Sunday, November 19, 2006

Robert Bussard: IEC fusion

ITER's competitor

The practical peaceful realization of thermonuclear fusion is usually associated with hot plasma confined by strong magnetic fields. See, for example,
However, Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of the scanning television, proposed a different framework to achieve fusion in 1924: the fusor. Hot ions are directly injected into the reaction chamber. This mechanism has already become a practical source of neutrons. Today we call the process inertial electrostatic confinement (IEC) fusion. Recently, a breakthrough was announced within this technology and this talk from the last week offers some details about it:

Dr. Bussard who received his PhD in Princeton described on the amateurish website in March 2006 that he could produce power that exceeded the previous records of this approach by five orders of magnitude. He did so several times before the device blew up due to mechanical stress degradation: that device was paid for by Donald Rumsfeld. Bussard now asks you for $200 million. The first million will be spent to build a more robust demonstrator in 2007.

His envisioned clean reactor, supported by favorable scaling laws, would burn boron-11 (Z=5) and ordinary hydrogen-1 (Z=1) into pure helium (Z=2): an excited and therefore unstable carbon-12 nucleus (Z=6) decays into helium-4 and an unstable beryllium-8 (Z=4) that later decays into two helium-4 nuclei, too. No neutrons, no garbage.

Bussard who is employed in the private sector and who has founded his Energy-Matter Conversion Corporation (E-MC2) is critical about the official U.S. institutions responsible for the fusion program that he also co-founded. In this letter, he mainly criticizes lawmakers from the Democrat Party who primarily care about their financial and political victories in their districts and who often like to fight against industry and good new ideas from the commercial sector.

The previous scientific talk for Google Inc. that we discussed was

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