Last time that I reported on this, we were waiting to hear on the latest round of experimental results from the WB7 reactor which was reported to be running "like a top".
As reported by the IEC Fusion Technology blog, the current results appear to be encouraging.
Alan Boyle at Cosmic Log announces the results of the WB-7 Bussard Fusion Reactor (BFR) experiments. And the results? No show stoppers so far.An EMC2 team headed by Los Alamos researcher Richard Nebel (who's on leave from his federal lab job) picked up the baton from Bussard and tried to duplicate the results. The team has turned in its final report, and it's been double-checked by a peer-review panel, Nebel told me today. Although he couldn't go into the details, he said the verdict was positive.
"There's nothing in there that suggests this will not work," Nebel said. "That's a very different statement from saying that it will work."
By and large, the EMC2 results fit Bussard's theoretical predictions, Nebel said. That could mean Polywell fusion would actually lead to a power-generating reaction. But based on the 10-month, shoestring-budget experiment, the team can't rule out the possibility that a different phenomenon is causing the observed effects.
"If you want to say something absolutely, you have to say there's no other explanation," Nebel said. The review board agreed with that conservative assessment, he said.
The good news, from Nebel's standpoint, is that the WB-7 experiment hasn't ruled out the possibility that Polywell fusion could actually serve as a low-cost, long-term energy solution. "If this thing was absolutely dead in the water, we would have found out," he said.
If Polywell pans out, nuclear fusion could be done more cheaply and more safely than it could ever be done in a tokamak or a laser blaster. The process might be able to produce power without throwing off loads of radioactive byproducts. It might even use helium-3 mined from the moon. "We don't want to oversell this," Nebel said, "but this is pretty interesting stuff, and if it works, it's huge."
Further, the results have been peer-reviewed (in that that means anything).
First of all, our work has been peer reviewed. An independent panel of experts has looked at these results. I don’t believe that there was anyone on the panel who has less than 40 years experience working with magnetic confinement. It included senior professors and people who have managed the fusion program. We asked them for their honest opinions and that’s exactly what we got. We are proceeding with our program in line with their recommendations.
Secondly, the talk-polywell blog has a large variety of people who post there. There are Phd plasma physicists as well people from the general public. I think that’s a good thing. Science needs to be accessible to people.
Rick Nebel (Sent Saturday, December 20, 2008 12:08 PM)
andYes, there are neutrons and the numbers are consistent with the plasmas we are measuring. However, neutrons can be deceptive. A lot of fusion researchers have gotten in trouble in the past by relying on these types of measurements. You need to know where they come from and that's difficult to measure.
R Nebel (Sent Saturday, December 20, 2008 4:31 PM)
Discussed at Talk Polywell.
So, the next step, as far as I can tell, is a slightly larger version of the WB7 to see if the results can be replicated (or bettered) on a larger scale. As has been pointed out before, the Fusors are very cheap and easy to build, so we should see the next version up and running before too long. For more on the whole process, and links to both technical and non-technical explanations and expansions, do visit the IEC Fusion Technology post.
As I have said before, cheap fusion reactors are the Holy Grail of energy generation: if Emc2 can stick to their schedule, then life could get very exciting, very soon.
Meanwhile, in the UK, the government are still pissing our money up the wall on massively expensive, useless, pointless, piece-of-shit windmills...
UPDATE: and as if by magic, Bishop Hill went for a little walk on Boxing Day...
Fifteen turbines I counted, and guess how many were actually operational, at this, the peak time of year for electricity demand? Well, when we arrived, none of the windmills were actually operating at all. After about half an hour, one of them ground into action, so it's not like there wasn't enough wind, although it was a still day. A little later a second one started to rotate a little hesitantly. It didn't last though. A few minutes later, first one and then the other ground to a halt again and it was all still. None had moved again by the time we left.
It's been said again and again that wind farms don't produce power when it's needed and that they can never produce enough, and here is real world evidence of just that. Wind farms are a means for politicians to divert funds to their client companies in the renewables business (in the shape of subsidies), from where it is diverted back to the politicians by means of political donations.
Corruption, pure and simple. And it spoiled my walk.
And that's in Scotland, for fuck's sake, where strong wind is near to being part of the culture...