Saturday, September 12, 2009

Polywell Gets The Dough

EMC2 has gotten almost eight million dollars to do further experimentation on the Polywell Fusion concept.
Energy Matter Conversion Corp., (EMC2)*, Santa Fe, N.M., is being awarded a $7,855,504 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for research, analysis, development, and testing in support of the Plan Plasma Fusion (Polywell) Project. Efforts under this Recovery Act award will validate the basic physics of the plasma fusion (polywell) concept, as well as provide the Navy with data for potential applications of polywell fusion. Work will be performed in Santa Fe, N.M., and is expected to be completed in April 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured pursuant to FAR 6.302-1. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif., is the contracting activity (N68936-09-C-0125).
I think this is the award based on the solicitation discussed here and here and here.

Evidently the $2 million promised in May was just a place holder and the actual funds are significantly greater. This means that the work on WB-8 and the engineering for WB-9 will go forward with the next milestone in April of 2011. Which is in accord with Rick Nebel's promise that We Will Know In Two Years.

If you would like to keep these reports coming visit Five Years of Blogging and do what you can.

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.

H/T Marc Bruggeman via e-mail.

Thanks to Instapundit for the link!

Update: 14 Sept. 2009 22:59z

There is new information about the award:
Research Development Test Evaluation (RDT&E) Plan Plasma Fusion (Polywell) project. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake has awarded a Cost Plus Fixed Fee contract for research, analysis, development, and testing to validate the basic physics of the plasma fusion (polywell) concept as well as requirements to provide the Navy with data for potential applications of polywell fusion with a delivered item, wiffleball 8 (WB8) and options for a modified wiffleball 8 (WB8.1) and modified ion gun. The requirement is sole sourced to Energy/Matter Conversion Corporation (EMC2) who is the original developer of the plasma fusion (polywell) approach and holds the proprietary data rights. The address for EMC2 is 1202 Parkway Dr, STE A, Santa Fe, NM 87507-7253. Award includes an option for a Wiffleball 8.1 for an additional $4,455,077.
By dividing up the contract this way there are probably milestones that need to be met before further work is authorized.

12 comments:

Don Cox said...

This is good news. Thanks for reporting.

Matthew said...

Very Very Exciting

hornsofthebull said...

Thanks for reporting this. It is very exciting news indeed. I hope this is reflective of real and actual progress being made and not just prolific hopeful government spending. With so little official news these days it gets very hard to know what is going on. I for one have every finger and toe crossed whenever I can spare them!!

James said...

Finally, the government gambles my (and your) money on something we actually endorse and that has a chance of paying off well. I would rather this $8M come from thousands of individual citizen donations (I sent mine in some time ago) but if the government is going to flush our money no matter what we say or do, then it's nice to see that some of it is spilling over into worthwhile inquiries such as the polywell research.

Good luck Dr. Nebel and crew!

Devin said...

It must be going well. This is the first I've heard of a WB-9 device. Keep up the good work Nebel et. al.!

Eastview said...

Excellent! Good luck to EMC2.

justme said...

I watched the Google talk Bussard gave before he died and couldn't shake the feeling the guy was selling snake oil.

There was one thing in particular that really bothered me and that was that around 20 minutes into his presentation, he starts talking about the geometry of the container when he said that the number faces at a vertex had to be even to cancel the charges at the vertex. He then talked a bit about how they've patented the only polygon that will work.

Later on he shows a test device and he's showing a cube. A cube has 3 faces that meet at a vertex, a condition he had said earlier on would not work due to charge issues.

I watched the whole 90 minutes of his presentation but he never addressed the discrepancy and towards the end, he seemed to veer off into even more waffling as to the feasibility of the whole venture.

By the time he was done, I had the sense that this was one of those research projects that exists more to keep the researchers employed rather than to deliver tangible results. If I'm right, in two years, the conclusion will be "more research is needed..."

M. Simon said...

The research has milestones. There is a review committee that checks the results before allowing more funds to be spent.

As to geometry: the present set up may not be optimum. It does give continuity with previous work which is good for judging progress.

And keep in mind that the cube is the dual of the octahedron. Bussard also proposed a dodecahedron design for a more spherical shape.

M. Simon said...

In two years EMC2 will know if more funds should be spent for a full power demonstration.

That is expected to cost in the $20 to $40 million range. So yes. If the results are promising they will certainly be asking for more money.

Tom Cuddihy said...

justme, the even faces meeting at a vertex is not a constraint. However, an even number of faces or vertexes is. A cube has 6 faces and 8 vertexes. If Bussard misspoke in the video, his papers and the patent provide ample explanation.

The reason is that in order for the recirculation and magnetic "WB" confinement to work, the magnetic field polarities that cause an outward circulation of electrons must be balanced by an equal number of inward polarities, and the actual geometry ensures that the net effect is a "well" in the center.
There's actually nothing revolutionary or physically questionable in that concept. No serious physicist would question the geometry.

The physical questions all relate to how effective this confinement is as it relates to other non-magnetic effects (like maxwellianization of the species species) and to cross-field ion and electron diffusion. Bussard maintained that the "WB effect" and other phenomena overcome these effects, the community at large will doubt until verifiable data are published.
Also applicability to Bussard's scaling assumptions is an open question until WB-8 is done.

Tom Cuddihy said...

justme,
should correct my statement --should say "equal amount," not "equal number" of polarities -- the cube (also called a truncated do-decahedron because of the cut corners) actually has 6 electron outflow points (the face cusps) and 8 inflow points (the vertex cusps), but the total magnetic field points in.

Tom Cuddihy said...

Personally I think this may be literally the only positive thing to come out of the stimulus bill- ironically the value may actually be greater than the entire cost of the porculus, thankfully.