Thursday, April 30, 2009

LANL Helps Polywell

Los Alamos National Laboratory gave the Polywell Fusion Experimenters some critical help when they needed it.

It all started out with this program.
Northern New Mexico businesses are getting financial help from Los Alamos National Laboratory, and there are plenty of ways LANL can help boost local economies, according to LANL Director Michael Anastasio.

"There are plenty of challenges the country faces, and the lab has a lot to offer in that regard," Anastasio told guests at a recent breakfast meeting where lab personnel and prominent northern New Mexicans, including Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, met to discuss LANL's role in economic development around the region.
And the help the Polywell folks got was not a grant. It was a loan of some equipment.
Richard Nebel's Santa Fe company EMC (which stands for Energy/Matter Conversion Corp.) has much grander designs. Like saving the world.

"If this works, we can end dependence on oil, end global warming," Nebel said of a radiation-free nuclear fusion technology he's developing called "polywell," which "is clean, inexpensive and has enormous potential."

Nebel emphasizes polywell is "risky, because the physics may not work. It could be great or it could be a bust."

When EMC hit technological roadblocks, it got an assist from Northern New Mexico Connect's New Mexico Small Business Assistance Program. The whole experiment, Nebel said, had cost EMC about $200,000 when the company realized it needed the assistance of highspeed cameras -- which run more than $200,000 apiece. The program enabled EMC to use LANL's cameras.

"The stuff we do operates at hundredths of a second," Nebel said. "The cameras were critical."

"Northern New Mexico has tremendous resources of people," he said. "We're a hightech company, and I can find experts around here to help with anything."
I'm glad to get some more of the details of the Polywell Fusion Experiments.

As you can see the experimenters are starved for funds. So far the US Navy and the DoD are very interested in the experiments but the funding has been sparse. Upping it from its current rate to about $40 million a year would get us answers (like can it work) a lot faster. Now does this mean that the efficiency per dollar put into the work will decline? Of course. However, sometimes it is worth trading money for speed. I think this is one of them. If it can work it will change everything in America and the world. You can find out more by reading:

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

50 Years of Stories: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

and if you want to read about Los Alamos:

Secret Mesa: Inside Los Alamos National Laboratory

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

H/T an e-mail from reader LCO

Thanks to Instapundit for the correction. LANL is Los Alamos National Laboratories. Corrected above.

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In The Dark

Rick Nebel, the lead guy in Polywell Fusion Research has a few things to say about his current state of knowledge with reference to the Polywell Fusion Reactor. He also discusses some rather technical questions about his research and findings. You can read those by following the link.
To a certain extent we are in the same boat as everyone else as far as the previous experiments go since Dr. Bussard’s health was not good when we started this program and he died before we had a chance to discuss the previous work in any detail. Consequently, we have had to use our own judgement as to what we believe from the earlier experiments and what we think may be questionable.
That may explain why the US Navy has contracted Rick's company, EMC2 Fusion, (formerly run by Dr. Bussard until his death) to do several different measurements on the plasma including density, and magnetic fields.

In various Polywell discussion groups a lot of the talk is focused on how little published information there is about Polywell. The above may be part of the explanation.

I must say that this news is a surprise to me. I was under the impression that the knowledge was out there. Now it appears that however much there was a lot of it died with Dr. Bussard. However, some very big names in plasma physics, like Nicholas Krall, who wrote Principles of Plasma Physics are interested in the progress of the Polywell reactor. In fact Dr. Krall who famously said, "We spent $15 billion dollars studying tokamaks and what we learned about them is that they are no damn good.", wrote a paper with Dr Bussard titled Forming and maintaining a potential well in a quasispherical magnetic trap. So despite our current state of knowledge I'd have to say the effort to find out more is very worthwhile. Especially given the relatively low cost of knowledge. So far the US Navy agrees. Here is what Dr. Nebel recently said about what the experiments show.
"There's nothing in there that suggests this will not work," Nebel said. "That's a very different statement from saying that it will work."
If we upped the burn rate of the project from $2 million a year to $10 million a year we could learn more faster. Which means faster decision making. And that is almost always a good thing. Right now we are in the position of not having enough solid information. More is better.

Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

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