Friday, December 04, 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

Cross Posted at Classical Values

5 comments:

LarryD said...

The USN's vision is for electrically powered ships with rail guns. They know they need a high density power source, and the simpler and cheaper the better. If the results were that it can't work, they'd scuttle without remorse.

The terms and funding to the current contract tell us that Things Are Very Promising.

99% said...

I am running on unsupported rumors and conjecture.

Well there's a big surprise...

linearthinker said...

When I clicked on comments I knew there'd be a little turd in the thread from young 99%.

J Carlton said...

I think the navy would like to keep polywell under the radar as much as possible if it works. the last thing they need is for the Greens and their vested interest friends to muck this up just after they have a proof of concept demonstrator working. Once they have on in a ship and running, with a tentative production contract and shipping lines lining up for production, it's too late for the Greens to kill it.

99% said...

Linear> don't you polish turds for a living? Sounds like Nebel and the band could use your expertise....