Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What If The Chinese Beat Us To It?

I have been obsessed the last couple of days with the Bussard Fusion Reactor.

While reading around I have gotten the most depressing news. What if the Chinese get there first? Or the Russians. There is a lot of technical stuff in the article and Dr. Bussard talks about why raising funds is so hard. Then he gets down to his current situation.

Bussard is getting discouraged.

"The [U.S.] government, I don't think, is going to do anything," he said.

So he has begun to look elsewhere. Last October he published a paper detailing his work for the 57th International Aeronautical Congress in Valencia, Spain. In it he named eight countries, including China, India, Russia and Venezuela, that "could logically develop interest" in his research.

In November, Bussard presented his work in a 90-minute lecture at the headquarters of the Internet search engine Google.

The lecture is archived at [here with a text preview of the geo-political points - ed.] and had been viewed 87,700 times by early March.

The lecture generated a lot of e-mail, but so far, no funding, Bussard said. His next effort may be a book-length publication detailing his fusion work.

Much as supporters Gay and Triola want to see Bussard's fusion work resume, they worry about the broadening appeal for funding.

"My concern is China," Gay said. "If they have more vision than we do, they could jump on it."

Triola shares the worry. "I think it's a matter of engineering now, not physics any more. Once Bussard gets enough publicity, one of our not-so-friendly allies, probably the Chinese, will go do it."
It will all depend on who owns the patents.

Current grid structures with no magnetic shielding are about 98% transparent. Dr. Bussard says he has improved that by a factor of 100,000. That would make the losses in the range of 2E-6 much better than the expected requirement of 1E-4 or 1E-5.

The critical thing to do now is to go ahead with the low power pulsed experiments with better instrumentation to verify the results and if that proves out go whole hog. Dr Bussard says that the full scale reactor will take 4 to 5 years to design and build. However, if a full scale reactor was run in a short pulse mode. Say 1 millisecond pulses once a second. Copper coils could probably do the job and test out the full scale reactor while the superconducting coils for actual power production were being contracted for and fabricated.

For a 100MW reactor operating in a 1 millisecond per second pulsed mode the total power involved would be about 100 KW. Very tolerable for a system designed for full load operation at 100MW.

Such a program would allow for faster evaluation and design changes before every thing is completed.

It might allow for a full scale proof in much less than 5 years and possibly reduce the cost to $20 million to $50 million instead of the $200 million required to build a power plant. Once we know what to do we can pour on the coal (so to speak ) with higher cost but much lower risk.

That is the big deal for every business. Managing risk.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

4 comments:

Dan said...

His best bet would be to form a corporation and sell shares. Very few if any will plunk down that kind of change, but how many would pony up a thousand for a round of shares?

Apostate_Fritter said...

Any other Physicists/EEs out there that are getting a hoot out of this thing?

M. Simon said...

af,

I'm in the Physicist/EE category.

It looks real to me.

M. Simon said...

BTW af,

Contact me by e-mail (on the sidebar) and I will be glad to answer your questions.