Thursday, May 12, 2011

More Polywell news

Plasma shines within EMC2's WB-7 device...

Via the IEC Fusion Technology blog, after the recent coy confirmation of continuance, there has been some more positive news on the Polywell fusion reaction front. [Emphasis mine.]
A Navy-funded effort to harness nuclear fusion power reports that its unconventional plasma device is operating as designed and generating "positive results" more than halfway through the project.
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So how far along is EMC2? The current experiment is known as WB-8, which follows up on WB-5, 6 and 7. "WB" stands for "Wiffle Ball," which describes the spherical swiss-cheese look of the plasma containment cage. The $7.9 million contract covers work to see whether Bussard's fusion concept can be scaled up to a size capable of putting out more power than it consumes.
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But based on the experiments so far, Park thinks there's a chance that it could be done in a sufficiently large Wiffleball reactor, costing on the order of $100 million to $200 million. That sounds like a pretty good deal, especially in comparison with the $3.5 billion that's been spent so far on fusion research at the National Ignition Facility and the $20 billion expected to be spent on the international ITER fusion project.
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"It's a very nice machine," he said. "I like what we have so far. It's quite well-built, relatively flexible to actually explore a lot of areas and find what's best. Achieving the plasma for fusion is obviously a tall order. ... You don't just push the pedal on a Ferrari and drive the car. Like an F-18 or a stealth bomber, you have to learn how to operate it properly."
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Park figures that the money provided under the WB-8 contract should last until the end of the year, depending on how efficiently the EMC2 team is able to stretch the money out. By then, the engineers in New Mexico and their backers in the Navy should know whether it's worth going ahead with the next step, perhaps even with the big demonstration reactor. Park hopes that WB-8 will be the last small-scale experimental machine EMC2 will have to build.

"This machine should be able to generate 1,000 times more nuclear activity than WB-7, with about eight times more magnetic field," said Park, quoting the publicly available information about WB-8. "We'll call that a good success. That means we're on track with the scaling law."

As Park points out, EMC2 cannot be too open about their work since their customer—the US Navy—has stipulated some degree of secrecy. However, all parties seem to be quietly confident...

So, onwards and upwards!

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've read some articles over the last few years stating that the U.S. Navy is actively working on new weapon systems that require significant amounts energy to operate, such as mass drivers and direct energy weapons (read: lasers), and that they were achieving positive results (at least the Navy said so through their online news briefs).

In addition, the latest aircraft carriers will use magnetic rails to launch fighters rather than steam catapults. While I know in the latter case that those new carriers have a substantial nuclear power system, it still leaves room open for the question as to how they are going to power all these systems at once or in some combination on future designs.

Defining the problem, perhaps we are seeing in these new projects just how confident the U.S. Navy are in the possibility that the Polywell project is the solution to it.

FlipC said...

It's looking good; let's just hope there aren't any major scaling problems.

Chalcedon said...

I do so hope it scales up well. Then bye bye to windmills!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering what had happened to this post. I won't repeat my whole original comment but I do have to say again that the U.S. Navy's recent interest in high-energy systems does seem to indicate that they are confident about Polywell succeeding. Which is a good thing, as this is a desperately needed development.

Anonymous said...

By the way, Devil, your labels seem to be a bit off.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of stating the obvious, if polywell succeeds there are some rather large geopolitical effects to consider, ranging from neutral treatment of the MENA area, right through to "fuck it, let's just kill all the Muslims".

Roger Thornhill said...

Such energy can be used to launch girders at mach14 that will be lobbed 800miles and land with one heck of a thud.

no way to jam, too fast to intercept. no heat signal to lock on to.

makes parking warships off the coast a whole new ball-game.