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Focus Fusion On Google Tech Talks

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the sounds-good-on-paper dept.

Power 141

Henning Burdack writes "Eric Lerner talks on Google Tech Talks about Focus Fusion, which would be a much cheaper and more feasible technology as a fusion energy source than any other current approach, based upon the dense plasma focus device. The technology will use hydrogen-boron fusion with direct induction of ion energy and photovoltaic conversion of x-ray emission, obviating the need of a steam-cycle and thus resulting in higher efficiencies. High temperatures of 1 billion Kelvin (100 keV) have been reached years ago. It only needs $2 million in funding and two years of research for a proof of concept, and maybe four more years for a prototype with positive energy output. In contrast to other fusion efforts it utilizes the natural instabilities of plasma instead of fighting them. Focus Fusion has been discussed on Slashdot before, and a patent application is also available, going a bit more into detail."

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141 comments

Possible conflict of interest (5, Interesting)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#21142861)

I looked at the wiki history page on aneuronic fusion, and found that wiki poster 'elerner' had been banned from further edits.
Now here he is introducing a project that requires millions of dollars in funding.

Ok, I'm a bit cynical, but this does look like a possible conflict of interest to me.

Re:Possible conflict of interest (2, Insightful)

miletus (552448) | more than 6 years ago | (#21142939)

What, because being banned from Wikipedia edits is the best criteria for judging someone's scientific credentials?

Credibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21143005)

Being banned from Wiki meant he did something. So, what gets you banned from Wiki? It could be innocent or it could be someone who is trying to control what information makes it onto Wiki. Someone who is trying to censor something makes me wonder what he's trying to censor.

Bottom line: maybe being banned doesn't reflect on his scientific credentials but it does make me worry about his credibility.

Re:Credibility (1)

Bloater (12932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143563)

He was over publicising himself and his theory and arguing an awful lot. He's basically an arsehole that's why he was banned.

Re:Possible conflict of interest (4, Informative)

S3D (745318) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143061)

What, because being banned from Wikipedia edits is the best criteria for judging someone's scientific credentials?

By itself no, however his wiki entry [wikipedia.org] create strong suspicion of crackpottery:
-graduate without completing a degree
-author of alternative cosmology theory denying Big Bang
-denial of quasar as blackholes
-life-long political activist

Re:Possible conflict of interest (1)

scottrocket (1065416) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143099)

So he's a proponent of aneuronic fusion? No, that's mean, I shouldn't say that.

Re:Possible conflict of interest (5, Insightful)

Bloater (12932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143343)

He's doing experiments on this now half funded by a university and has had funding from JPL for developing this as an energy source for propulsion until NASAs alternative propulsion budget was cut to zero.

BTW he was banned for reverting libellous material and attempts to imply that things like joining a political organisation make him untrustworthy (well, I suppose he was technically a politician, so maybe he was) and for bigging himself up too persistently - the latter only proves he's a self-righteous arse - so often a problem for scientists.

> author of alternative cosmology theory denying Big Bang

No he's not, the cosmology theory is by a nobel prize winning cosmologist. He wrote a book to publicise the theory.

> denial of quasar as blackholes

There is no evidence that they are black holes. They a big and dense. It is not known whether or not they have a large mass behind an event horizon entirely separated from the rest of the universe - we merely have no popular theory to establish that they are not black holes but that doesn't make them so. Assertions that they are and must be black holes and that alternative theories makes you a "DENIER" is far more crackpottish.

> life-long political activist

What does that have to do with his theories on the use of established fundamental quantum limits on bremsstrahlung and synchrotron radiation for sustaining plasma energy in a DPF plasmoid?

Yes, lets all stop doing science... Damn that science.

Re:Possible conflict of interest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21143533)

and for bigging himself up too persistently - the latter only proves he's a self-righteous arse - so often a problem for scientists.

Self-promotion is a big no-no on Wikipedia. Civility is also important. Lerner has come across as a huge jerk on WP.

Re:Possible conflict of interest (2, Funny)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144105)

You know, there are far to many oversensitive pansies on WP. Oh, and biographical statements about living persons must cite appropriate references. Your opinion contravenes this, as well as WP:NPOV and WP:OR. As such, I am reverting your statement. ~~~~

Another telltale (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143673)

It only needs $2 million in funding


Low enough that someone might come up with the amount and a "hey, what if it works?...". If he had asked for $2 billion, the financiers would insist on a very tightly controlled cash management. $2 million is low enough that he might be left controlling the purse strings.


If a proof of concept can be done with $2 million, then he should do first a basic prototype in his hobby shop. After all, people have built Farnsworth fusors [wikipedia.org] for decades, and still no one would claim they could build a viable proof of concept within two years for $2 million using a Farnsworth fusor.

Re:Another telltale (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144057)

There are picture of these "contraptions" er prototypes all over the site

Billion Degree Breakthrough at Texas A&M [focusfusion.org]
In May of 2001, Experiments at Texas A&M University confirmed predictions from Lerner theory that energies above 100 keV (equivalent to 1.1 billion degrees) can be achieved with the plasma focus. This was a big step taken towards environmentally safe, cheap, and unlimited energy.

Seems like if that was bullshit someone would call him on it, rather than invite him over for a Google tech talk; still if it doesn't really work, it's interesting enough to invest $2M in research to prove it one way or the other. One thing is when I watched the animation of how the thing is thought to work I thought that it was what the Star Trek impulse engines would have had to been like if they existed.

Re:Another telltale (1)

Bloater (12932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144453)

Before the Texas A&M experiments he, apparently, had funding through the NASA advanced propulsion budget, it was actually being funded as an impulse engine :)

Re:Possible conflict of interest (1)

vlk (775733) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143811)

-life-long political activist

because only religious freaks can practice the Black Art of Politics

No conflict of interest. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21142995)

That's not a conflict of interest.

It would be a conflict of interest if he were investing in a company developing the technology, while simultaneously sitting as part of a committee deciding whether or not to give funding for such research.

This is just a case of somebody advocating an idea, and advocating the funding of further research. Sure, he may benefit from such funding, but that in itself shows no conflict of interest.

The wiki banning you mention is irrelevant. It's probably just stupid wiki politics at play. If anything, that may be where the conflict of interest arises: in the person or persons who banned him from that wiki. What he's saying may harm them financially (or egotistically), hence they use their power in another area (the wiki) to limit his ability to express those ideas which are disliked.

Re:Possible conflict of interest (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21143185)

Re:Possible conflict of interest (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143337)

No. I was referring to this page ( I said 'history' earlier. I meant to say 'discussion'. ): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Aneutronic_fusion [wikipedia.org]

which says ( for those who don't RTFA ) :

Notice: Elerner is banned from editing this article. The user specified has been banned by the Arbitration committee from editing this article indefinitely. The user is not prevented from discussing or proposing changes on this talk page. Posted by Thatcher131 03:01, 3 December 2006 (UTC) for the Arbitration committee. See Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Pseudoscience.
The bolding is mine.

Gawd!!! I must be bored today. I'm replying to an AC!

Re:Possible conflict of interest (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 6 years ago | (#21145155)

How about having mod points that can only be used on posts that are at least an hour older than TFA?


Why, so the people who come in late and don't RTFA can get modded up too?

Re:Possible conflict of interest (1)

Quixote (154172) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143279)

Mr. Burdack has been pushing Focus Fusion for some time. For example, his letter to the German Chancellor [google.com] (translated by Google), saying basically the same thing as the intro to the story.

Re:Possible conflict of interest (3, Insightful)

creativeHavoc (1052138) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143325)

Whether this comment has merit right now doesn't matter to me right now. THIS is the reason I love reading slashdot. What other news aggregation site has members who can find stuff like that. First post no less. There is a very distinct intelligence difference here. On the topic itself: It seems energy research has started getting a lot more attention than even cancer research now. Cancer research reports have gotten to the point where you now only hear about it when they have actually done somthing. Energy research postings are still at the stage where they only need to talk about maybe being able to do somthing for it to be newsworthy. I wonder when this will change again, and what it will change to.

Re:Possible conflict of interest (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143589)

Cancer research is still active, it's just that now there's alot of organizations setup to collect money for it & they stick to the smaller channels.

Cheap energy on the other hand, is the next best thing to curing cancer & not as many organizations are setup asking for money to research it yet.

Re:Possible conflict of interest (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21143391)

"I looked at the wiki history page on aneuronic fusion, and found that wiki poster 'elerner' had been banned from further edits. Now here he is introducing a project that requires millions of dollars in funding. "

I looked at the talk page for it also, the ban is related to the guideline http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Conflict_of_interest#Self-promotion [wikipedia.org]

Here are the findings of fact,

"Eric Lerner

7) Elerner (talk contribs deleted contribs logs block user block log) is Eric Lerner, an advocate of the plasma cosmology theory. He is engaged in promotion of a "plasma focus device," utilizing a hydrogen-boron nuclear reaction [72] [73].

        Passed 8-0 at 02:33, 3 December 2006 (UTC)

[edit] Self promotion by Elerner

8) Aneutronic fusion, which Elerner has edited extensively is, in part, an treatment of the "plasma focus device" which he is engaged in supporting and raising money for [74] as the director [75] of the Focus Fusion Society.

                Passed 8-0 at 02:33, 3 December 2006 (UTC)
"

and the resolution

"Elerner banned

7a) Elerner is banned from editing Eric Lerner, Plasma cosmology, Aneutronic fusion, and any pages, excepting talk pages, related to his real-life work.

        Passed 5-0 with 2 abstentions at 02:37, 3 December 2006 (UTC) "

From reading the dispute resolution page - it doesn't appear to me that the judging committee acted in a fair way.

Ok, but (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144093)

Notice the ppl who are trying to control this article. They are not even physicists. One of them is a software engineer (and in this day and age, everybody who is in the software world claims to be a software engineer, even though the majority have CIS degrees).

Personally, I am starting to think that he is getting a bit of a bum rap on this. It makes me wonder what is true on wiki. While I like that wiki is taking time to check things, perhaps, it is time for wiki to have subject matter experts do the reviews.

Re:Ok, but (1)

smilindog2000 (907665) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144629)

Ok, this is waaay off topic, and just shows how ignorant I am, but what the heck is a software engineer, and how do they differ from us plain old programmers? Personally, I choose the title of "God Emperor" whenever I'm allowed to choose a title :-) I even occasionally get junk mail directed towards "God Emperor".

Re:Ok, but (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144865)

Well, first, I my degree is in Computer Science Degree (well, one of them).
  • A Software Engineer has more of an engineering background. That is they spend more of their education background learning about methodologies according to Engineers (i.e. they write to a spec). They spend their time debating UML design vs. Waterfall.
  • A CSers was taught how to get the most efficient code, and how to jump all over. Roughly, the vast majority of new ideas in computers come from the CS world. Generally, this background is from a math prospective. We spent our time in algorithms, and building OSs, or apps like Mozaic, Apache, Bittorrent, etc.
  • The CISer is computers as taught by the business world. In general, it is more of an intro. It will have a smatter of computers mixed in with a lot more business (accounting, marketing, general business, etc).


Keep in mind, that just because a background was declared to be one of the above does not mean squat. As to names, me, I like simple peon :) BTW, how do you like the triangle? I almost went to work for Redhat, but really was not interested in leaving Colorado.

Re:Ok, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21145233)

They spend their time debating UML design vs. Waterfall. Please don't talk about things you obviously have NO clue over. That sentence doesn't make a single bit of sense. (and tho' it matters not, if you care, I have a B.S. in Geophysics and an MCS (Master of Computer Science)

Re:Possible conflict of interest (1)

vyrus128 (747164) | more than 6 years ago | (#21146473)

As a Googler who was present at the talk, I did get the distinct feeling that the guy is just this side of crackpot, and is a little too slick for his own good.

That said, the science sounds mildly promising, and I don't get the impression he's a scammer -- I think he genuinely believes in a fusion method that may have promise, but is probably a dead end. And I think trying it out just to be sure is probably not an awful idea. The fact that he got himself banned from Wikipedia means he is dangerously close to thinking like a crackpot -- "I have to defend my ideas against all the people wronging them" -- but it's also not very hard to do, especially if you don't like idiots, are impatient or hot-tempered, or are having a bad day. (And I say this as someone who strongly supports Wikipedia.)

And even if he is a little bit too strong in the support of an idea in the face of some evidence, I don't get the impression that his research area has been proven or demonstrated impossible yet, so why not have someone working on it? Nobody's demonstrated to me that the idea is so improbable as to make funding it actively harmful.

P.S. I obviously do not speak for Google, or anyone but myself. I don't even think I gained much insight by seeing the talk in person, rather than on the Internet. I just wanted to mention it because it was neat. :-)

Only 6 years away. (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21142907)

This has got to be one of the first times I have seen a fusion energy prediction that was estimated to be less than 10-20+ years from being practical.

Re:Only 6 years away. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21142959)

Except for the recent and obvious example of Dr. Robert Bussard's Inertial Electro-static Confinment method. Which has been talked about at length on this and several other sites recently.

Re:Only 6 years away. (2, Interesting)

miquels (37972) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143031)

Except for the recent and obvious example of Dr. Robert Bussard's Inertial Electro-static Confinment method

Indeed. Unfortunately Dr Bussard has passed away recently. However the project has funding again, and
apparently they are builing a new prototype, WB7.

There's a discussion site at http://www.talk-polywell.org/ [talk-polywell.org] .

Mike.

Re:Only 6 years away. (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143905)

How long until it is supposed to be practical?

Re:Only 6 years away. (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143601)

You haven't been watching for 4 years by any chance have you ?

Re:Only 6 years away. (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143923)

Somewhere between 6-12 months, actually. But I have heard fusion predictions before coming here.

Re:Only 6 years away. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21143621)

After six years of work, it will still be six years away.

second post(3rd 4th or 5th are fine too)!! (-1, Offtopic)

meta-tim (1164975) | more than 6 years ago | (#21142965)

...i've lowered my expectations

Re:second post(3rd 4th or 5th are fine too)!! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21143165)

Don't give up on your dreams! You'll get that "first post" someday. I haven't lowered my expectations of you. You are good enough, fast enough, and doggone it, people love you. Keep shooting for the stars, early post man.

yah for units of measurement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21142999)

Kelvin (K) =/= kilo electron volts (keV)

Another Company... (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143069)

is doing a demonstration project, but $2 million doesn't by crap these days. It takes more than $2million just for the power supplies.

Google for "Tri-Alpha Energy"

Re:Another Company... (4, Insightful)

bombastinator (812664) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143205)

agreed. The number is suspiciously low. It is small enough for private funding, however, which puts it deep into possible scam territory. If this has been around for a while and the guy is publicly looking for money it implies he has already been refused for a bunch of grants. If there are no refused grant applications, then it gets more creepy. The patent may be another sign.

IMHO anyone interested in investing in this guy who is not a university or reserch institute should be extremely careful. Like put a radio ankle bracelet on him careful.

So far not so crazy (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21143149)

I don't know about this guy's background, but so far (still watching) he hasn't said anything crazy that signifies obvious crack-pottery. There's been o zero-point energy nonsense, and he's using standard terminology to explain things in a way that would make sense to someone with a little background in the subject. The new bit seems to be clever use of plasma instability to get the energy density required to initiate fusion. I'm not a plasma physicist (just particle physics), so I can't critically evaluate the details of the method. So far I'd believe this is plausible, but I don't know enough to be willing to give this guy any money.

And for gosh-sakes, fix the article summary. keV = kilo electron volts, not Kelvin!

Re:So far not so crazy (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21143339)

Oh, and other signs the physics is probably legit:
  • Actual experiments at various scales
  • Multiple institutions testing these ideas (I don't mean the 3 companies he lists at the beginning, but rather the various researchers working on dense plasma focusing.)
  • Acknowledgment of challenges, and explanation of how they were overcome.
That still doesn't say whether it's a practical power source, but at least he is starting with reasonable science.

Re:So far not so crazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21143435)

The thing is, the high temperatures occur in spots that are _microns_ in dimension. (Lerner's symposium paper, not peer reviewed [arxiv.org] ) Plus power generation assumes that you can pulse the thing at thousand of times per second without destroying the device or poisoning following pulses with the reaction products. Even if the physics holds up, the engineering problems are significant.

Re:So far not so crazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21143487)

Yeah, I finally got to the part where they capture the power, and that seems a little tricky. They need to extract the energy from the outgoing ion beam and the X-rays. That sounds difficult, and the discussion of the 1000s of foils needed to capture the X-ray energy sounds like a difficult thing to mass produce.

Oh, and in the presentation he says the pulse rate is 330 Hz.

Re:So far not so crazy (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144847)

I'd say do be careful. If the guy is a flake (and I have no knowledge either way) then is it possible he's keeping something alive that should be kept alive despite this? If there's value in the science and he's just doing a cut & paste plus control & money trip, it could sink the idea as surely as linking it to Atlantis.

However the percentage of nice people vs egregiously annoying people among good scientists probably correlates well with the population at large, so it's important to discriminate between his contributions to energy research and whether or not you'd invite him to dinner.

Look at the science and follow the method, I think. And nail down the scope of what he's trying to accomplish with that $2M before you fork out the cash. He could be a good scientist and a bad project estimator. But if you're a good venture capitalist you'll know all that, anyway. Sounds like the guy needs a minder.

So many ACs (2, Funny)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143513)

Why are the majority of Eric Lerner's supporters posting as ACs?

Is that you, Eric?

Re:So far not so crazy (1)

Oink (33510) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144143)

Regarding the article summary..

You are the one that is mistaken. In physics one often refers to many varying energy units. When we talk about energy in Kelvin, we are actually referring to the boltzmann factor, kT.

For T = 1E9 K, and k_boltzmann = 8.6E-5 eV/K you get 86.7keV (which is in agreement with the summary).

Re:So far not so crazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21145561)

If only you guys would use the metric system you wouldn't have this sort of units confusion.

Re:So far not so crazy (1)

nsciphysics (920974) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144783)

I am not a plasma physicist or a particle physicist (I'm in condensed matter) but 100 keV is equivalent to about 1.16 billion Kelvin. (1e5 eV) x (1.6e-19 J/eV) / (1.38e-23 J/K) = 1.16e9 K It seems the summary is correct.

That write-up almost reads like... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21143171)

...one of those Nigerian scam emails.

Clearly an attempt by Ford (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21143195)

to control the next green car tech.

More of a research device (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143197)

This is one of a number of devices that can produce some fusion, but don't put out more energy than is put in. Forty years ago, this idea looked more promising. There was a fusion demo of a "plasma pinch" fusion system at the General Electric pavilion of the 1964 World's Fair. So far, no variation on this scheme has come even close to breakeven.

Asked a Plasma Physicist About This (4, Interesting)

BlackGriffen (521856) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143503)

He said it was crackpot. I didn't try to get him to go into details, but he basically mentioned the same stuff you did - stellarators, etc. What's more, there is the crack-pottery in the clip about how all the people in the field are in a conspiracy to deny his idea funding. I know these people - you might find some or even a majority who would be so unscrupulous, but nowhere near enough to maintain such a conspiracy. So, I would tend to think that you're right.

Basically, this guy is probably guilty of exactly what he accuses the rest of the fusion community of - he's fixated on his idea. He apparently won funding from the navy [slashdot.org] , so there's a chance his group could prove me wrong, and I hope that they do, but I doubt it.

Re:Asked a Plasma Physicist About This (3, Informative)

Zouden (232738) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143937)

That last link is to a different project: Bussard's Polywell fusor. That one is scientifically sound and is currently the most hopeful method of energy-positive fusion. Bussard built several working models before he died earlier this year.

Re:Asked a Plasma Physicist About This (3, Informative)

delt0r (999393) | more than 6 years ago | (#21146721)

As far as sound physics are concerned, neither is to be given much weight. Both require non equilibrium plasmas to work as advertised and that just does not work (The ions collide with electrons far more often than they fuse). In fact unless they can find a massive flaw in our current understanding of plasma physic thermodynamics neither can break even. Well the Bussard one defiantly, since its constant state. At least this one is a pulse device (aka not in equilibrium).

Pretending that this is a non issue without backing up with some calculations/data is bad science. Especially when there is quite a lot of analysis indicating that at best they get around 3-5% of the power out as they put in (real devices less than 0.001% or worse). Thus without some high efficiency (>>90%) power recirculation method they can't work as a power production device.

This view is the general consensus of held by physicist, not just my view.

Re:Asked a Plasma Physicist About This (1)

visualight (468005) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144215)

What's more, there is the crack-pottery in the clip about how all the people in the field are in a conspiracy to deny his idea funding.

I've watched the video once and skipped through a second time now...I don't see where you got this from. Can you provide a time reference?
Also, as far as crack-pottery goes, is there anything statement from him that isn't true, or grounded in real science? In the comments here today I see a few "...sounds fishy to me..." type statements but no one points to anything concrete.
In my opinion, for all the money we waste on dumb shit every year, I say give the man 2 mil and see what happens. Make Haliburton pay it, they owe us big time.

Re:Asked a Plasma Physicist About This (1)

BlackGriffen (521856) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144369)

For the technical problems, look no further than BlueParrot's [slashdot.org] comment a little ways down thread.

For the crackpot-esque funding claims, just look for his claims about the DOE "defending their rice bowl." If you had any idea how the funding process works you'd know that the decisions of who to give a grant to aren't directed primarily by a bunch of territorial bureaucrats, it's made by scientists, his fellow peers who would actually be able to measure the merits of what he is proposing better than anyone. Frankly, I would believe that some fraction of the scientific community was capable of the behavior he accuses them of (saying, "Screw humanity, I want to defend my income"), but not enough that he wouldn't be able to get any funding from the DOE, NSF, or some other agency if he really tried. I guarantee that there would be enough scientists who would tend to put the interests of humanity first to get the level of funding he's talking about, if he could convince enough of them that his idea had merit.

The navy, on the other hand, has different funding priorities. Because their budget is vastly bigger and their priority is to get an edge/prevent enemies from getting an edge, they'll be more willing to take a "see what sticks" kind of approach. I mean, just Google for "navy cold fusion" to get some idea of how they're willing to fund an idea even if it's reputation is "radioactive" in academia. You can tell, also, that he's used to pitching this idea to national security types - he mentions several times in the video how the "Chinese will develop it." That's exactly the sort of argument you use if you want o pry funding out of military hands, not academic ones.

So, although I would love nothing more than to be wrong on this one, I think that the guy is just plain wrong and he went into crackpot territory with his obsession with his idea.

Re:Asked a Plasma Physicist About This (1)

Bloater (12932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144595)

Are you talking about Lerner or Bussard? I'm confused on who this thread is on about?

The "defending their rice bowl" comment and the Navy funding was Bussard, but the comments about "he", "him" and "his" don't indicate that the comments are about anybody but the topic of the slashdot article - ie, Lerner.

Bussard (1)

BlackGriffen (521856) | more than 6 years ago | (#21145219)

I had made the mistaken assumption that /. was repeating itself and that Lerner was just Bussard's replacement at the head of his project.

Lerner doesn't go into as great a detail about the DOE denying funding as Bussard, but he does definitely accuse them of only being interested in few huge projects.

So, basically, the same criticism applies to Bussard and Lerner with the same punch-line: I really hope they're right, but I really doubt it.

Re:Asked a Plasma Physicist About This (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21145213)

If you had any idea how the funding process works you'd know that the decisions of who to give a grant to aren't directed primarily by a bunch of territorial bureaucrats, it's made by scientists, his fellow peers who would actually be able to measure the merits of what he is proposing better than anyone.

Yeah, the scientists who are his peers are the ones working on the OTHER fusion projects which require funding. Think about it for a while, then you'll understand.

Like the other reply said, that was Bussard, not the guy being discussed here. But when Bussard said it, there was a reason for it. Don't be so naive as to think the politics of funding and of credit don't enter into the decisions of scientists when they review the work of others.

on lack of funding (1)

j1m+5n0w (749199) | more than 6 years ago | (#21146003)

In both Bussard and Lerner's talks, it does come off as a bit crack-potish when they complain about lack of funding. However, in both cases, if I remember correctly, they had military funding and that funding was cut due to the Iraq war. That isn't a conspiracy, it's consistent with my understanding of the current funding climate. The military just doesn't have the money to fight a war and do basic research on things that aren't going to be in immediately deployable products.

I'm not sure if their claims that the DOE is only willing to fund tokomak research is true, but it does seem at least plausible, and both Bussard and Lerner are saying the same thing, which lends at least a little bit of credibility to the accusation.

Re:More of a research device (1)

Fred_A (10934) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143679)


This is one of a number of devices that can produce some fusion, but don't put out more energy than is put in. Forty years ago, this idea looked more promising. There was a fusion demo of a "plasma pinch" fusion system at the General Electric pavilion of the 1964 World's Fair. So far, no variation on this scheme has come even close to breakeven.

Of course fifty years ago we didn't know about the time cube so it's no wonder it didn't work...

(haven't read TFA, so don't really have an opinion on focus fusion anyway)

Cool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21143243)

Great! In a few years I can use this to power my flying car with built in Phantom games console running Duke Nukem Forever!

Good comprehensive video... (4, Interesting)

Braintrust (449843) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143281)

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1996321846673788606 [google.com]

In a proper and decent world, men like Robert Bussard would be heroes to our children, and household names that have high schools named after them... his concept of a fusion ramjet, the Bussard Ramjet, from Known Space and other places... is still the only realistically viable idea for intersteller travel...

IANANP... would love someone who is to break this video and it's ideas down... would it work?

peace

Re:Good comprehensive video... (5, Informative)

stevelinton (4044) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143935)

While I have no problem with Bussard as an interesting engineer the fusion ramjet is (sadly) not even a little bit viable.

Briefly there are two problems:

1. ordinary hydrogen is very hard to fuse. Even at the centre of the sun the average proton takes about 10^10 years to fuse.
Since the comrpressed interstellar gas is streaming through your ship at roughly lightspeed, even if "pinch" in your magnetic fields is 1km long, you have to get a decent proportion of it to fuse in 3 microseconds, so you need to achieve, in your pinch, temperature and density far far higher than at the centre of the sun. This seems difficult at best.

2. the interstellar medium (we now know) is best thought of as more like a froth than a uniform gas. Supernova shocks and other upsets clear "bubbles" and after a while almost all the gas ends up packed into relatively thin "bubble walls". Incoveniently, the Sun is sitting in the middle of a bubble several light-years across, so the interstellar gas is a very very thin round here.

      Steve

Re:Good comprehensive video... (1)

Usquebaugh (230216) | more than 6 years ago | (#21145797)

Don't forget to mention when he had power at the AEC how he fucked with funding decisions to favor tokamak and thereby left us with the ITER project to the exclusion of all other avenues. Bussard should never have been given any more government money after that little stunt. In fact locking him up for mis-appropriation would have been the correct thing to do.

Also, the most impressive result from the polywells was the last one and was not discovered until they had dis-mantled the machine. I want a repeatable process not some one hit wonder with dubious credentials.

Personally, I still have hope for the cold fusion guys, if only because of all the shit that mainstream scientific religion heaped on them. I would see it as nothing more than karma smoothing out the wrinkles.

I Can See It Already. (0, Offtopic)

MrCrassic (994046) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143301)

I am not a physicist, but does anyone other than myself see the next "Perpetual Motion Machine" coming to rise? If $2M isn't enough to buy even the cheapest of power supply plants, then I highly doubt that you can build yourself a plasma-generating machine on that money alone.

Hell, if that were possible, it would have definintely been done already. Some executives in this world can shake that much pocket change out of their pants. Daily.

Re:I Can See It Already. (1)

SpaceballsTheUserNam (941138) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143421)

"Hell, if that were possible, it would have definintely been done already."

Well then it's a good thing not everyone thinks like you.

Ah yes; Amazing is it not (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144307)

Why even now, there are companies that are trying to produce jets that cost 1/2 of the comparable jet from the big players. And even more amazing, is that companies like Spacex is producing a rocket for about 1/3 of the launch cost of something similar by Boeing AND l-mart. And now, there is a company who is claiming to produce SPACE station at a fraction of the costs of the ISS.

Yes, when ppl and companies come along claiming to do something at a fraction of the price, you KNOW they must be fleecing. BTW, I have some hair die that I would like to sell you. It will only cost you 100.00, so it is of the same price as all the others.

Re:I Can See It Already. (1)

Varun Soundararajan (744929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21146523)

In this house we obey the laws of Thermodynamics. Period.

word to the wise (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21143345)

These people invariably claim that their research has been suppressed. If we've learned one thing from magnetic fusion research in the 20th century, it's this: Fusion is Difficult. Believing that it's easy just leads to disappointment.

One factor of many: plasmas are prone to a host of instabilities, and 'stability' usually involves tradeoffs between one type of instability and another. So when somebody tells you "my plasma is stable", it should set off warning bells. The honest man will tell you the limits of stability.

As Artsimovich put it so eloquently in 1961, "Initial belief that the doors to the desired region would open smoothly at the first powerful pressure exerted by the creative energy of physicists has proved as unfounded as the sinner's hope of entering Paradise without passing through Purgatory. We do not know how long we will be in Purgatory."

We got into the Space Age by way of the Cold War, but what will push us into the Fusion Age?

Re:word to the wise (1)

miletus (552448) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143447)

>We got into the Space Age by way of the Cold War, but what will push us into the Fusion Age?

Peak oil?

Re:word to the wise (1)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143795)

Peak oil?
Unfortunately not. While oil will run out within decades, there is still plenty of coal and gas around. Quite enough of it to cause incalculable damage to the world if we don't stop using it. Fusion will probably not get popular until it can demonstrate lower prices than fission.

Re:word to the wise (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 6 years ago | (#21145617)

That won't even get us to start using fission again, and we already know how to do that sufficiently well to more than supplant our oil and coal consumption...

Energy research will be stuck with the cripplingly impractical until environmental activists drop their lifestyle agendas.

Re:word to the wise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21143661)

One factor of many: plasmas are prone to a host of instabilities, and 'stability' usually involves tradeoffs between one type of instability and another. So when somebody tells you "my plasma is stable", it should set off warning bells. The honest man will tell you the limits of stability.
The whole point of their approach is to take advantage of the instability of plasmas, in rather clever ways, see the video; it's well worth the time. Also, he doesn't claim to have a stable plasma, why do you claim that?

Elementry (0, Offtopic)

Joebert (946227) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143489)

This article is a bit over my head, but I get the feeling it's similar to using a magnifying glass to make ants explode.

Here we go again. (5, Informative)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143733)

High temperatures is not the problem, D-T fusion only requires some 16keV, and this is easily achievable using rather cheap voltage source. However, to get more energy out than you get in, you must ensure that this energy stays in the plasma and causes fusion, rather than just radiating right out of it again. In practice this means you need a high density and large confinement time ( basically a measure of how rapidly the plasma loses energy ).

Now, the issue with fusion using fuels with higher atomic number than hydrogen is that the plasma will contain much more electrons, and this dramatically increases the amount of energy lost as bremsstrahlung when the electrons collide with the nuclei (the increased mass of the nuclei also plays a part ). Direct conversion of X-rays could theoretically help alleviate this as it would allow you to feed the lost energy back into the plasma, problem is, photo-voltaics have nowhere close to 100% efficiency.

Aneutronic fusion has advantages. You don't have to worry about neutron damage to the reactor vessel. However, when you look a bit closer at it, this isn't such a large advantage after all, because the neutrons are actually quite useful in that they deposit the energy over a quite large volume when they are being absorbed, reducing the stress caused by heating in the device. If it wasn't for the neutrons you would see most of the heat deposited in a comparably thin layer of the plasma-facing compounds. The counter for this is that aneutronic fusion releases the energy as charged particles, potentially allowing for directly converting the energy into electricity.

Basically, what this whole thing boils down to, is if you are able to achieve sufficiently good direct-conversion efficiency to counteract the increased X-ray losses due to the higher atomic numbers associated with aneutronic fusion. This is why you often see claims of breakthroughs in aneutronic fusion together with claims of either a non-maxwellian velocity distribution or some other remarkable way to reduce X-ray losses. A plasma with a maxwellian velocity distribution cannot sustain aneutronic fusion without being either very large and dense (to re-capture the X-rays) or by somehow capturing the lost X-rays after they leave the plasma and feeding the energy back into it.

For a non-maxwellian velocity distribution your problem is that even at optimal energies a collision is much more likely to scatter the ions than it is to cause fusion, and restoring the non-maxwellian velocity distribution will require energy (no, you don't get to violate the second law of thermodynamics I'm afraid ). For capturing X-rays your problem is to achieve a good enough conversion efficiency to make up for the dramatically increased X-ray losses.

With the exception of a few unconfirmed claims, nobody has been able to resolve the above problems (thou Bussard was quite vocal about his polywell device ) and this is pretty much why modern fusion power research uses D-T fusion. It gives the highest amount of energy for the lowest temperature and X-ray losses, at a maxwellian velocity distribution.

Re:Here we go again. (1)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144045)

This cuts to the heart of why I'd always questioned the viability of small scale fusion reactors. The sun is a wonderfully efficent fusion reactor because it uses it's mass to contain the reaction and keep it self perpetuating. I've yet to see any form of reactor show the same promise for generating energy. The best so far involves unselfsustained reactions. Break even is seen as the holly grail with each method but without a self sustained reaction it's a very big expensive money pit that produces no power. Unless there's another method of containing a reaction than massive amounts of gravity fusion is likely to remain a pipe dream. Incrementally better than break even isn't going to produce the vast amount of clean cheap power that fusion has promised since it was first proposed. For fusion to work, if it's even possible, is for a fundementally new approach and I've yet to hear of one being even proposed. Cold fusion would have avoided those problems but like all good snake oil it promised something for nothing. Fission is easy, fusion is hard. There's the outside chance of a eureka moment but I'm not holding my breath.

Re:Here we go again. (1)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144385)

Break even is seen as the holly grail with each method but without a self sustained reaction it's a very big expensive money pit that produces no power.


Not true. My above post highlighted problems with using high Z number ions because the large quantity of electrons, and relatively low fusion energy gain, makes it difficult to overcome the energy losses. For D-T fusion however ( and possibly D-D fusion ) , the fusion energy is both every high, and can occur at ( relatively speaking ) lower temperatures. As a consequence X-ray losses becomes minor compared to the fusion power provided you achieve a high enough temperature and number density. JET in England has already achieved break-even conditions, and ITER is expected to produce 10 times the energy you put into it. The folowup prototype plant after ITER would produce 25 times the input energy, producing several gigawatts of electricity.

The tritium economy (2, Interesting)

Latent Heat (558884) | more than 6 years ago | (#21145257)

One of the hangups I have heard about D-T fusion (OK, OK, I heard it from those wacky The Oil Drum dudes) is that to set up a working DT fusion economy, you have to take into account the doubling time of the amount of tritium that you breed, and there is concern that the doubling time is such that we will run out of oil before the industry has enough time for one D-T reactor to breed enough T for the next pair of D-T reactors which in turn "beget" the next pair of pairs of D-T reactors.

Is this a legitimate concern, or if someone has a working D-T reactor, one can breed enough tritium soon enough that one can launch a D-T reactor economy?

The other quesiton I have about D-T is since this produces lots of fast neutrons, will an industrial-scale reactor be an even bigger plutonium-breeding proliferation concern than fission power? Or are the neutrons the wrong energy for making plutonium? Or will the D-T reactors be so high tech that "other countries" wanting one will require so much support and supervision that breeding Pu on the QT is not a concern?

Re:The tritium economy (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 6 years ago | (#21147007)

I love TOD and read it a lot, but I don't see how that can be a concern. I don't know about the doubling time for tritium but we don't use oil to make electricity in Europe or the US, so how long it takes to ramp up fusion is more or less unrelated to oil supplies.

Re:Here we go again. (1)

Usquebaugh (230216) | more than 6 years ago | (#21145863)

JET achieved break even? I thought the closest it came under operating conditions was Q=0.7 Anything else was result extrapolation?

ITER is going to have Q=10 when they haven't even got Q=1, an order of magnitude improvement. The only thing ITER is going to do is allow the current crop of fusion experts to retire in comfort. The one thing that signals to me that ITER is flawed is that they are working on sub-systems without having proved the main idea. Wasting money on engineering when research is still not finished. Basically, they got so much money they had to find ways to spend it.

Re:Here we go again. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21144721)

Not only that, but the aneutronic reaction is only part of what's going on. There's other reactions (with lower cross sections) also occurring, and those generate plenty of neutrons and other bad stuff, if you're doing the whole thing on an "industrial" scale. Unless you've got some magic way to keep the reaction products and everything else out of the system.

A cluster (2, Funny)

wanted (66025) | more than 6 years ago | (#21143769)

Imagine a Beowulf cluster powered by fusion energy.

Sounds like a Ford product (2, Funny)

CharAznable (702598) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144019)

In that case I'll call my own miraculous energy device the Taurus Escape.

exploding batteries (1)

doti (966971) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144291)

High temperatures of 1 billion Kelvin (100 keV) have been reached years ago.
I don't know about you, but I don't feel comfortable with of these on a cellphone in my pocket.

Prototype Images online ... (1)

mybecq (131456) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144393)

Here are some pictures of the focus [safercar.gov] fusion [safercar.gov] as it occurs. There is even a 2-second video [safercar.gov] of some tests.

(It would a lot funnier without this: [safercar.gov] )

Cool! (1)

Emesee (1155401) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144567)

People are so optimistic and positive here! I'm so impressed! smilez for everyone!

This isn't sustainable (1)

Azuma Hazuki (955769) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144619)

Hydrogen-boron fusion? Boron is fairly rare; the holy grail won't come until we get pure hydrogen fusion working (and even then, if it's deuterium-tritium we'll have a tritium problem).

Re:This isn't sustainable (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144807)

Boron is fairly rare

If it's that rare, wouldn't it have been overkill to use twenty-mule teams to haul borax out of the desert?

Without bothering to look it up, it seems like global consumption of a fusion fuel wouldn't be more than a couple of thousand tons per year. Boron compounds are a commodity that's currently consumed on the scale of a million tons per year.

Focus Fusion vs Polywell???? (1)

DrBuzzo (913503) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144881)

I'm a bit confused. Is this somehow based on the polywell concept: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polywell [wikipedia.org] I heard Dr. Bussard's name floated in there but it seems like it's a somwhat different process. In any case, I was excited when I first started reading the page. Then after a few passages I wasn't so sure. Not I'm even less so.

Re:Focus Fusion vs Polywell???? (1)

seven of five (578993) | more than 6 years ago | (#21145019)

No, Focus Fusion isn't based on Polywell. They are two different competing ideas. They both claim to be able to use p-B11 as fuel.

The idea behind Polywell is to magnetically concentrate electrons at the center of a spherical vacuum chamber, so they can attract positively charged fuel ions that will fuse at the center.

Focus Fusion also uses electric charges to create fusion butm (IIUC) the fusion supposedly takes place in zones called plasmids - tiny unstable regions of plasma.

Focus Fusion == crack the whip (1)

CustomDesigned (250089) | more than 6 years ago | (#21145431)

A layman's explanation is that focus fusion creates a long strand of plasma via initial energy input. Then, the strand is magnetically "cracked" like a whip, initiating a collapse from one end. A wave of magnetically confined plasma moves down the strand, gaining energy and getting smaller - just like a whip. If you do it right, the confined area reaches fusion temperature and density before it gets to the end of the strand - just like a whip goes supersonic before the snap reaches the end - the "crack" you hear is the sonic boom from the tip of the whip. The elegant part of this scheme is that electrons go sideways as beta radiation (losing some energy in xray radiation), and the newly created alpha particles all go in the same direction as the "snap" (since they were all moving that direction with the plasma pocket. So a good deal of the fusion energy is converted directly to electricity by providing nice targets for the electrons at the side and alpha particles at one end. The problems are getting the plasma whip to "crack" consistently, and not losing too much energy to the xrays.

Big Science effect (3, Insightful)

5pp000 (873881) | more than 6 years ago | (#21144991)

I have no idea whether there's any chance focus fusion could work. But I do believe it has probably been a terrible mistake to have put all our eggs in the tokamak basket for all these years. When you don't know how to solve a problem, it's critical to keep exploring alternative approaches, especially if they're radically different. I would love to see substantially more funding for focus fusion, electrostatic confinement fusion, sonofusion, and even good old Pons and Fleischmann style cold fusion. The total would still be small compared to tokamak funding -- and who knows, maybe one of them would work out, or maybe we would learn something that turned out to be useful in the tokamak.

While there certainly are crackpots out there, I think we're too quick to dismiss ideas outside the mainstream, too eager to congratulate ourselves for knowing the truth already when we clearly don't know all of it. We need to cultivate more humility in the face of the mystery of the unknown.

Exactly why this wont work. (3, Interesting)

mr squeegs (672526) | more than 6 years ago | (#21145205)

Ever since i saw the polywell http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polywell/ [wikipedia.org] 6 months ago, i have spent every waking moment researching these new approaches to fusion. Plasmas found in fusion typically display a maxwellian particle distribution. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maxwell-Boltzmann_distribution/ [wikipedia.org] This basically states that there are different numbers of particles containing a different amount of energy. The fact there are so many particles moving at different energies gives rise to a phenomena called Bremstrahlung radiation (german for braking)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bremsstrahlung_radiation/ [wikipedia.org] this is when particles collide with electrons giving up energy. Bremstrahlung and synchrotron radiation are two main energy loss mechanisms in fusion power schemes. Focus fusion is maxwellian and suffers from the above. Sadly the inventor of the polywell Dr. Robert W Bussard passed away on the 06/10/07. He was dearly mourned by the fusion community. In many of his papers and in his final interview http://www.americanantigravity.com/graphics/interviews/Robert-Bussard-Interview.wma/ [americanantigravity.com] he stated that only non maxwellian fusion regimes can hope to achieve above break even power. Tri alpha energy recieved 40million in venture capitol for its idea. Focus fusion are rallying for support, and the polywell has finally recieved some limited investment from the navy to repeat WB 6's results of 10^9 neutrons per second. The polywell is non maxwellian fusion regime that is basically a 150kev particle accelerator utilizing a virtual cathode. It is in my opinion the only machine that will achieve beyond break even power, yet despite this it has suffered from an crippling lack of investment and interest. As we speak now WB 7 is being constucted and should have results by May next year. If all goes well in the next few months expect big things. We are about to witness another Manhattan Project !

please edit mr moderator (1)

mr squeegs (672526) | more than 6 years ago | (#21145319)

all my links have (foolishly) / at the end. Please remove them so they can be viewed. thanks.

URL correction (1)

sterlingda (732011) | more than 6 years ago | (#21145813)

This story makes reference to a slashdot story about Focus Fusion [slashdot.org] I submitted a couple of years ago.

Unfortunately, the website (I'm no longer associated with it) referenced in that article is not in good shape, and that link is now dead.

The identical story, which was composed by myself, was also published at PESN [pesn.com] .

Whoever has the necessary access might want to update the link at Slashdot.

I might point out that the Slashdot community gernally belittled to story. I take some satisfaction in seeing that two years later the subject is featured at Google Tech Talks.

Focus Fusion is the first technology we reviewed when I founded the New Energy Congress [newenergycongress.org] a couple of years ago. It has remained in our top 100 [top100energy.com] since that time. See our feature page: http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Focus_Fusion [peswiki.com] (second return for a Google search on 'focus fusion'.)

A lot more practical problems than this guy lets o (1)

Werthless5 (1116649) | more than 6 years ago | (#21145895)

First of all, the B11 + p reaction is no more free of nuclear waste than a D+T reaction (Deuterium+Tritium conventional fusion). However, it is a fact that B11 is much more plentiful than Tritium (or Deuterium for that matter, whereas single protons are everywhere; that's everyday hydrogen). Anyone who has taken an introductory Nuclear Physics course should be able to explain why B11 + p -> 3H4 is probably not a fusion reaction that is viable for energy production. In fact, anyone can make the theoretical calculation. H2 + H3 -> He4 + n Using the masses of the reactants and subtracting the masses of the products gives us a mass difference of about u=0.01888299 (yes, the masses have been measured to that accuracy, better than that accuracy in fact) Converting to electron-volts, Q = 17.590 MeV is the energy released by this reaction. This is carried off as kinetic energy for the He4 and the neutron (wikipedia source says 17.6MeV released). The neutron carries away the largest chunk of this energy. B11 + p -> 3He4 Do the math again and you get a mass difference of about u=0.00877247 Converting to electron-volts, Q = 8.1716 MeV is the energy released by this reaction (with the wikipedia source saying Q = 8.7MeV, source unknown). Again, this energy is kinetic energy carried by each helium nucleus, although it's split evenly between the three nuclei. At 100% efficiency, a focus fusion reactor would generate less than half of the energy provided by conventional fusion. The efforts being made for conventional fusion are there because it's probably the best chance we have for long-term fusion energy. Tritium production is currently low, allowing the author to make the claim that we would quickly run out of fuel. He obviously hasn't done his homework (or is intentionally misleading). Once fusion becomes a reliable and economically viable source of power, harvesting tritium from the surface of the moon (where it is relatively abundant) will be a streamlined process. Other advances in technology will allow unprecedented production of tritium. It's the same case that we've seen for oil a hundred times before; people continue claiming that we'll run out of supplies in the immediate future, and then a few technological breakthroughs bring greater access to oil reserves than ever before. Obviously this trend can't last forever, but by the time our local resources of tritium are depleted (the moon and whatever we produce on the earth) we'll be able to harvest it from other celestial bodies. And other users have pointed out the author's dubious background. It would be wise to ask why he never completed a PhD, and perhaps the wisest are asking whether he even passed his qualification exams (exams covering undergraduate Thermodynamics, Classical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, and Electromagnetism to determine eligibility for a PhD program, taken sometime during the first or second year of graduate school). His lack of a PhD certainly does not mean he's stupid or untrustworthy, but I still can't take his research seriously. The best way to obtain research funding is by participating in a PhD program and then picking up a research position at any university. Everyone knows that, so why doesn't he? Asking for public donations is highly suspect. I don't trust him for this reason alone. The DoE is usually very willing to fund alternative energy research, even stuff that looks like it has little chance for success. He must have asked them for funding, and either received it and is trying to scam people into donations or they shot him down, implying that his research has even less credibility than I thought.

Gah, sorry about the block of text (1)

Werthless5 (1116649) | more than 6 years ago | (#21145921)

Oops, didn't hit preview that last time and then slashdot hit me with the 'ole "Wait a few minutes before replying" speech. Here it is again.

First of all, the B11 + p reaction is no more free of nuclear waste than a D+T reaction (Deuterium+Tritium conventional fusion). However, it is a fact that B11 is much more plentiful than Tritium (or Deuterium for that matter, whereas single protons are everywhere; that's everyday hydrogen).

Anyone who has taken an introductory Nuclear Physics course should be able to explain why B11 + p -> 3H4 is probably not a fusion reaction that is viable for energy production. In fact, anyone can make the theoretical calculation.

H2 + H3 -> He4 + n
Using the masses of the reactants and subtracting the masses of the products gives us a mass difference of about u=0.01888299 (yes, the masses have been measured to that accuracy, better than that accuracy in fact) Converting to electron-volts, Q = 17.590 MeV is the energy released by this reaction. This is carried off as kinetic energy for the He4 and the neutron (wikipedia source says 17.6MeV released). The neutron carries away the largest chunk of this energy.

B11 + p -> 3He4
Do the math again and you get a mass difference of about u=0.00877247 Converting to electron-volts, Q = 8.1716 MeV is the energy released by this reaction (with the wikipedia source saying Q = 8.7MeV, source unknown). Again, this energy is kinetic energy carried by each helium nucleus, although it's split evenly between the three nuclei.

At 100% efficiency, a focus fusion reactor would generate less than half of the energy provided by conventional fusion. The efforts being made for conventional fusion are there because it's probably the best chance we have for long-term fusion energy.

Tritium production is currently low, allowing the author to make the claim that we would quickly run out of fuel. He obviously hasn't done his homework (or is intentionally misleading). Once fusion becomes a reliable and economically viable source of power, harvesting tritium from the surface of the moon (where it is relatively abundant) will be a streamlined process. Other advances in technology will allow unprecedented production of tritium. It's the same case that we've seen for oil a hundred times before; people continue claiming that we'll run out of supplies in the immediate future, and then a few technological breakthroughs bring greater access to oil reserves than ever before. Obviously this trend can't last forever, but by the time our local resources of tritium are depleted (the moon and whatever we produce on the earth) we'll be able to harvest it from other celestial bodies.

Other users have pointed out the author's dubious background. It would be wise to ask why he never completed a PhD, and perhaps the wisest are asking whether he even passed his qualification exams (exams covering undergraduate Thermodynamics, Classical Mechanics, Quantum Mechanics, and Electromagnetism to determine eligibility for a PhD program, taken sometime during the first or second year of graduate school).

His lack of a PhD certainly does not mean he's stupid or untrustworthy, but I still can't take his research seriously. The best way to obtain research funding is by participating in a PhD program and then picking up a research position at any university. Everyone knows that, so why doesn't he? Asking for public donations is highly suspect. I don't trust him for this reason alone. The DoE is usually very willing to fund alternative energy research, even stuff that looks like it has little chance for success. He must have asked them for funding, and either received it and is trying to scam people into donations or they shot him down, implying that his research has even less credibility than I thought.

Why are you talking sh17 ? (1)

mr squeegs (672526) | more than 6 years ago | (#21146501)

"First of all, the B11 + p reaction is no more free of nuclear waste than a D+T reaction (Deuterium+Tritium conventional fusion)." How is 3 positively charged alpha particles considered nuclear waste ? They have charge unlike neutrons, so you can deaccelerate them with a positive electric field and generate direct power and no nasties "Anyone who has taken an introductory Nuclear Physics course should be able to explain why B11 + p -> 3H4 is probably not a fusion reaction that is viable for energy production." if you look at its fusion cross section p+B11 has a peak @ around 125kev. This is what the polywell is aiming for. Yes the gain is not as much as say D-T but thats a price im willing to pay for no neutrons. When it comes to a reactor design utility companies would consider viable in $ per kw you dont want neutrons. How is a reactor going to be economically viable if you have to replace the core every couple of months ? "His lack of a PhD certainly does not mean he's stupid or untrustworthy, but I still can't take his research seriously. The best way to obtain research funding is by participating in a PhD program and then picking up a research position at any university. Everyone knows that, so why doesn't he?" I don't have a PhD. I wish i could find a university in this hemisphere that is interested in aneutronic non maxwellian inertial electrostatic confinement with virtual cathodes but im afraid it does'nt exist. Big science and academia have let us all down in this field over the past ten years. So much so with the narrowmindedness of ITER i would even postulate a conspiracy of some sort. Brave individuals at companies like focus fusion, tri alpha inc and EMC2 are going to start a revolution. With a Phd or not.
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