Saturday, August 30, 2008

One possible soft path solution

THE LATE Dr. Robert Bussard may have developed the path to fusion. Researchers have finished the first phase of an unorthodox, low-cost nuclear fusion experiment that has generated a megawatt's worth of buzz on the Internet – and they are now waiting for a verdict from their federal funders on whether to proceed to the next phase. You can read about it on MSNBC's Cosmic Log page.

Richard Nebel, leader of the research team at EMC2 Fusion in New Mexico, declined to detail the results of the project, saying that was up to the people paying the bills. But he did said “we have had some success" in the effort to reproduce the promising results reported by the late physicist Robert Bussard. "It's kind of a mix," he said.

The Bussard fusion design, also known as inertial electrostatic confinement or Polywell fusion, is radically different from the multibillion-dollar mainstream approach to the fusion challenge. The idea behind it is that a specially designed high-voltage electrical field can drive ions so closely together that they spark fusion reactions, ideally releasing more energy than the device expends.
In 2005, Bussard said his last test device (named WB-6 because its design was reminiscent of a Wiffle Ball) produced results so promising that he felt he was on the right track toward a breakthrough in low-cost fusion power.

a test plasma inside WB7

Google Video has a 92-minute video of the late doctor giving a lecture in 2006 about the efforts of his research team. I recommend it highly. Dr. Bussard outlines the basics, shows where they went wrong, what they learned, and why the Tokamak approach is futile. He calls them "Superconducting Cathedrals", I call them billion-dollar boondoggles.

Let's hope for a positive report and increased funding, which had been supported by the U.S. Navy. IMHO, it's an approach that Canada should follow, for less than a Candu re-build. The problem is the AECL scientific orthodoxy that permeates the outfit, so that's not going to happen.

The big thing about the Bussard approach is that it does not produce radiation. Why? Watch the video and find out. Also, check out the little company that was created by Dr. Bussard, EMC2 Fusion Development Corporation for extra articles.

With a little luck, the soft path will be well-lit.

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