Paul_Schatzkin wrote:What I see is a cleverly contrived animation and lots of buoyant, promising ... rhetoric.
There are a lot of valid reservations you could have about Tri-Alpha, but judging their technical merit by their elevator pitch youtube clip is silly. What they released is just something that lets the average Joe have an inkling of what their system does in 30 seconds and get people excited about their company. It is a quick sugary bite that can get shared on social media and get people talking, just like we are doing now.
The most interesting thing is that their latest press releases actually show legitimate hardware. Up until now, they have tended towards vapor-ware information if any at all. If any of that shiny hardware ever works is of course another issue.
As a private company, the technical information they have released is sparse, but the fundamental concepts have been worked on by many universities and national labs over the decades. A few of the main topics to look into if you are interested are Field Reversed Configurations, Neutral Beam Injection, and helicity injection.
Richard Hull wrote:Why not go for the more difficult fusion instead of the easy one? Probably no tritium license needed. Why not go to D-D? Yeah the win would be nice with p-B11, but thats a tough row to hoe. I guess all these folks think they have got it in the bag. I can't understand why they don't shoot for Xe-Xe fusion or Cl-O fusion....If they have fusion in the bag. Ain't fusion great, or what?
On the more practical side, neutrons are a beast to deal with at reactor levels. The immediate complications of radiation hazards while the device is active is almost the least of your worries. Basically everything activates, leading you to add extra engineering hoops to avoid certain common materials and also introducing long cool-down cycles each time maintenance is needed. Of course, even p-b11 has radiation to deal with but it is on a very different scale.
As you mentioned, tritium handling facilities are astronomically expensive and bring in an entirely new level of regulation and redtape. Even if you go DD in the short term, the implicit assumption is that you are going DT in the future and all those issues hang over every engineering, science, and business decision in the mean time.
They are doubling down and sidestepping all of that. Call it bold or stupid, this is a pretty radical difference from the traditional fusion world where DD equivalent-net-gain is the norm. As an outsider, it is difficult to judge the wisdom of this decision without seeing their internal results over the last years. Only time will tell if it pays off for them, but they seem to be doing well for themselves at the moment, if only as a company.
Being a radical trendsetter hiding an ace up their sleeve while being just slightly holier-than-thou is part of their MO as a business. Going straight for clean p-B11 while leaving DD to the rabble of lesser groups is a sexier story for investors, especially when you can point to numbers and previous experiments that make it look at least somewhat feasible. Cynical as it may be, Tri-alpha is a private business and not a public science institute, so that is a legitimate factor. As with almost all R&D companies in their early stages, their product is a story told to investors of a technology developed in the future; the trick is actually creating and selling that technology before people stop buying the story.