm, which they noted would indicate that the ropes were the most highly conductive carbon fibers known, even factoring in their error in measurement. In the same study his measurements of the conductivity, Frank et al. was able to have reach a current density in the tube greater than 1E7 A/sq cm. Later, Phaedon Avouris suggested that stable current densities of nanotubes could be pushed as high as 1E13 A/cm2.
A SWNT is a Single Walled Nano Tubes.

So how does that compare to copper? For household wiring typical current density is 500A/sq cm and ultimate current density is maybe 10X that with the wires near the melting point or beyond. In round numbers 1E4 A/sq cm vs 1E7 A/sq cm for carbon nanotubes. In other words 1,000 times the current density. At a weight per unit volume of about 1/4 that of copper. Copper resistivity at room temperature is about 1.7E-4 ohm-cm. So carbon nanotubes can carry about 5X as much current as an equivalent volume of copper for the same losses.

If we can get this stuff into mass production - which is likely to take twenty or thirty years - we can rewire the grid we have for 5X times as much power as it handles now or the same power with 1/5th the losses. Not room temperature superconductors, but a definite improvement.

Update: A good overall look at Carbon Nanotubes: Carbon nanotubes (CNTs): A small review

H/T IntLibber at Talk Polywell