Have ANY projects got a future?

Reflections on fusion history, current events, and predictions for the 'fusion powered future.
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Chris Bradley
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Have ANY projects got a future?

Post by Chris Bradley » Thu Oct 02, 2008 10:14 pm

When I saw the title of the last post in this 'fusion future' forum I though 'hey, great, a new idea!'... I like new ideas!!

I opened the link..... then closed it again within 250ms!..

A disappointment. More than a disappointment, an actual distraction.

I was contemplating the kinds of statements that could be posted as 'forum general principles' - like, "this forum recognises, and only recognises, devices as energy sources or potential energy deriving experiments that a) have identifiable fuels, or an identifiable energy source, b) have an identifiable mechanism for that fuel to combine/react, or an identifiable energy sink, c) have a detectable energy-carrying output from that mechanism and that has a recognisable traceable physical route out of the device, d) do not defy the laws of thermodynamics. Please don't bother writing about anything else!"

In the meantime I was looking again through the 'fusion' programmes that DoE are funding/plugging, as per the link in a recent post of mine.

http://www.ofes.fusion.doe.gov/more_htm ... -final.pdf

hmmm.... is it me misunderstanding some of them or are some of these funded experiments getting close to failing at least my 'c' test? Frankly, I find some of the logic of what these experiments are about rather difficult to follow. Maybe it's just me not being able to understand these things, but before I confess to ignorance perhaps I should just ask if anyone else can see the 'emperor's clothes' or not in some of these!?

I fear I will never see a radical, new, novel, interesting and/or spectacular alternative idea for fusion, but monitor this forum, with perhaps a misguide hope, for such posts. Have we [mankind] really used up all the ideas?? That the DoE funds some fairly bonkers ideas suggests this may be so. Good luck to Frank S, Carl W, Steven S and now John F's 'takes' on the fusor, these all look interesting - and maybe evolution rather than revolution is the correct, and only valid, order of the day.

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Re: Have ANY projects got a future?

Post by Carl Willis » Fri Oct 03, 2008 5:34 pm

Hi Chris,

"The Fusion-Powered Future" is a repository for much noise. I agree with that. I don't think Fusor.net should adopt a formal values system to discourage this noise, though. The values that send the zero-pointers and propeller-heads packing are those of individual participants who speak up as they find appropriate. I think many of us share feelings of "ownership" for the fusor forum and work to shape it to our own value system and the result turns out to be a happy medium. I have different values from "Nanos," for example, when it comes to defining nuisance content. He is laissez-faire, even accepting, and I am flat-out reactionary. If a zero-pointer comes through here and feels comfortable with this balance of scorn, ridicule, condescension, eye-rolling, and basic human reason on the one side (the side I am usually on), and the plush-couch, anything-goes tea-party from the other side, then he'll stay and the focus and audience of the forum will change accordingly.

Now on to the second part of your comment. Of course ridiculous or under-deserving ideas sometimes get slipped a bit of government largesse. But consider this (I'm not picking on you, Chris): it is extremely easy for hobbyists--or much worse, the armchair sci-fi "blathering class"--to rain naive technical criticism on pro science pursuits, and when I see this happening I cringe because of the stupidity typically in evidence. Guys, if you're gonna harp on DOE projects or ITER or whatever big project you feel cowers pathetic before your ground-breaking intellect, be sure you are knee-deep in the literature and are going into that debate truly informed. Because, to generalize, the professional scientists working on those projects are driven by the same passion and intensity you are (if not to a greater degree), gravitate toward or grew up with similar technical hobbies and interests, have been through the rigors of formal academia to boot, and are knee-deep to neck-deep in the knowledge-base on their project. If you thought these people sit in front of a PC all day sipping lattes and wearing suits, you have not been in many laboratories. In simple terms, it's "hard-core" out there, and to be a credible critic you must first level with that fact.

(On the other hand, if one's personal drive as a hobby fusioneer stems from the megalomanic illusion that he's gonna "kick ITER's ass," for instance, that's understandable and perfectly respectable. As long as he doesn't confuse a personal belief with an objective comparison, we're just fine.)

-Carl
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Chris Bradley
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Re: Have ANY projects got a future?

Post by Chris Bradley » Fri Oct 03, 2008 7:37 pm

Just to clarify, in no way was I trying to aim a general barrage of critique at a collection of experiments I may or may not know about. Quite the opposite - and I trust my prior posts stand up for my repeatedly-expressed opinion that support for all these edgy ideas is warming to the heart of someone like me who loves 'the radical'.

Of course, if I have a particular technical critique for a particular thing, I'll aim to make it logically and I hope and trust that I have done this - and I look in on the forum to see others doing exactly this aswell.

The concept I was raising here was that if one begins to contemplate what possible 'reasonable limitations' might be put on what is a 'legitimate' thing to discuss and what is snake-oil, but then in parallel also what IS being currently addressed by bona-fide researchers, I was just wondering whether the type and depth of penetration into experimentation that would have been considered as snake-oil, or at least 'very edgy' (say just 20 years ago), is telling us anything about how many fundamental ideas may or may not remain as yet undiscovered. Surely as we progress into more unusual and frankly bizarre sounding experiments it is telling us that there are few fundamentals left to uncover and we're essentially now stuck with what we've got. So if we can't make the most out of this lot, then maybe there's little more that can be done.

I hope I've not further confused what I was trying to say, but I'm actually arguing to a position that shows we shouldn't seek to limit or bound ideas - yet reality kicks in and there are some limitations we may, and do, need to keep in mind. It is just an opinion but I would say a corollary of all this is that if we can't find a reasonably elegant means within relatively conventional approaches to sustain a useful fusion reaction then I just get the hunch that we're not going to find a better solution in hunting down the inelegant and unconventional.

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Frank Sanns
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Re: Have ANY projects got a future?

Post by Frank Sanns » Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:45 pm

Chris,

I know that you like the theoretical approach to science. This is good. We need theoretical thinking but I am sure you realize that theory or experiment alone will not find a majority of the answers. It is a combination of critical thinking and theroizing, keen observation, active learning, and insight that leads to the ultimate discoveries. Serindipity is by far the exception than the rule as is blind trial and error.

Look at the initial theory of a tokamak design. A toroidal magent and a plasma in side. Theory would tell you that a symetric winding of coils around the torus would be the best for confinement since B field is perpendicular to the E field of the plasma. In reality, it is not a perpendicular arrangement but a slanted modified and twisted psudo-log periodicish arrangement. It was only after building the simple torus did the theory and modifications come and come and come. Still it is a paltry machine but physics are physics and it is quite possible that a solution in one design may be applicable to another.

Fusion can be done, it happens in H-bombs so it is doable under conditions X. This means that not only if fusion science plausible but it is possible. The question is, can it now be made to work under conditions Y? I don't know but you can be sure that some of the underground testing of nukes is another piece of the pie that you and I do not come close to knowing about. There has to be tons of data there on initiatory and sustain events that no doubt filters down to some of the fusion designs that you see.

With my gridless Pillar of Fire setup, I have observed some mode changes when I use 5 cm non-planar electrodes. I would never have guessed that Sure, after the observation the theory can be established but who would have guessed? Part of the motivation for me to develop the POF design was the observation that ion or electron beams would pass a grounded outer grid on their path to a more distance outer fusor shell. This effect would not be possible if there were not recirculation in a fusor as acceleratory voltage will equal deceleratory voltage via conservation of energy. But since there is recirculation, the charged spiecies with only a second pass can easily aquire enough energy to pass right on by a grounded grid just millimeters from thier path.

It is evolution but it can lead to revolution. The answer will be found and it will be a small step; a small breakthrough that leads to big technological advance.

Frank S.

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Chris Bradley
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Re: Have ANY projects got a future?

Post by Chris Bradley » Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:55 pm

Frank S. wrote:
> The answer will be found and it will be a small step;

Yes, this is my take on it and the conclusion I am arguing. If an answer is found, I believe it will be a "Doh! oh yeah! Didn't spot that" kinda step that is a subtle change with consequences that are not immediately obvious by cursory inspection alone (else it would've been spotted by now).

So spinning tubes of molten lithium don't fit in with this perception of mine!

best regards,

Chris MB.

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Re: Have ANY projects got a future?

Post by Dan Tibbets » Sat Oct 04, 2008 10:03 pm

I'm not sure if you refer to all fusion approaches, or just IEC devices. Currently, the Polywell approach championed by Dr Bussard is the most intriging. He made an expermental fuser- highy modified Farsworth that uses magnetic fields to confine the electrons and thus the ions efficiently enough to lead to net power production. His WB6 obtained results (in a very few tests) that was sucessful, if based on nonmainstream (non-Tokemak) predictions. After his death last year, Dr Nebel (from Los Almos Natl labs) has taken up the mantle. They have recently compleated tests on a WB7, to confirm the prevous WB6 results and possibly expand on them. Currently the results are under peer review and there have been hints that optimistically could be interpreted as positive, but the data has not been released, it is controlled by the US Navy, as much of Dr Bussard's prevous work was.

IF the results are positive, and IF the scaling laws work (bigger is better), and IF the engeneering can be managed, and IF it is not smothered in a black DOD program it holds real promise to be a useble comercial fusion power method using D-D fuel or possibly 'aneutronic' P-B11 fuel.
I and many others on the Talk-Polywell.org forum have been impatiently awaiting an anouncement .

Also, there are a number of other IEC approaches. Look at the bottom of the Wikipedia article on IEC, Polywell, etc.

Dan Tibbets

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Re: Have ANY projects got a future?

Post by Chris Bradley » Sun Oct 05, 2008 8:29 am

Certainly in this discussion the Polywell fares quite favourably. It was, in its time, a distinct and new concept which I would not have put down as a small step change to a fusor. In this regard it was a revolution rather than evolution.

But I was trying to reflect on all fusion ideas *currently* coming out and judge whether they give any indication on how many new future breakthroughs we could expect, as a kind of indirect gauge of something we can't possibly directly know.

Dan DT wrote:
> Currently, the Polywell approach championed by Dr Bussard is the most intriging.

That is your opinion and you are free to hold it.

> He made an expermental fuser- highy modified Farsworth that uses magnetic fields to confine the electrons and thus the ions efficiently enough to lead to net power production.

In 1983. It's a relative thing to say, but I'd say that makes it one of the 'old boys' by now and the subsequent 25 years hasn't shown the orders of magnitude improvement that is required of it (as far as I understand its current status - corrections to my understanding most welcome).

> Currently the results are under peer review and there have been hints that optimistically could be interpreted as positive.

The universally addended conclusion to all fusion work!...

> or possibly 'aneutronic' P-B11 fuel.

I see nothing that gives a Polywell any sort of particular benefit for this reaction that a fusor does not already possess.

Whether the Polywell gets rid of the inner grid, and whether it gets rid of electron conduction losses completely, seems mostly irrelevant to me. These are just 'extra losses'!! When two fuel nucleii come up close-and-personal, they'll deflect off each other most of the time, rather than fuse, and through thermalisation will junk all that energy that has gone into them. The Polywell carries over this essential inefficiency from the Fusor.

Let me put all this another way. If you turn on any fusion-intent neutron generator at fusion energies and you put 1kW or more into it and don't die from the immediate emissions without shielding, then it means you are at least >2 or 3 orders of magnitude too inefficient for net power production. To my thinking, and the substance of this thread, you'll need a different method to bridge that gap. Tweaking just ain't gonna do it! And judging from new emerging methods at the moment, these look few and far between.

best regards,

Chris MB.

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Re: Have ANY projects got a future?

Post by Dan Tibbets » Sun Oct 05, 2008 2:28 pm


>Certainly in this discussion the Polywell fares quite favourably. It was, in its time, a distinct and new concept which I would not have put down as a small step change to a fusor. In this regard it was a revolution rather than evolution.

>But I was trying to reflect on all fusion ideas *currently* coming out and judge whether they give any indication on how many new future breakthroughs we could expect, as a kind of indirect gauge of something we can't possibly directly know.


Yes, the initial concept by Dr Bussard was in the 1980's after he abandoned the 'Riggatron' (a modified Tokamak design), at least partially because he lost funding for it. Over ~ 20 years and $20,000,000 he progressed through various designs to evaulate various concepts, such as 'Wiffle Ball' effect, electron confinement, 'edge anneling',etc. The reported breakthrough came in 2005 with a new geometry and spacing of the magnets which overcame the limiting electron losses. There was a two year hiatus as new funding was sought, followed by the followup tests this year.


>Whether the Polywell gets rid of the inner grid, and whether it gets rid of electron conduction losses completely, seems mostly irrelevant to me. These are just 'extra losses'!! When two fuel nucleii come up close-and-personal, they'll deflect off each other most of the time, rather than fuse, and through thermalisation will junk all that energy that has gone into them. The Polywell carries over this essential inefficiency from the Fusor.


At least according to Bussard the electron losses were the limiting remaining barrier. And, my understanding is that IEC devices in general are not thermalized machines(unlike Tokamaks), they are essentially linier acceleraters. Most scattering is in radial directions from the center, so the ions decelerate (giving the energy back)as they climb out of the 'well' untill they are 'reset' for the next round.



>Let me put all this another way. If you turn on any fusion-intent neutron generator at fusion energies and you put 1kW or more into it and don't die from the immediate emissions without shielding, then it means you are at least >2 or 3 orders of magnitude too inefficient for net power production...


That is an understatment. Based on -
http://www.beejewel.com.au/research/fus ... ulator.htm
approx. 1 billion neutrons are produced with D-D fusion per milliwatt of fusion power. Based on other threads by R. Hull and others a few millions of neutrons per second (1 microwatt/s of fusion power) results in ~ 1 mREM of radiation per Hr(?) close to the fuser, so 1000 watts/s of fusion power would be ~ 10^15 neutrons/second or ~ 1,000,000 REM/hr.

Bussard's WB6 produced a predicted ~ 1 billion neutrons per second , but these estimates were based on sub millisecond tests, so the total exposure would be in the same ballpark as the best amatuer fusers. X-ray considerations from amatuer fusers are much more important at these levels. Extrapolating from the above a 100 Megawatt D-D fusion reactor would produce ~ 10^ 20 neutrons per second, or ~ 100,000,000,000 REMS per hour. Some distance and shielding might be advisable! Dr Nebel has mentioned that a p-B11 reactor would put out 10^8 less neutrons, or ~ 1,000 REM /hour neuton exposure, still not something you wold want in your basement, but MUCH easier to shield.
(edited)


Dan Tibbets

ps: hopefully my assumptions and math are not too far off.

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Re: Have ANY projects got a future?

Post by Frank Sanns » Sun Oct 05, 2008 4:53 pm

Dan,

I know many of you think that polywell will be the savior but there are some real issues that you need to consider. Two of the big ones are electron losses and the other is efficiency.

Addressing electron losses: As has been stated here many times, you can not pile up electrons in any significant way. By significant I mean a couloumb of electrons sitting in the corner of a polywell fusor. It just is not going to happen so if a polywell is running 1 amp for 1 second then you have stacked up more electrons someplace in the vessle so it would be torn apart. This means keeping electrons out of the equation just is a violation of conventional, quantum, and relativistic physics.

Still addressing electron losses, let's look at what would happen if ALL electrons were removed from the plasma and only positive ions, deuterons for example, exist. It would mean that for the same power input, there would be more fusion occuring because some portion of the input would not be lost in non-productive electron acceleration. This potentially could mean a factor of 2 increase in efficiency. The number may be higher so lets be generous and say 10 fold. So now our fusion rate has increased from 0.00000000000000000001 to 0.00000000000000000001 . I am not impressed.


Addressing efficiency: Nothing is new about polywell in couloumb barrier tunneling fusion. No nuclear or couloumbic forces are changed so a polywell can not fuse ions any better than any other technology out there. Nothing new here at all with polywell.

Well let me be even more generous and say that something unexpectedly good happens with the scaling of polywell and a factor of 100 increase in output can be had. That now makes the fusion rate 0.000000000000000001 .

I am still not impressed and if I were you and the rest of the pie in the sky followers, I would do some critical thinking about the reality of they hype of polywell. Maybe then you will stop being enamered into thinking there is something new there. Science is science and if you read and understood the simplistic analysis above, it should be clear to you that the reality of polywell or any other over unity technology is just as bleak as every other fusion technology. This holds for other technologies posted on websites and propagated by people like you who genuinely want to find an energy solution but do not understand or do not want to hear the reality.

It is a wise person that looks for new insight and technology but it is a wiser person that evaluates it for what it is and finds the truth.

Frank Sanns

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Re: Have ANY projects got a future?

Post by Chris Bradley » Sun Oct 05, 2008 5:04 pm

Dan DT wrote:
> At least according to Bussard the electron losses were the limiting remaining barrier.

'Fraid not. cross-section of Coulomb scattering >> cross-section of fusion . That's the fundamental last-barrier when two nucleii meet up. All mechanisms before that are just disappointments. Like if you climb a mountain and see a ridge that looks like the top. Strain your heart that last few metres because you think that is all you've got left, but then realise you're only half-way there once you get over that ridge and really see the top! It's a real downer! But you have to clear the ridge before you know it.

This is the essential very-inequality that has meant the research mainstream has headed for thermal plasmas.

> And, my understanding is that IEC devices in general are not thermalized machines(unlike Tokamaks), they are essentially linier acceleraters.

Yes. If it were a thermalised plasma, the inequality above wouldn't apply. Hence, very appealing to go for this. You've just shrunk the mountain!! And this is really the case, make no mistake. Beam-type machines need to run very high ion energies before they begin to see any returns at all, whereas thermal plasmas, relatively speaking, don't need to run such high energies but it's currently proved impractical to sustain them.

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