Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Polywell Gets In On The Act

Polywell Fusion looks to be getting a $2 million boost from the DoD Recovery Act Plan. Here is what the DoD has to say about their plan.
Today, March 20, 2009, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its EXPENDITURE PLAN for the projects to be funded with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The Recovery Act provides $7.4 billion to the Department largely for projects that are located at Defense installations spread across all fifty states, District of Columbia and two U.S. territories. The report includes $2.3 billion in construction projects, including two major hospital construction projects: Camp Pendleton, California; Fort Hood, Texas; and a hospital alteration project at the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida. The plan also contains $3.4 billion for nearly 3,000 facility repair and improvement projects that will immediately generate additional employment in communities around Defense installations. Furthermore, the plan details how $300 million for near-term energy technology research will be allocated. The allocation of the remaining $800 million for Defense facility infrastructure investment be announced at a later date.
There is a pdf of the plan. On pdf page 166 there is a small item under the heading Domestic Energy Supply/Distribution. It is as follows:
Plasma Fusion (Polywell) Demonstrate fusion plasma confinement system for shore and shipboard applications; Joint OSD/USN project. 2.0
The "2.0" is the amount of funding in millions. This indicates the military has a fair amount of confidence in Polywell and the progress made so far in the research.

There is no doubt that if Polywell can be made to work a shore installation would probably be the first and easiest application. Next would come size reductions for shipboard use. And if we can get the weight down enough - rockets for space. Or perhaps use as low cost power supply for a ground based laser propulsion system.

I just looked at Amazon and there is no book out yet on Polywell Fusion. I have heard rumors of people writing books on the subject so maybe we will see one in the coming months.

In the mean time you can look at this www page to get some understanding of what is involved:

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

H/T KitemanSA at Talk Polywell


Karl Schroeder said...

No book yet? Heck, I'd LOVE to do one! Who can I talk to about getting such a project organized?

M. Simon said...

I'd be glad to help. See my e-mail addy at the top of the sidebar.

Loren said...

A ground based laser shooting up into the nozzle of a rocket using something like plain old water for propellant sounds interesting. It'd be a heck of a laser to zap enough water fast enough to get thrust though.

Anonymous said...

You're writing a book about something that hasn't produced a single shred of evidence of actually working to produce net power?

Why don't you bundle it with a book about Bussard's famous ramjet, and his Riggatron, too? That way you can keep a consistent theme: wild assed crap that was never built, and never worked.

Loren said...

Wouldn't be the first time for a book about something that never worked.

Might as well add all those books on the Tokomak and laser devices. Plus all those airplane designs that never got built, and cars that flopped...

They're not even building a prototype for crying out loud! Did you really expect them to just throw together a pile of scrap and presto! have a fusion reactor?

Anonymous said...


A ground based laser to "zap" water and produce thrust for a rocket? Holy god what the hell are you talking about?????

And for your information, unlike Polywell, tokamaks actually DO work. In fact, they're one of the few approaches that has been shown to work. Do me a favor: go research the current world record Q value and then return and inform us. It's ok - most of us already know the answer - but it will be a good learning experience for you.

Loren said...

Most laser setups deal with a solar sail type setup. This would be great for deep space missions, but for launching, you need lots of thrust for a short period, rather than a small amount for a long period. I suppose a microwave system would work better, but it would reduce launch vehicle mass by allowing just the reaction mass to be carried, not the energy required to generate the thrust. Instead of massive tanks of oxygen and hydrogen(or pick your fuel), you have a less massive tank of water.

Tell me, how long are they asking for to build a machine with a practical Q value? How many billions of dollars? And this after how much time and money?

Comparing the two seems to be difficult. I can find Q values for the Tokomak, but not for the Polywell. I can find reactions/sec and such for the Polywell, but not for the Tokomak. And I've no clue how to adjust for the distinct differences in operation. Most likely the answer is on a piece of paper at the lab that hasn't been released. I'd say that an approximately 20 year old project with another 5 or so to go holds more promise than a 50 year old project with another 20 years to go.

Anonymous said...


The best Q value for any type of IEC method, as stated by the current Polywell PI Dr. Nebel himself in his 2006 PRL about Periodically Oscillating Plasma Sphere (POPS) is...

Q << 1e-5.

Fusors have been around since the 60's. In fact, Farnsworth's original fusor still holds the "world record" for neutron output for any fusor to date. That makes IEC technology as old as tokamak fusion. There's no comparison between the two technologies if your criteria is progress towards breakeven power output. IEC isn't even in the conversation! The JET tokamak reached a verified Q=0.7 in 1997. ITER is targeted to achieve Q=10 for 5-10 minutes for a continuous burning plasma. With IEC you have nothing but continuous anecdotes of "progress" but nothing of substance.

You live in a dream world.

Momma Bear said...

After reading all of the comments.. I'm more than a tad confused.. we're throwing money at an unproven technology.. in HOPES that it will work. This used to be funded using R&D dollars. I would like to believe that our military scientists see a REAL potential to develop the technology.. and aren't using this project to just fund other projects under the guise of R&D.

M. Simon said...

Mama Bear,

We are not throwing money at unproven technology. It is going into research.

It is not like committing to building 100 power plants.

And look at what we have spent on ITER - about $200 million a year (counting all research) for a technology not expected to work until 2050 - if it ever does.

Polywell has gotten a total of $20 million to $25 million for the total life of the Polywell project. Another $2 million to $5 million will give us a yes/no answer for Polywell in two years or less.