Author Topic: Fusion with space related aspects thread  (Read 574815 times)

Offline josh_simonson

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Fusion with space related aspects thread
« on: 11/19/2006 12:46 AM »
<p>Here's an interesting lecture at google last week about a different means of achieving fusion than the typical tokamak. This work was recently declassified when the navy's long horizon energy research programs were cut (of which this was one). Interestingly, they transfered the lab equipment to SpaceDev where it's being babysat while alternative funding is being arranged. Near the end Bussard talks about applications as a space engine.</p><p><a name="Video">[/url]http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1996321846673788606 </p><p><a title="Google video" target="_blank" href="http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1996321846673788606"> [/url] </p><p><font size="-1">Google Tech Talks November 9, 2006
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<font size="-1"> ABSTRACT This is not your father's fusion reactor! Forget everything you know about conventional <span class="invisible" /><span class="visible">thinking on nuclear fusion: high-temperature plasmas, steam turbines, neutron radiation and even nuclear waste are a thing of the past. Goodbye thermonuclear fusion; hello inertial electrostatic confinement fusion (IEC), an old idea that's been made new. While the international community debates the fate of the politically-turmoiled $12 billion ITER (an experimental thermonuclear reactor), simple IEC reactors are being built as high-school science fair projects.

Dr. Robert Bussard, former Asst. Director of the Atomic Energy Commission and founder of Energy Matter Conversion Corporation (EMC2), has spent 17 years perfecting IEC, a fusion process that converts hydrogen and boron directly into electricity producing helium as the only waste product. Most of this work was funded by the Department of Defense, the details of which have been under seal... until now.

 Dr. Bussard will discuss his recent results and details of this potentially world-altering technology, whose conception dates back as far as 1924, and even includes a reactor design by Philo T. Farnsworth (inventor of the scanning television).

Can a 100 MW fusion reactor be built for less than Google's annual electricity bill? Come see what's possible when you think outside the thermonuclear box and ignore the herd.</span></font></p>
« Last Edit: 12/22/2008 12:38 AM by Chris Bergin »

Offline TyMoore

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Inertial Electrostatic Fusion and the Farnsworth "Star" Fusor have actually been used for decades in the form of small portable neutron generators. The bursts of fusion neutrons are actually generated in a vacuum tube loaded with a small amount of deuterium and tritium gas. The Fusor lies at the center and the electrostatic grid is charged to some thousands of volts positive to accelerate the positive ions toward the geometric center--as the ions oscilate through the center, some of them collide with sufficient energy to fuse.

See:

http://www.farnovision.com/chronicles/fusion/vassilatos.html

A nice description on how to actually build one of these devices is available at:

http://www.belljar.net/634fusor.pdf

Here is a nice piece on the Farnsworth Fusor:

http://fti.neep.wisc.edu/iec/AmericanScientist.htm

The device can produce powerful bursts of neutron radiation useful for downhole detection petroleum deposits in the oil business and in certain kinds of biological imaging, but the amount of fusion going on is measurable in terms of picowatts to microwatts.  It cannot produce much more than--and in any case, such devices are extremely dangerous because of the penetrating nature of the neutrons.  Full body neutron exposure can be quickly fatal, and with a machine that can produce KiloHertz bursts of 10^9 to 10^10 energetic neutrons each burst (this translates to a neutron fluence of 10^18 to 10^19 neutrons per second!) Still, such devices do not scale up millions of times well, and cannot produce millions or billions of watts needed for something like a powerplant. It is interesting physics, but it is not a power generating machine....

Offline meiza

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Could these devices store antimatter too instead of magnetic confinement?

Offline TyMoore

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Not very much and not efficiently--because the particles would tend to oscillate through the center the probability is very high that they will eventually collide with the accelerating grid. Because one cannot physically make an infinitely thin accelerator grid, then dissipative losses will prevent long confinement times. This is one of the reasons why inertial confinement fusion is limited to small scales, and why a similar device cannot be used to store antimatter. The only way around that limitation is to create a 'virtual' cathode--but that requires application of some really tricky physics that deal with radio-frequency induction, ion cyclotron heating, and these resonances are not the same as the ion resonances exhibited by the IEC Fusor... so you end up with a completely different device anyway...

Offline josh_simonson

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These guys are using the same principle of electrostatic confinement, but a much different means to go about it than Farnsworth.  Watch the video, it's quite interesting.

Offline PurduesUSAFguy

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I guess the main question in my mind is how do you convert the reaction in an IE containment fusion device into useable power? It seems like engineering a pressurized water loop through such a device would be difficult and I don't think you could use MHD coupling with Boron-Hydrogen fusion, although I don't really know...

It's an interesting concept, and I hope it works, but so many have worked so long on fusion that I tend to be very skeptical of anyone who has 'figured it out' outside of the established plasma physics community.

That being said I do think that the answer to commercially viable fusion is something 'out of the box' and that ITER isn't the road to fusion power. I think we need to focus more on novel devices like Princetonís near spherical tokomak and basic plasma physics.

Offline mong'

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What I am wondering is: how difficult is it to build a fusion rocket (i.e: that is supposed to leak some plasma out the back) compared to an electricity producing reactor ?
it would seem that a thruster would be easier because you don't have to worry about producing more power than you need, no complex energy conversion mechanisms and since you want to eject some of plasma the leakage problems are somewhat mitigated.
whadya think ?

Offline meiza

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You still need to transfer the energy to a working fluid... Unless you use it as a in-space drive where high thrust is not necessary.

Offline mong'

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yes that's what I am talking about, an in space propulsion system, low thrust/very high ISP expelling only the charged fusion products throuh a magnetic nozzle.
although it would be a good idea to increase thrust with a working fluid, even if it decreased the ISP significantly, it would still be very interesting

Offline Marcus

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PurduesUSAFguy - 19/11/2006  1:42 PM

I guess the main question in my mind is how do you convert the reaction in an IE containment fusion device into useable power? It seems like engineering a pressurized water loop through such a device would be difficult and I don't think you could use MHD coupling with Boron-Hydrogen fusion, although I don't really know...

Way back in my early undergrad years I was working with a professor who did some of the more out there propulsion research at Purdue. It was the guy who's concentrated-Hydrogen-Peroxide-soaked cabinets set his room in the ASL on fire in the 2000 time-frame (that was an exciting day at the lab, let me tell you)

Along with his real research, he engaged us Aero and Nuke undergrads in our pie-in-the-sky theoretical research projects (read: fantasies). The one I was working on was a spacecraft powered by a pair of IEC's using direct energy conversion to siphon off about 5-10% of the power from each reactor. We were trying to scale up a small propulsive effect observed when some conducting geometries were energized using 50,000 volt capacitors. It turned out that we were just seeing an ion wind effect due to our inability to pull a good vacuume in our leaky bell jars. Anyway, the point was that the Nukes were convinced that they would be pulling Megawatt-type power from a 3mX3m self-sustaining IEC box using 5-10% efficient direct energy conversion. No indirects or anything (because we didn't have room for the thermal cycle stuff onboard our spacecraft.) This miraculous breakthrough was, at the time, 10 years away. Which, today, would make it--in the nature of all fusion applications--about 10 years away. :p :p

Haha, I remember working on the airframe for the "spacecraft". Initially it started out looking like the teardrop-shaped silver thing from "Flight of the Navigator" thanks to the propulsion system, but the radiator surface necessary for the IEC's kept growing until we started referring to it as "Hell's Butterfly." We thought we'd be launching from the ground, but considering the massive voltages we were working with, I think it would have been more likely to find gainful use as more of a giant bug-zapper than an actual spacecraft. Maybe we could've convinced the Japanese they needed it to kill Mothera or something. :)
OPS!
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Offline PurduesUSAFguy

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That's pretty cool Marcus,

Speaking of Purdue I'm just glad Armstrong hall is about to Open, Aero E has needed a better building then Grissom Hall for a long time now...

Offline Marcus

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PurduesUSAFguy - 20/11/2006  12:53 PM

Speaking of Purdue I'm just glad Armstrong hall is about to Open, Aero E has needed a better building then Grissom Hall for a long time now...

I dunno. I sort of liked the distinction of being the best students in the worst building. Well, I guess the old art school qonset huts were worse, but Aeros are still better.

When is Armstrong hall opening, and who is going to be in there? I'll be back for Xmas and I'd like to check it out. I was thinking about going for back for a MS in about 2 years, either Aero or Nuke. It'd be cool if they put the Nukes and Aeros together. After all, Aero/Astros have more in common with Nukes than they do with IEs, and the ME's already have their own building. Then again, I enjoyed raiding the IE's clubs' meetings for pizza and then retreating back to the Aero lounge.
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Offline PurduesUSAFguy

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Well Armstrong Hall was supposed to be AAEs only but last year they switched from Hall of AAE to Hall of Engineering...I heard that they might be putting the soon to be established nano-tech program in there with us.../shrug/.

It wouldn't shock me if a couple nuke classes didn't find there way into there as well as Nuke is kind of stuck in the corner behind the engineering mall behind the Tech building.

I think its supposed to open first semester of next year, but it looks pretty close to done right now.

Offline Marcus

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As long as they bring their reactor with them. *Fiendish laugh*  
Ya know, all 1 kW of it.
Yeah, I had to go back there to talk to a prof about my senior project. That's what got me interested, actually. If you don't mind me asking, do you work at Purdue, or student?
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Offline PurduesUSAFguy

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Student, double major in AAE and Nuke-E actually...although one of those might turn into Physics.

Offline Marcus

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PurduesUSAFguy - 20/11/2006  4:22 PM

Student, double major in AAE and Nuke-E actually...although one of those might turn into Physics.

USAF ROTC?

That's quite a load. How many years are you trying to squeeze that into? Have you had any KC Howell courses yet?

How do you like the Nuke program? I had limited contact when I was a student, but now I've a decided interest in NTR. Any Nuke profs interested in NTR or even space power/NEP? When I was around, the focus seemed to be on civil reactor safety and some theoretical particle physics that wasn't of much interest to me. If you know of anyone interested in something not ground-or-navy-bound, could you let me know. You can send me a private message if you want. I'd like to get in contact with them. A name would be enough.

Thanks.
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Offline Ventrater

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Offline HD209458

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Back on topic a little bit; it has always been my impression that IEC fusion like this was useful as a neutron source, but not for power generation (or propulsion). IIRC, Bussard's main claims about the power of his machine were denominated in neutron counts, which seemed to me to support this view of IEC as primarily a neutron source.

Do the nuclear enginners here know if this is true? Or is Bussard et. al doing something different, that is causing his machine to generate power?

Offline josh_simonson

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Here's a letter Bussard wrote that is basically a condensed version of his google speech, without all the cool photos and history.

Appearantly it's not a Farnsworth derivative, from the final P:
"One final word: Actually our device is really not a variant of Farnwworth/Hirsch, but of Elmore/Tuck/Watson who propeosed the inversion of Farnsworth/Hirsch long ago (ca. 1967). Their problem was the interception of circulating electrons by grids - we removed the grids and replaced them by B field insulated coils - thus our "grids" are the coils themselves."



Dear SirPhilip!:

I have read the threads on the Randi forum, and they are all intent and I am sure well-menaing. However, I have not been able to "log in" on this forum so am writing to you instead. Perhaps you can post this note as a reply and commentary to some of the issues raised by your forum correspondents.

First, what we have achieved in our rather unexpectedly good tests of last November 9 and 10th was an output of DD fusion at about 10 kV, at B fields of 1300 G, in a 30 cm diam device (WB-6) run in a pulsed mode from big capacitors, with a fusion rate of about 1E9 /sec. This works our to be about 100,000 x higher than the data of Hirsch/Farnsworth at similar well depth and drive conditions. The test duration was only about 0.4 masec, but since the electron lifetime is ca 0.1 microsec this is steady-state to the plasma particles. We had neither the money, nor the cooling, nor the power supplies, nor the controls to run this small device steady-state, which is what we need to do, and what requires us to build the full-scale device.

This was a direct result of discovering something during late Spring/ early summer tests of WB-5, which was a closed boc machine, like the early HEPS of 1989. What we discovered was -- in hindsight -- elementary; it was that indeed God is in the details, and the detail of particular importance is that no metal surface penetrated by B fields must occupy more than about 1E-4 to 1E-5 of the total surface available to the recirculating electrons. If this dead fraction is larger, there is NO hope of net power from any such machine. AND, it is essential that the device be recirculating, i.e. that the electrons can circulate out and back through the cusps all over the machine. Of course, this is obvious; but in 15 years no one saw it, not Hirsch, not our consultants not our opponents, not our staff, and not me.

It is consistent with the need for electrons to recirculate about 100,000 times before being lost to collisions with structure, to yield net power.

Please remember that our device has the property that the electron flow and losses are decoupled from the ion flow and fusion generation. Power balance depends on suppresssion of the electron losses, which are derived from the energetic electron injection that forms the gridless negative potential well that traps the ions.

When we figured this thing out, in summer 2005, we quickly designed and quickly built WB-6, using only conformal (with the B fields produced) coil cans, so that no B field uniquely penetrated the cans, and then placed the coils in a special array so that no corners touched (this latter is a long topic having to do with local B fields, and loss of WiffleBall trapping due to line cusp effects at the corners, etc, etc, and is the baisis of our final patents on this thing). It IS the details that make or break the device. And this particular set of details absolutely dominates the performance.

Anyway, we ran the device in October, for beta=one tests, to confirm transport scaling laws, and then in early November to test for fusion output. And, happiness, indeed, three tests on 9 November and one on 10 Novem,ber gave the results mentioned above. The next day, 11 November, we tried it again, but magnet coil motions induced by repeated testing had moved the coils enough that an insulation spot had worn away inside the cans, and the device shorted and blew up one leg, with the full cap discharge. Having no further funding, we had to start shutting doen the lab the following Monday!!! Irony?

As to our funding -- our USN contract still exists, and still has about $ 2M authorized in it. However, year-by-year funding was NOT provide for FY 2006, so that we knew we had to close down early in 2006.. What saved us was Adm Cohen (CNR) who put another 900 K into the program to try to get us down the road to where we DID go, and then we had to quit. It was not a cutoff of OUR funding, but the entire Navy Energy Program was cut to zero in FY 2006, and we were a part of this cut. The funds were clearly needed for the more important War in Iraq.

So, as we cut down, we managed to save the lab equipment, by transfer to SpaceDev, which hired our three best lab people as well, and we are still trying to get the missing $ 2M restored and put into our existing but unfunded contract. IF this happens - which is improhable, given the politics of this election year, and the non-visionary people in Congress - we will redo WB-6 with an improved and better version (WB-7) which should give 5x more output, and run about 50 tests to quiet dissent. AND we will convene a review panel of very high-level and internationally distinguished people to spend about 6 weeks going over this to recommend for or against proceeding sith a full scale demo.

This may or may not happen. If it does, I have little doubt as to the panel recommendation, as the data and insight from WB-5/6 is just too clear. We really have solved the last engineering physics problem that has plagued our work for 12 year s or so. Yes, there is much left to do, iespecially in controls and diagnostics, but these are predictable things not dependent on beating the Paschen curve.

And we still have to develop some reliable e-guns and i-sources, again predictable enginering that costs both time and money, but not new physics.

Why a full-scale demo? Because the system scales oddly: Fusion output goes as the 7th power of the size and Gain goes as the 5th power. Thus there is very little to be gained by building a half-size model; it is too weak to give anything definitive about power production or gain. And our tests were always at about 1/8 to 1/10 scale of the full scale demo. We told the DoD from the beginning that the real program would cost about 150-200 M, since 1987, and they all knew this. However, since the DoD has no charter to do such work, and the political realities were that a big DoD program would attract the ire and power of the DoE to kill it, it was never funded beyond about 1/8 the level required.

So we did what we could and finally DID prove the physics and associated engineering physics constraints, scaling laws, etc, albeit at 1/8-1/10 scale. So what? Doubling the size will not tell us anything we don't already know. The next intelligent and logical step is to build a machine big enough to make net power. And THAT is the same 200 M we have quoted to the DoD since the beginning.

As for energy companies "stampeding" to support us -- It is clear that a view like this is ignorant of the reality of energy companies. There is only one thing the oil cvompanies want, and that is to sell oil, and more oil. So long as the fields pump, the oil companies will squeeze. They have NO, absolutely NO interest in anything new, ins spite of all their foolish ads in magazines for wind mills and solar-PV roofs. It is all just show and tell. I know these guys, and there is no way they would support anything that might get in the way of oil. The only way to stop oil, from their view, is when it does run out. And then they''ll go for deeper drilling, new fields, Gulf geopressure gas, LNG, etc, etc, and keep raising the price, until finally foolish solar and windmills become competitive.

And we are paying the equivalent of $ 500/bbl oil costs. But Exxon and Halliburton are getting richer all the time.

Yes, we would like to build the demo plant, and yes, it will cost about 150 (DD) to 200 M (pB11), and who knows if any investor singly or a group can or will come up with the money. One of the biggest obstacle is the world-wide tokamak lobby, which perpetuates the fraud that Hirsch, Trivelpiece and I foisted on the country in the 1970's when we started the big tokamak ball rolling.

Magnetic confinement fusion is a misnomer, as magnetic fields can NOT confine a plasma, only constrain its motion towards walls. The entire history of the MagConf program has been to reduce transport to neo-classical (not turbulent or instability-driven) losses. And THEN the machines are all inherently and inevitably huge and cost too much and make too much power to ever be economically useful --- as the utilities have been telling the AEC/DoE for 30 years. No matter, the global tokamak program provides jobs for hudreds of thousands of people in many countries, and is a safe place to put political pork funding, simply because it IS NO THREAT TO OIL - it won't ever work, but it sounds good to the untutored public..

As for us; our company still exists, but we will not likely run any demo program - that will be up to others to carry it on, if we all get the chance. Meanwhile, my objective is very simple. I detest the energy stranglehold of our companies on our people, and am going to try to give our idea away at the soonest possible moment. To anyone, anywhere, who might want to undertake its development. And we'll be happy to help in any way we can, if a serious interest develops anywhere in the world.

I think the US, UK, France, et al are lost causes, because of theri commitment to the failed tokamak effort, as is probably Germany, and maybe others, too. China may be a possibility, as it is quite independent even though part of the ITER mess, Russia may be considererd, and countries like Spain, Brazil, Italy, Argentina, and others may logically have an interest.

I believe that the survival of our high-tech civilizations depends on getting off of fossile fuels ASAP, and - if we do not - we will descend into a growing series of "oil wars" and energy confrontations that can lead only to a huge cataclysim. Which CAN be circumvented if only we build the clean fuison machines in time. Our patents are in final form, and I am giving a paper in the Fall, and trying to get a large technical description together for a major paper by summer. We shall see.

One final word: Actually our device is really not a variant of Farnwworth/Hirsch, but of Elmore/Tuck/Watson who propeosed the inversion of Farnsworth/Hirsch long ago (ca. 1967). Their problem was the interception of circulating electrons by grids - we removed the grids and replaced them by B field insulated coils - thus our "grids" are the coils themselves.. And we do know how these work, at last.

Good luck to all of us.

Cheers, RW Bussard

Offline braddock

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This is a very interesting video.  I'm skeptical of the potential, but regardless I just learned an awful lot about interesting fusion devices while watching.

There is a fairly critical critique of the presentation here:
http://futurepower.org/nuclear_energy_experiments.html
Don't know how much credence to give the critique or the presentation, but I found both interesting.

Does anyone have links to the "8 or 9 papers" he mentions that discuss using their fusion technique for space travel?
Or the main lessons learned paper he mentioned that was to embody his lessons learned in the astronomical proceedings?