M. Simon broke the news last week that the Department of Defense released its expenditure plan for the projects to be funded with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 including $2 million for Plasma Fusion (Polywell) Demonstration fusion plasma confinement system for shore and shipboard applications in the Joint OSD/USN project.

IEC Fusion Graphic Image. Click image for a larger view.

IEC Fusion Graphic Image. Click image for a larger view.

While its not absolutely confirmed it is believed this means the Richard Nebel led Bussard Fusion project in New Mexico. From page 157 of the Department of Defense pdf:

DOD Polywell Funding. Click for a larger image.

DOD Polywell Funding. Click for a larger image.

The funds come from the America Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The category is Navy and Marine Corps Project Plans, Research and Development Test Evaluation Plan. One would think that from the titling that the senior officials consider the polywell effort past basic research and into “research development and test evaluation.” All very encouraging in the context of the official document.

The purpose foreseen is for onshore and shipboard use. Warships need huge quantities of electrical power and could benefit greatly from a performance standpoint with a fusion-powered drive. Going ashore with installations is obvious, but another use is probable when power can be generated with the Bussard technology. That would be rail gun, or electromagnetic propulsion, such that very high mass loads can be accelerated to great speed without explosive powders, explosives, rockets or other terribly dangerous materials on ship. Moreover, the technology would also be extremely useful to land based forces. Often overlooked is the dramatic reduction in transporting munitions both in direct costs, but the risks involved in moving fuels.

As we have seen in Iraq the vulnerabilities of transport can be exploited to grave effect. Most Americans are not aware but the bulk of the injuries and deaths happened when transporting support supplies. Just reducing the fuel and munitions transported will save lives, casualties and taxpayer funds. But above all, the increased effectiveness and deterrence value will be worth lives uncountable today. The defense establishment’s determination, resolve and persistence is more understandable now.

Some future thinking people realize that electromagnetic rail propulsion can be adapted and sized up for assisting in sending materials to space. One major, or perhaps the main drive for Dr. Bussard was the potential to use his technology in space travel as well.

As this brief review shows, the Bussard fusion technology called “polywell” has perhaps the highest potential of any energy production effort to date. Size, cost, operating expense and the other matters of the technology’s economic function are just intensely attractive.

From unlimited civilian electrical power generation to more effective defense, on to the power to launch much more weight to space and move it once there are strong motivators. The project has seen many ups and downs, yet still the benefits that can be earned with diligent research, development and innovation might be the steps to a new human future.

Polywell fusion is one if not the favorite interest of M. Simon. With a pleasant surprise Simon has checked to see if any books are out on the technology. While none are published today, Simon has heard rumors that manuscripts may be in working, and that could mean we’ll see something mainstream in the coming months.

That’s the good news. For the “bad” Brian Wang has some comments that Nebel has posted. While these are issues, its thought that Dr. Bussard had these worked out. Yet Dr. Bussard has passed away leaving the unmet guidance to become a search. Nebel comments, “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 judgment as to what we believe from the earlier experiments and what we think may be questionable.

Brian Wang adds to the body of work available with M. Simon. Between the two of them a great deal of technical understanding can be gained.

If that level of theoretical physics and engineering is something one would rather pass on, the news remains. Dr. Bussard’s dream is getting closer, by some $2 million now and the next steps that the Nebel led team take are things we wait to learn of with great anticipation.


2 Comments so far

  1. M. Simon on April 21, 2009 5:12 PM

    Thanks for the link!

  2. CNA Training on November 8, 2010 8:32 AM

    Thanks for an idea, you sparked at thought from a angle I hadn’t given thoguht to yet. Now lets see if I can do something with it.

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