Friday, January 30, 2009

Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion

I thought it was about time to post this here. Originally posted at: Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion. Let me note that Low Radiation is more apt than no radiation. The main reaction between Hydrogen and Boron 11 produces only alpha particles which can be stopped with a layer or two of aluminum foil. However there are side reactions which will produce about one millionth the neutron flux of an operating fission reactor. If construction materials are chosen carefully there should be no long lived radioisotopes.

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?


Justin at Classical Values has put up a posts about fusion energy machines way different from the magnetic confinement and heating machines the government is building.

You can read the post here. Eric of Classical values has another post on the subject.

For more details on the physics visit EMC2 Fusion. You can also make a donation there to help the work go forward.

An interesting question is: when was the first steady state (operation times of at least 10s of seconds) electrically operated nuclear fusion machine which produces at least 10s of millions of fusions a second built? The astounding answer? 1959. So far 18 experimenters have produced similar machines including this young experimenter.

The next question is: why have advances been so slow in since then? The answer (and a lot more) is given in this video by Robert Bussard. (note: dial up is going to be incredibally slow as the video is around 1 hour and forty minutes - aproximately 170 mega-bytes) The video tends to the technical and I will have to study it a few times to get all the details. However a fair understanding of high school physics should suffice. Even if you don't understand the physics the general concepts are easy to understand and Dr. Bussard's enthusiasm is infectious.

In any case the idea is to build a fusion device that produces no long lived nuclear radiation and that works with the forces of nature instead of against them. The voltage required to make these devices work is on the order of 10 to 20 thousand volts or less. About the same voltage as you would find in a tube type monitor or TV set. Nothing very exotic. For a full scale power producer it is predicted that you would need about 2 million volts. Well within the range of current technology for small scale devices. Currently the highest voltage used in electrical transmission is 1.15 million volts. Scaling that up to two million volts for production devices should not be too difficult.

Near the end of the lecture (about 1 hour in)Dr.Bussard gets to the heart of the matter by listing the advantages of this type of power plant.

Stop Greenhouse Effect

Eliminate Acid Rain Sources

Decrease Thermal Pollution Sources

Stop Nuclear Waste Production

Destroy Nuclear Waste Inventory

End Water Shortages Forever

Cheap Fuel Free Electric Power

Clean Low Cost System

Fresh Water From The Sea

Practical Space Flight

Global Economic Stability

Cheap, Clean Thermal/Electric Power Readily Available

Fixed Energy Prices Stabilize Economy

Low Value Cane In Third World Countries Becomes High Value Export Product

Third World Nations Can Become Economically Viable

Profitable Industrialization Possible

Destroys World Market For Gasoline

Eliminates Effect Of Oil Cartels

Oil States Suffer Drastic Income Losses
(audience: laughter - ed.)

Desalinization Plants Allow Irrigation Of Arid Lands

Cheap Water Allows Effective Agriculture

Low Cost Power Stabilizes Industrial Nations

Oil Wars Vanish

Mid-East Stabilized by Economics

Third World Becomes Fiscially Responsible
(comment: not likely, more energy does not fix bad government - ed.)

End Use Market Price Ca. $5,000 B In Year 2000 $
(all products the machine can replace - ed.)

Sell/Lease Systems To Supply Energy Plants/Production

Royalty/Lease Fees at 2% of Market Price Equivalent To Ca. 2m/kWhr Surcharge Yields Net Income (Profit) at Ca. $100 B/Year
(which means an estimated electrical cost of 100 mills/kWhr - ed.)

Dr. Bussard says he needs $200 million dollars and five years to build two full scale demo plants. The first year of his five year plan will replicate with improvements his last experiments to get data on the process that can be verified by a review comittee. The First year will cost $2 million dollars.

He says that a computer to do proper simulations on the system would cost $8 million dollars.

Wiki on Dr. Bussard:
In the early 1970s Dr. Bussard became Assistant Director under Director Robert Hirsch at the Controlled Thermonuclear Reaction Division of what was then known as the Atomic Energy Commission. They founded the mainline fusion program for the United States: the Tokamak.
George Miley at the University of Illinois is doing some work in the field. As is Gerald L. Kulcinski at the University of Wisconsin. Here is the U. Wisconsin IEC Fusion page.

A review of the lecture.

Dr. Bussard Talks

An executive summary of Dr. Bussard's Google talk.

The Bussard Reactor for space propulsion.

A number of links to Dr. Bussard's work. Scroll down.

More good links including links to the Farnsworth patents.

Update: 15 Dec'06 0431z

Mark Duncan in the comments left a link that refers to the Bussard paper given in Valencia, Spain [pdf].

A transcription of the Google presentation [pdf] with illustrations.

Mark has more at Fusion.

Here is a follow up article on the engineering: Reactor Scaling

Hendrik J. Monkhorst did some interesting work on a linear (as opposed to the Bussard spherical design) reactor. Here are a couple of articles one from Science 278 and another one from The University of Florida. Another Monkhorst paper: Science 281. Here is the patent for the Monkhorst/Rostoker design.

Wiki has a nice discussion of the reactions and some techinical details of the various Nuclear Fusion schemes including Dr. Bussard's Boron 11 - Hydrogen reaction.

Update: 11 May 007 0202z

Dr Bussards contract with the Navy has been extended for a year without funding.

Please write your Government and ask them to fund the contract:

House of Representatives
The Senate
The President

and sign this on line petition and send it to your friends to get Dr. Bussard's work funded.

Update: 30 Aug 007 0032z

The US Navy has funded the next phase of Polywell research. This is no reason to let up. The Navy plans a five year program to construct a 100 MW test reactor. With more money they could speed up development. With enough cash a three year time line ought not be difficult. Two years is an outside possibility if we really pour it on.

Update: 20 Sept 007 1012z

If you want to get more into the design details of the Polywell Reactor you might want to try:

IEC Fusion Newsgroup

Details on the design of an open source fusion test reactor.

IEC Fusion Technology blog

Update: 29 Dec 2007 2112z

I should have posted this here months ago. It is a link rich overview of Dr. B's life. He died in early October 2007. The work goes on with Dr. Nebel and Dr. Park of Los Alamos National Laboratories leading the effort:

Dr. Bussard has died.

Some books on fusion:

Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

New Developments in Nuclear Fusion Research

Plasma Physics and Fusion Energy

Introduction to Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion


Here is a report on what is going on at the lab.

Bussard Fusion Update

Update: 19 June 008 0739z

Here are some recent additions you might find useful.

Starting A Fusion Program In Your Home Town

The World's Simplest Fusion Reactor Revisited

Fusion Report 13 June 008

Rick Nebel Updates The Latest News (Dec 2008)

Polywell Fusion - Keeping It Alive

Another short term contract [pdf] for wiffle ball fusion is out for bid by the US Navy. Here is the interesting part.
3.1.1 Contractor shall review the results from Contracts N00014-93-C-0224, N00014-96-C-0039, contract N68936-03-C-0031, and any other publically available current documentation regarding the technical research and development in the field of energy production using a fusion reaction. The review shall primarily investigate the effects of parallel electron heat loss to the coil joints with respect
to plasma stability and electron confinement time.


3.2.1 The contractor will modify/upgrade the existing wiffleball #7 (WB-7) device by installing compact, high temperature coil joints to investigate the electron parallel heat loss. This modified device shall hereafter be identified as Wiffleball #7.1 (WB-7.1).

3.2.2 The Contractor shall test the WB-7.1 to measure the plasma beta (ratio of plasma pressure to the applied magnetic field pressure) and to monitor the wiffleball formation process. The contractor will deploy multiple magnetic field probes inside the device to generate time varying magnetic field mapping to investigate the wiffleball formation.

3.3. The contractor shall take the results of the review specified in 3.1 and tests specified in 3.2 and provide a report detailing workable instrumentation set-ups to resolve the plasma production and physics questions raised in the review and tests for a final report for contracts.
This doesn't look like it amounts to any more than a few weeks of work. I'm going to look into the contracts mentioned and see if I can figure out the intention here.


N00014-93-C-0224 Jan 1995
N00014-96-C-0039 Jan 1996
N68936-03-C-0031 March 2003

H/T KitemanSA at Talk Polywell

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration? IEC Fusion Technology blog.

What Next For Polywell Fusion?

Dr. Bussard thought that a full scale net energy Polywell Fusion program could be done for $200 million. What could be done to advance the knowledge base that wouldn't require that kind of commitment?

I have been giving some thought to what the next step in the Polywell Fusion experiments might be. Here is what I have so far:

I think a continuous operation experiment (LN2 cooled Cu magnet coils described at WB-7x Design) could reach .45 T for about $20 million. Most of that going into power supplies. That is a rough estimate: +/- 5 million is probably 1 sigma.

If I was begging that is one place to start.

Or maybe forget the big power supplies and go for a pulsed small superconducting model. If a lot of neutrons (1E12/sq cm Second) were not generated (or only generated in pulses) MgB would be a good candidate for the coil material if the coils were totally custom.

Heck it might be good just to buy an MRI machine for the coils. An MRI can be had for about $1 million. If you can get just the coils they might only be $200K. A WB machine built like that could be done for probably $5 to $7 million. If it shows good pulsed results pony up for the power supplies. And start thinking about a 100 MW machine.

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded by the Obama administration?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Polywell Fusion

It seems to me that funding for the Polywell Fusion Project being run by EMC2 Fusion has stalled.

So I want to do something about that. When ever you post a comment on a blog use this tagline:

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded?

If the blog allows embeded urls you can post this:

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded?

or this:

Why hasn't Polywell Fusion been funded?
<a href="">IEC Fusion Technology blog</a>

Contact your Congress Critters and President too.

House of Representatives
The Senate
The President

What is Polywell Fusion?

Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion

Rick Nebel Updates The Latest News

Monday, January 12, 2009

Room Temperature Superconductors?

We normally think of carbon as a high resistance material. The first practical electric light bulbs produced by Edison had carbon filaments. However, there is a new kid on the block based on carbon and it is not a superconductor, but it is close. Some recent research in nanotube properties shows very high current carrying capacities.
Relatively early in the research of nanotubes, Thess et al. calculated the resistivity of ropes of metallic SWNTs to be in the order of 1E-4 ohm-cm at 300 K. They did this by measuring the resistivity directly with a four-point technique. One of their values they measured was 0.34E-4 ohm-cm, which they noted would indicate that the ropes were the most highly conductive carbon fibers known, even factoring in their error in measurement. In the same study his measurements of the conductivity, Frank et al. was able to have reach a current density in the tube greater than 1E7 A/sq cm. Later, Phaedon Avouris suggested that stable current densities of nanotubes could be pushed as high as 1E13 A/cm2.
A SWNT is a Single Walled Nano Tubes.

So how does that compare to copper? For household wiring typical current density is 500A/sq cm and ultimate current density is maybe 10X that with the wires near the melting point or beyond. In round numbers 1E4 A/sq cm vs 1E7 A/sq cm for carbon nanotubes. In other words 1,000 times the current density. At a weight per unit volume of about 1/4 that of copper. Copper resistivity at room temperature is about 1.7E-4 ohm-cm. So carbon nanotubes can carry about 5X as much current as an equivalent volume of copper for the same losses.

If we can get this stuff into mass production - which is likely to take twenty or thirty years - we can rewire the grid we have for 5X times as much power as it handles now or the same power with 1/5th the losses. Not room temperature superconductors, but a definite improvement.

Update: A good overall look at Carbon Nanotubes: Carbon nanotubes (CNTs): A small review

H/T IntLibber at Talk Polywell

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A New WB-7 Contract

There is a new contract out for further testing of WB-7.

H/T Aero at Talk Polywell.