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
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.
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)