17 December 2008

One Step Closer to Scalable Fusion Power

Both Brian Wang and Brian Westenhaus are reporting that the Emc2 polywell fusion project (Bussard) has passed a crucial test on its way to proving itself as a workable path to fusion power. Just one more step on the way to clean, abundant, sustainable power. And in the case of polywell fusion, it is a modular approach that could be easily carried on ships, large planes, and spacecraft.
A little background for newcomers. Dr. Bussard, whose name you may recognize from as wide of a base as the Bussard Collector concept to harvest fuel in space that was incorporated into Star Trek scripts to Assistant Director of the Thermonuclear Reactor Division of the old U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. At some point Dr. Bussard got the idea to take the Farnsworth principles from vacuum tube technology and seek a method and design to form his own theory using velocity of atoms instead of heat and pressure to compel a nuclear fusion. With decades of experience at the very top of the U.S. atomic energy industry Dr. Bussard sensed that ideas such as the tokamak, a “gift” from the former Soviet Union and other ideas that sought to create center of a star like conditions to be impractical if ever possible.

Bussard’s idea evolved into a cube formed by electromagnets that when charged up make a ball of electromagnetism or a sphere shaped magnetic field. At the center of the cube is a point of intensity, which is negatively charged. When a fuel that has a positive charge is injected it descends to the center and may collide with another fuel atom. If the fuel misses, the negative charge slows and sends the positive charged fuel back again to the center. All this happens at incredible speeds. The descending is actually acceleration and will repeat until the fuel fuses. _NewEnergyandFuel
The latest experiment demonstrated the ability of the polywell design to contain the fuel against leaks long enough to sustain useful fusion to provide usable power.
If Polywell pans out, nuclear fusion could be done more cheaply and more safely than it could ever be done in a tokamak or a laser blaster. The process might be able to produce power without throwing off loads of radioactive byproducts. It might even use helium-3 mined from the moon. "We don't want to oversell this," Nebel said, "but this is pretty interesting stuff, and if it works, it's huge."

...Nebel and his colleagues have already drawn up a plan for the next step: an 18-month program to build and test a larger fusor prototype. "We're shopping that around inside the DOD [Department of Defense], and we'll see what happens," he said. _CosmicLog _ via BW and BW
Be sure to check out the videos on Polywell-Bussard Fusion from Brian Wang. Don't miss the cornucopia of links and information on Bussard Fusion available at Power and Control blog.

Despite economic pessimism over the global credit collapse and the depressive effect of the new US administration on private sector recovery prospects, science and technology R&D are progressing on many important fronts.

The key obstacle to human progress is the general stupidity of the human species. But even as ways are discovered to "tweak up" the cognitive power of humans, the threat of economic collapse and ideology-driven suppression of private enterprise and initiative threaten a new "dark ages". Several things must happen simultaneously for self-selected humans to step up to the next level. Clean, abundant, scalable power production is only one of those things.

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