January 27, 2015 | 2 Comments
Jaeyoung Park, Chief Scientist at EMC2 presented the team’s work to date and explored the level of what’s needed to continue research to a net power electrostatic nuclear fusion reactor.
The presentation was given at the 16th U.S. Japan 2014 Workshop. This link here downloads the pdf file of Park’s presentation. It a very graphically rich and informative paper well worth the time for review.
The results are the team led by Park at EMC2 succeeded in achieving a time resolved hard x-ray measurement. That is a first from a theoretical conjecture first offered by Graf and his research team in the 1950s. It provides the first ever direct and definitive confirmation of enhanced plasma confinement in a high β cusp. (β is lower case beta Greek text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes or other symbols instead of the Greek letter.)
The team also achieved enhanced electron confinement in the high β cusp. This level of confinement is a basis for the Polywell fusion concept, that the late Dr. Robert Bussard proposed, to move forward to complete the proof-of-principle test.
Should a proof-of-principle effort get underway and prove the theory a Polywell reactor or fusor may be an attractive fusion device due to its native advantages. The advantages are stable high pressure operation with good electron confinement inside the β cusp and a Polywell would offer high ion acceleration and confinement by electric fusion.
Getting those two advantages operating together, the high β cusp and electric fusion, is the next step in getting to a net power producing Polywell fusor.
The presentation file offers us the slides without the narrative. So far at least the University of Wisconsin hasn’t seen to it to offer a video or text to go along with the slides. So we’ll have to surmise our way through in a brief summary of what we can see.
Park starts with a brief graphic and notes explaining electrostatic fusion and a electron confinement that make up a Polywell, which is what Dr. Bussard came up with in 1985. Over the course of a few pages Park explores the progress of what Dr. Bussard called the Wiffle-Ball (WB). The basic WB has been through eight generations so far.
The previous generation, seven, was the last to be built with the six electromagnets joined together at their closest points. The device did prove up the previous WB results and showed the necessary neutrons.
The last generation, number eight, has to major improvements. The first is the electromagnets are held in place by an external frame. The other is the first plasma source uses an arc to initiate a high density plasma into the central core of the box shape of electromagnets.
Now we’re at the point, page 13, where the narrative is critical for understanding what took place during the presentation. What we can see is the history beginning in 1955 and running to 1977 over 20 devices and 200 published papers about electromagnetic confinement. By 1980 the understanding and materials simply did not suggest a route to a operating fusor.
But Dr. Bussard had that idea in 1985.
The presentation goes into the recent experiments at EMC2 with a striking set of photos and graphics showing the facility, installation, device layout, the devices, and instruments.
Then the presentation shows illustrations of the experiments reviewing the plasma injection, x-ray emissions and the x-ray sensor.
The presentation slides are then a set of graphs that illustrate the results and a bit of guidance on how to interpret the results.
There are two main unresolved matters for the next stage of research. The confinement decays while in use. Finding out just why isn’t possible as the potential of the current WB is maxed out. More depth of understanding is needed about the magnetic fields while the fusor is running. It would seem, although we don’t know for now what Park said, that there must be room for improvement in the materials and fine tuning of the magnetic fields.
For those starved of information on Dr. Bussard’s theory, the progress at EMC2 and where the WB fusor is at in its development, the presentation is a huge windfall well worth one’s time to review.
The next and most concerning question is, can the next step find its funding? The EMC2 WB is a much larger potential fusor than say the elegant Focus Fusion device. A WB at commercial scale would be a very productive low cost base load power unit.
For now we’re hoping the presentation was recorded and a YouTube video comes out. It would also be worthwhile to know someone is actively seeking funding. For now EMC2 is missing the CEO leadership personnel. Its a huge role to fill.
Thanks to Brian Wang at nextbigfuture.com for finding the presentation file.