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Brian Westenhaus

Brian Westenhaus

Brian is the editor of the popular energy technology site New Energy and Fuel. The site’s mission is to inform, stimulate, amuse and abuse the…

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Will 2012 be the Year of Nuclear Fusion?

The third leading technology for 2012 would be fusion.  While commercial units are not in the offing for the year there is a good prospect that Eric Lerner’s Focus Fusion theory could show a practical method of the achievement.  So far the team at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics has tracked right up the theory proving the preamble tests support that the completion would result in net power out.

Focus Fusion is just one.  The Robert Bussard theory of developing the Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC) method being taken forward by EMC2 Fusion Development Corporation, if past half way on the latest scale test regime.  At the end of October 2011, the WB-8 device had generated over 500 high power plasma shots. EMC2 is conducting tests on Wiffle-Ball plasma scaling law on plasma heating and confinement.

The WB-8, rather affectionately called the Wiffle-Ball, builds on previous concept-demonstration bench top versions of plasma wiffle balls.  The eighth generation covers research, analysis, development, and testing to validate the basic physics of the advanced gaseous electrostatic energy concept.  The question, “Does it Work?” seems to be answered as this generation’s stated purpose is to provide the U.S. Navy, the granting and funding agency, with data for potential applications of advanced gaseous electrostatic energy. The short-range goal is to demonstrate a fusion plasma confinement system for shore and shipboard applications.

One weakness now that Dr. Bussard has passed away is the personnel that are at the leading edge of the technology “escape” to other efforts.  The latest example is Dr. Richard Nebel who has been “lost” to Tibbar Technologies. Dr. Nebel’s experience and know-how is in great demand, but from the outside we find a bit of very encouraging news – a small experiment is being constructed at Tibbar Technologies using its Bismark Device to test concepts of the work in electrostatic confinement thermonuclear fusion.

The risk is in the continuity of skills. The team members and Dr. Nebel in particular have real hands on working experience in building a Wiffle Ball IEC device.  Sometime, in the coming year we should hear that the project completes, and that some, most likely vague expression of the results, will or won’t lead to another funding round (someday).

But we must all keep in mind what and where the research is, its about building a device that works that can be used to go to net output scale.  The confidence is at hand to think Dr. Bussard’s idea will go to net power.  Is the engineering ready to get one built? That is the question.

That is where Dr. Lerner and Lawrenceville Plasma Physics are seeking to get to with the Focus Fusion device.  The Bussard theory has eight generations and years of pretty much on and some off time getting to this point.  Keep in mind there is a British effort paralleling the Bussard research with their own innovations.

That makes Dr. Lerner’s theory and scaling effort all the more compelling.  At Lawrenceville there is a stream of news releases and constant attention to followers and devotees.  There you can follow along, almost in real time, about the progress.

It looks like the Lerner theory will make net power and the testing to date tracks that supporting the likelihood it will work.

In the simplest possible terms the Focus Fusion idea is to use nature’s tendency to swirl fluid in motion and those fluids when drawn faster and tighter to get hotter and concentrate the energy until there is enough pressure and heat that the a fuel introduction will make thermonuclear fusion events.  Get the fuel in there fast enough to the proportion of energy needed to make the system go and you’ll get net power.

Dr. Lerner’s fundamental problem is this has never been done before.  The design ideas while they seem optimal at the start must be tested and those tests will reveal the actual value and an avalanche of data that will help direct further design.  That cycling is underway.  The next matter are the materials used.  Again the optimal ideas will be tested and cycles will dump data and new designs will need built.  This all takes time and resources.

Then the reality has to be considered.  Lerner’s idea will create one of the universe’s hottest spots, albeit a very tiny one.  That environment is as much or more of a challenge as proving the theory.

The progress so far is stunning.

There is also the TriAlpha effort, a silent group, working at another vision of confinement we think is similar to IEC.  Plus the astonishing General Fusion idea that simply uses raw compression to set off the fusion events.

From here LENR or cold fusion, fuel cells and fusion offer 2012 the best hopes for the century’s leading energy and fuel future.  All three are at thresholds of entering a far wider audience than specialty media and bloggers.  We may well get a shot at ordering something truly revolutionary in powering our lives.

2012 is looking good, and there are lots of other technologies that may very well leap into this class of potential.

It’s already a Happy New Year!

By. Brian Westnhaus

Source: A Look at 2012's Big Hopes - Fusion




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Leave a comment
  • Troels Halken on January 08 2012 said:
    Cold fusion?Well, this article can't have been written by a physicist...
  • sherry T on January 08 2012 said:
    Kind of doubt that too, but its been interesting following articles about fusion this year. Lots of new stuff coming on line.

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