Sunday, July 29, 2007

Heat Transfer Book

Nice book on heat transfer (Thermodynamics lite) no charge. One of the authors is from MIT.

A Heat Transfer Text Book

H/T greenhillsofearth

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Polywell In One Easy Lesson

This assumes an understanding of the basic configuration. If that is not the case start here.


The electrostatic field is used to accelerate the electrons and ions.

The magnetic field traps the electrons. The trapped electrons attract ions. The ions form a virtual anode. The electrons form a virtual cathode.

The purpose of the magnetic field is unitary - reduce electron losses. It does this in two ways. Magnetically bottling the electrons. Shielding the anode from electrons.

Fusion Cross Sections

Fusion Cross Sections Center of mass frame of reference. Note: the graph can not be read correctly at this scale. Click on it for a larger version.

From Fusion Formulas [pdf] via Tom Ligon

Reactor Building Sketches

Here is a sketch of WB-7x low power test reactor:
Fusion Reactor

Here is a sketch of WB-100M 100 Megawatt test reactor:

Click on sketch for larger version.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fusion - False Alarm

It turns out California To Fund Bussard Fusion is a false alarm:

Here is Joe Strout's comment at Wed Jul 25, 2007 5:09 pm at Talk Polywell.
UPDATE: I got a call back from Bill Maile in the Governor's office. He spoke with the Governor's policy advisors, and in brief, the story is false. This is the first anyone in the Governor's office has even heard of the idea.

He is going to do some research to try and find out the source of the story. Hopefully he'll have better luck reaching somebody at nextenergynews than I have; the site lists no name or phone number, and is registered through But maybe a Governor's office carries enough weight to shake loose some real contact information from them. We'll see... He promised to call me again within two hours, and when he does, I'll let you know what he found.
This is very disappointing. However it does raise the visibility of the effort and has gotten some exposure at the Governator's office. It is possible that this may have some good fall out. It is starting to reach political circles. Well, I loved the buzz while it lasted.

Update: 26 Sept 007 2137z

The reactor has been funded by the US Navy:

Bussard Reactor Funded

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

California To Fund Bussard Fusion

Wonderful News!!!! Governor Schwarzenegger of California is planning to fund Dr Bussards IEC Fusion project.
In a move sure to impress environmentalists and further cement his Earth friendly image, Governor Schwarzenegger is set to launch a multimillion dollar research effort into a revolutionary new source of clean non-polluting power.

The project is focused on the Inertial Electrostatic Fusion reactor invented by the award winning American physicist Dr. Robert W. Bussard. The Radiation Free Fusion Reactor has the potential to change the whole landscape of energy generation, which is usually a choice between bad and worse options that include Nuclear, Coal and Natural Gas systems.

The State of California peak energy usage is about 40,000 Megawatts and is only expected to grow steadily over the coming years . Fusion opens a whole new avenue of cheap clean energy that could not on

ly satisfy growing energy needs but also fuel massive water desalination plants that could help solve California’s acute water shortages.

Fusion is the energy that powers everything in the universe. The sun's energy comes from fusion. Alternatively, fission is the process whereby heavy atoms, which are nearly unstable, are split into two radioactive atoms. Fusion, on the other hand, is when two light atoms merge.

The fusion process invented by Dr. Bussard takes boron-11 and fuses a proton to it, producing, in its excited state, a carbon-12 atom. This excited carbon-12 atom decays to beryllium-8 and helium-4. Beryllium-8 very quickly (in 10-13 s) decays into two more helium-4 atoms. This is the only nuclear-energy releasing process in the whole world that releases fusion energy and three helium atoms -- and no neutrons. This reaction is completely radiation free.
It is not completely neutron free. However, the neutron production is minimal.

This is the break though in funding I have been looking for for the last nine months.

Better than sex.

Update: 26 Sept 007 2137z

This is a false alarm. However, there is good news. The reactor has been funded by the US Navy:

Bussard Reactor Funded

Update: 18 Oct 007 0011z

Dr. Bussard has died. The work will continue under the guidance of the US Navy.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Fusion Symposia

Physics Essays has a symposium every two years to discuss the status and interesting papers dealing with fusion research.

Here is a description of their purpose in relation to the Seventh Symposium
The objective of this series of Symposia is to assess the benefits, applications, and spin-offs of nuclear fusion research, including both conventional and alternative approaches......

A Seventh Symposium is scheduled for 5-9 March 2007. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Naval Research Laboratory, Osaka University and Sandia National Laboratory endorse the Symposium. Invited and contributed papers will be part of the Symposium. Invited observers will also be included.
Vincent Page of GE wrote a very interesting paper on the commercialization of fusion energy for the Sixth Symposium.
  • Fusion reactors must be sized reasonably.

  • Current cost estimates for the ITER project are approximately $6 billion.

  • GE’s present quarterly earnings are “only” $4 billion.

  • We don’t want governments to build fusion reactors, we want private industry to build them.

  • Designs need to be feasible with power output in the 15 MWe to 1500 MWe range and cost < $6700 per KWe.

  • (MWe = MW electrical, KWe = KW electrical)

  • More expensive machines will not be commercially viable.

  • Competition will only occur if private industry is involved.
Page has a lot more details on the economics, but those are his main points. One other important point he makes is that the real target is coal base load plants at $1,000 capital costs per KWhe or gas turbine peakers (without a steam cycle) at about $500 KWhe.

I think his main point is correct. Other than the physics, ITER and other similar tokamak fusion reactors are a waste of money. It will not lead to viable fusion power plants even if it works, because working size is estimated to have to be in the 10s of GWe range. Even if the fuel is free capital costs are a killer. On top of that you have to figure out how you are going to get all that electricity from where it is generated to where it is used.

Dr. Robert Bussard makes the same point in his video "Should Google Go Nuclear" which you can watch here. He gets a good laugh from the audience (about 12 minutes into the video) when he says about physicists working on ITER, " they don't think it will ever work, but is really good science". His friend, Plasma Physicist Dr. Nicholas Krall said, "We spent $15 billion dollars studying tokamaks and what we learned about them is that they are no damn good."

ITER is costing the USA $400 million a year. It would seem to me that it ought to be possible to come up with $20 million in government funds to try out some of these other ideas.

One thing that gives me hope is that private venture capital is supporting Tri Alpha Energy. I expect to see more venture capital in the field over time.

Friday, July 13, 2007


The understanding of vacuum tubes is essential for the understanding of the Bussard Fusion Reactor.

Here is a page that has links to a number of downloadable books in pdf. All out of copyright.

The Chaffee book [pdf] is a good place to start.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Power Supplies - Update #1

My thinking on the power supplies has evolved.

What I'm considering now is a 400 or 500 VDC power bus (maybe two of them) SCR regulated from a 3 phase power supply. 12 pulse for reduced filtering requirements.

The bus will supply the power for 100 V @ 25 A converters (parallelable) for the magnet supply, and 1,000 V @ 25A converters (series amenable) for the high voltage.

If each converter has its own phase trigger, the phases can be staggered so that the effective ripple frequency will be the drive freq. (around 30 KHz) times the number of converters, times 2 (for full wave rectification). For a 1,000 A @ 100 V magnet supply that puts the ripple up at about 2.4 MHz. Easy to filter. A 20 KV @ 25 A supply would have 20 converters. That would give a 1.2 MHz ripple. A full up 80 KV @ 25 A supply would have 4.8 MHz effective ripple.

Update: 08 July 007 1856z

On the HV side we will also need 24VDC (nominal) @ 25 A to power any controls on the HV side including UC2901 feedback modulators. Plus 120VAC @ 60 Hz 10 KW for misc power. The 24VDC will be battery backed to supply surge currents. There will also be quench SCRs (into resistive loads) for shorting the magnet supply and the HV supply. The resistors to be sized so that the supply output is discharged in .1 second or less to 1/10,000th of the maximum voltage or current.

Update: 09 July 007 0757z

I have been thinking about safety issues. Most notably what happens when utility power is lost? First off if the LN2 pump is pumping it should keep pumping for a few minutes after power loss. Which means battery backup. Second any water cooling must continue for a few minutes after power off. The water chiller need not be backed up. The control computer needs to be battery backed up. In fact it should operate from the battery bus at all times so power glitches do not affect its operation. The same will be true of the data collection computer. In addition a backup generator with a 48 hour gasoline supply should be provided. All important loads should have automatic transfer switches to the backup generator. Power transfer should be sequenced to minimize the surge load on the generator.