Bussard Fusion Update

November 11, 2011 | 1 Comment

Dr. Robert Bussard’s EMC2 Corp. with the U.S. Navy using recovery act funding working on inertial electrostatic confinement (IEC) nuclear fusion based on the theory and prior work of Dr. Bussard has issued a very brief report.  The plan is to determine if the experimental plasma scaling agrees with the theoretical models.

The U.S. Navy funding is directed to conducting tests on “Wiffle-Ball” plasma scaling law on plasma heating and confinement by EMC2.

The firm has burned $3,216,826 of an authorized $7,855,504 and has surpassed 50% completion of the work.  As of September 30, 2011, the WB-8 device has generated over 500 high power plasma shots.

EMC2 is using the latest design, the WB-8, the next IEC or Polywell prototype in the series from Dr. Bussards’s initial device. The newest device has an eightfold increase in magnetic field strength compared to prior WB series devices, with the expectation of higher performance.

Of particular importance within the Navy contract is the option for an additional $4.46M for “…based on the results of WB8 testing, and the availability of government funds the contractor shall develop a WB machine (WB8.1) which incorporates the knowledge and improvements gained in WB8. It is expected that higher ion drive capabilities will be added, and that a “PB11” reaction will be demonstrated”

So far as we know, the group is led by Richard Nebel and Jaeyoung Park.  The latest report has Mr. Park leading the group.

The only indication of progress is the continuation of the experimentation and study.  That it’s not called off and everyone gone is a positive indicator.

What is known is that the experimentation facility is a fully outfitted to measure the confinement and the details needed to design the next step in the scaling of the machine to match the theory.

The raw truth is Dr. Bussard had passed away and the intellectual depth has to be recovered by a new set of scientists.  Much of what Dr. Bussard had offered as intuition is being reported as on target with a great deal more being learned.

The IEC idea is based on an evolving theory going back to the Farnsworth-Hirsch fusor. It seems that the current effort is being made to prove or disprove this theory at the point the WB8 can achieve.

Dr. Bussard asserted that using better equipment primarily in the magnets that form the chamber the only significant energy loss channel is through electron losses proportional to the surface area. He also stated that the density would scale with the square of the field (constant beta conditions), and the maximum attainable magnetic field would scale with the radius (technological constraints).

Now here is the bait – Under those conditions, the fusion power produced would scale with the seventh power of the radius, and the energy gain would scale with the fifth power.

Dr. Bussard did not publicly document the physical reasoning underlying this estimate, but if its proven to be true, it would enable a model only ten times larger than the one Dr. Bussard used at his passing away to be useful as a fusion power plant.  Those dimensions would be less than seven feet on the sides.

The second morsel is Dr. Bussard proposed fueling the reactor with boron-11 and proton fuel. However, there is some controversy about the viability of “p-11B” reactors. Bussard’s calculations indicate that the bremsstrahlung losses would be as little as one twelfth of the fusion power production. So far, while some think the proton and boron fuel approach will never work, Bussard and Dr. Lerner’s Focus Fusion will drive to the boron solution.

That’s because the fuels after the fusion leave no radioactive residue or in theory, make no dangerous radioactivity or radiowave emissions.  Fuel experiments await a functioning fusion device with adequate power.

The second part of the fuel story is the fusion of boron and the proton result in a cascade of electrons that theory suggests could simply be captured and fed to the power supply.  The power the electrons would deliver is another engineering feat to be explored.

Dr. Bussard offered a magnificent and elegant solution to generating power and other interesting uses.  The EMC2 team and the U.S. Navy are quietly going about the step-by-step process of taking Dr. Bussard’s theoretical work to reality while recovering the intelligence lost at his passing.

If EMC2 and the Navy continue on with the next phase, that would be a signal to other researchers in the field that there really is something here to go after.


1 Comment so far

  1. Matt Muson on November 12, 2011 10:25 AM

    There was also a paper in AIP:http://pop.aip.org/resource/1/phpaen/v18/i11/p112501_s1?track=POPNOV11&bypassSSO=1

    The abstract suggests they are figuring way to adjust their magnets which leads to ‘longer overall electron confinement.’

    Very good news!

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