Friday, March 27, 2009

Keep An Eye On Polywell

Agora Financials has something interesting to say about Polywell Fusion.

Polywell fusion technology could be the biggest monkey wrench in the history of markets,” writes our technology adviser Patrick Cox. If you’re unfamiliar (we certainly were), fusion is often tagged as one potential “fuel of the future.” Instead of splitting atoms, like the nuclear fission we use today, it fuses them.

“Polywell,” explains Patrick, “is a different approach to fusion energy that’s generating huge buzz in tech circles. If, as proponents claim, commercial polywell fusion is only four or five years away, it would be the biggest monkey wrench in the history of markets. It would be both good and bad, however.

“It promises energy so cheap as to be virtually free. Some scientists believe that power would be driven down to 1% or less of its current cost. Even if it were 5% or 10%, though, the impact would be staggering.

“The economic roots of global poverty would disappear. Within a decade, desalinized water, food, transportation and most physical goods would plummet in price. The Third World would achieve a higher standard of living than the First World enjoys today. The First World would have options that are almost inconceivable. Whole sectors would collapse, but new ones would rise and more than compensate for the lost equity values.”

It almost goes without saying: This technology still has many hurdles to clear. “But the chance that polywell is what the scientists say it is, however, requires that we watch this very, very closely,” says Patrick.
Yep.

I do take issue with one point. I think energy at 1% of today's cost is a long ways into the future if it ever comes. However, estimates of 10% of current costs are certainly reasonable with initial production units coming in at 50% of current electrical energy costs. All of which assumes it will work. Which is so far unproven. However, the work the US Navy is doing could provide the proof - one way or the other. More money (a few tens of millions) would give us the answer faster. If the answer is positive a net power producer test reactor at a cost of $100 million or so (engineering, fabrication, tests) would be in order. If that worked out we could go ahead on an electrical power generating unit and production facilities at a probable investment cost of $1 billion. However, a billion in investment money would not be hard to raise at that point.

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained
Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been fully funded by the Obama administration?

Cross Posted at Classical Values

6 comments:

Larry Sheldon said...

"I do take issue with one point. I think energy at 1% of today's cost is a long ways into the future if it ever comes"

I remember the "too cheap to meter days of selling nukes".

About the same time as the we-are-doomed-to-an-ice-age days as I think of it!

(I am pro nuke--but Iam also a realist.)

Someone said...

MSimon,

I've posted about Polywell technology several times over the past year or so on a number of popular Finance blogs, including Mish's and Karl Denninger's, in hopes certain people would take more notice.

There is a kind of simple elegance to the Polywell. While we need to wait for more results from Dr. Nebel, I have the same deep seated feeling about it that I had about the Internet and later on Linux long before both took off.

If the technology does takes off, to call it disruptive will be an understatement.

I also think if it does work, it is the only other thing short of a full blown world war that could help pull the world out of the economic depression that is in the process of setting in.

- Chris

M. Simon said...

I also think if it does work, it is the only other thing short of a full blown world war that could help pull the world out of the economic depression that is in the process of setting in.

Absolutely.

J Carlton said...

The closer Polywell gets to reality the more I get concerned that the tofu eaters will find some sort of reason to try and kill it. Fortunately I think the cat is out of the bag. I know that I could build a WB7 from resources at hand(I work for a company that makes mass spectrometers and you should see the junk pile, vaccuum and high voltage stuff galore ) and I suspect most of the people on talk polywell could too. As well as the IEC group people. As long as the powers that be don't think polywell is likely to be important, I think that essentially they will continue to ignore it. Which is fine by me. I don't trust Obama to do the right thing and I don't trust him to outlaw anything that is going to be as detrimental to his plans as polywell is going to be.

LarryD said...

There is enough information out there on Polywell, that it can't be killed.

I'm sure there are people in China, India, and Japan who will be only too glad to start their own research, even if they have to start with WB6. Assuming they haven't already.

And this will be the nightmare of people like Jonathon Porritt

Roger said...

Larry, I agree, 1% is a pie in the sky fantasy. Its like.... how much does that planetary electrical grid cost?