20 years away, and always will be

Point out news stories, on the net or in mainstream media, related to polywell fusion.

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CharlesKramer
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20 years away, and always will be

Postby CharlesKramer » Fri Dec 27, 2013 4:27 pm

5 years ago petroleum soared to unprecedented prices with unprecedented speed, seeming to validate the dire energy predictions of Matthew Simmons and others. The result was an unprecedented worldwide economic craseh which may have had more to do with energy than with banking.

At the same time, there was a surge in hope for practical, low-capital investment, decentralized, cheap and safe fusion energy. The big three (in fame, if nothing else) were probably Tri-Alpha (which, a few years later, was rumored to be on the verge of a big announcement), Focus Fusion (predicting proof of concept in a year or two) and of course Polywell (with Bussard claiming in a Google Talk that he *had* proved his approach, and all that was needed was to build a demo device).

Add 5 years:

-- Nebel gone from EMC2, Bussard dead

-- The claims made for Focus Fusion were at a minimum overly optimistic (never mind the practical problems to create a reliable many-times-a-minute pulse device for repeated and practical fusion)

-- TriAlpha's actual progress is as secretive (and possibly as non-existent) as ever -- except the rumors stopped.

I am aware of some modestly good news too. Possibly "progress" with Focus Fusion, and research that suggests p-11b fusion may produce 2x as many beta particles than previously hoped (increasing the chance of its value for electricity production). And the three efforts I mentioned and many others (and probably many that are not publicly known) are ongoing.

I'm not a scientist or (for that matter) a dedicated historian of fusion, and I will not quibble with anyone who feels the urge to re-write my summary. And, sure, in 5 years General Fusion (or someone) may make the announcement that will change history.

Correct me if I'm wrong (I would love to read some reasoned optimism), but don't all summaries lead to the same place? For now, the story of fusion remains what it has been since Spitzer's Stellarator of the 1950s: objects in the mirror are not as close as they appear. Unexpected problems continue to justify the joke "20 years away, and always will be."

Am I alone in feeling the hopes of 5 years ago were unjustified? The problem may be the understanding of the physics of fusion is fundamentally incomplete, or just wrong. The fact some fusion technologies are comparativelly cheap (single digit millions) makes all the more shocking there aren't more and better funded efforts.

Why not try Focus Fusion with 100 electrodes or 1000 or just 5? And each time with different alloys. That's the Tom Edison worker-bee approach (compared with Nikola Tesla who could do the math and figure out devices in his head) but fusion energy appears to have neither kind of genius at work.

CBK
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CBK
Blog: http://www.provideocoalition.com/ckramer

ladajo
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Re: 20 years away, and always will be

Postby ladajo » Fri Dec 27, 2013 6:18 pm

It may be better to measure knowledge progress over time vice success over time.

It may be fair to say that knowledge has advanced. Significantly in some cases. Does that mean it is going to worK? Nope, two different things.

I remain hopeful, and I point out that we are still on an exponential technology curve, and therefore I posit that as long as things are being worked on for real (ie. Not Rossi), then we are exponentially closer to a solution.

That said, it remains within the realm of possible that we may find ourselves plateauing in particle physics sometime down the road, and we will perpetuate a hlaf stepping process of never quite getting there. But, I think we are far from that now. We know there is still a bunch we don't know. I take that as a good sign.

Personally, I think Focus Fusion is going to hit a wall regarding materials.
I continue to think that EMC2 remains a viable bet.
Of Tri-Alpha, well it remains to be seen. But rumors seem to indicate they are still on an upcurve.
The development of atomic power, though it could confer unimaginable blessings on mankind, is something that is dreaded by the owners of coal mines and oil wells. (Hazlitt)
What I want to do is to look up C. . . . I call him the Forgotten Man. (Sumner)

crowberry
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Re: 20 years away, and always will be

Postby crowberry » Fri Dec 27, 2013 10:46 pm


Skipjack
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Re: 20 years away, and always will be

Postby Skipjack » Fri Dec 27, 2013 10:51 pm

Dont forget MSNW and their fusion engine and General Fusion. Both have been making steady progress. MSNW has done so on a comparably small budget.
Then there is the newcomer, Lockheed with their high beta device and the french team with their compact laser based system. So things are still interesting as ever, even if things have taken a lot longer than anticipated.

CharlesKramer
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Re: 20 years away, and always will be

Postby CharlesKramer » Sat Dec 28, 2013 2:55 am

"The JET tokamak has reached Q=0.65 and ITER is designed to reach Q=10."

I think expectations have been conditioned by semi-conductors, where chip consolidation and shrinking die size make improvement predictable and seemingly inevitable; just add more money.

Lyman Spitzer planned a fusion demo machine in the 1950s; but it didn't work out. Fusion has never worked out -- so far. It always looks close (a bigger machine, an injection of a little more energy, a tweaked configuration, use of different materials) but for every advance there has been a new obstacle.

The NiF fusion approach is following that pattern -- every new generation of device (NOVA, Shiva, the current NiF) -- is supposed to be the real deal, but it's like Bullwinkle promising "watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat." Presto, magico, alakazam!

But no rabbit.

NiF cost $5 billion OVER its original budget (which was in the billions) + $300m a year to operate. Perhaps fusion would have been better off if that money had been spent making a 1,000 dense plasma focus devices bloom, but no one knows what will work, and so far nothing has. The implication is fusion theory is just flawed or incomplete or both.

But not everything that is promising can be accomplished with more time and money. Fuel cells have had tons of research money and remain impractical for most uses (including for electric cars); and there are many other examples of "close, but no cigar" (for example, IBM's failure with bubble memory).

The stakes are so high, and the potential payoff so giant, I am surprised fusion has not gotten more research money. I certainly would favor giving it funding priority over just about everything -- not because success is inevitable, but because of the cost of failure.
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ladajo
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Re: 20 years away, and always will be

Postby ladajo » Sat Dec 28, 2013 4:36 am

The development of atomic power, though it could confer unimaginable blessings on mankind, is something that is dreaded by the owners of coal mines and oil wells. (Hazlitt)

What I want to do is to look up C. . . . I call him the Forgotten Man. (Sumner)

CharlesKramer
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Re: 20 years away, and always will be

Postby CharlesKramer » Sat Dec 28, 2013 8:03 pm

Are other companies investigating Polywell as a potential fusion generator?

If not, why not?

Isn't Polywell an old technology already proven useless? That's the skeptic view.

I'm not trying to start a heated debate; I love the idea the search for power for electric warships having as a side-effect a Polywell revolution in energy production. The military seems to "get" peak oil, and apparently (with an eye to long range logical needs) has considered coal-to-liquids and organic (grass to aviation fuel) sources. Perhaps the Navy's investment in Polywell is part of that.

But Bussard claimed Polywell's problems have been solved, and the research to prove him right are supposedly cheap.

Only he hasn't been proven right, and Polywell may prove to be ust another link in a chain (Farnsworth, Hirsch, Meeks, Bussard) that goes nowhere.
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CBK
Blog: http://www.provideocoalition.com/ckramer

kurt9
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Re: 20 years away, and always will be

Postby kurt9 » Sat Dec 28, 2013 8:21 pm

I hear what you guys are saying here. But I think this time its different.

The case of space launch is instructive here. There have been one or two private efforts to develop space launch since the late 70's, almost always flaky, and commercial space launch never went anywhere for like 30 years. Starting about 6-7 years ago, about 5 or so start-ups appeared. I told myself at the time that this is enough of them that one or two of them are likely to make it. My prediction turned out true within 4 years of this when SpaceX started putting up satellites for fee. I think the situation with fusion power is like that of commercial space launch about 2005. There are enough start-up players, with real people not flakes, that one or two of them are likely to be successful by the end of this decade.

Same for LENR. Yes I Know many of you think this is hogwash. However, again like hot fusion, there are enough start-ups, run by real people (forget about Rossi for now), that the phenomenon is real and that one or two of them ought to make it as well by the end of the decade.

Its been my experience that when there are enough start-ups in a particular field of endeavor, meaning at least 5 of them, that one of them does manage to make it within 5-7 years. I've seen this pattern in everything from bio-technology to materials science (scanning probe microscopy) to realize that this is a repeatable pattern.

BTW, I know Tri Alpha Energy is "bending metal" because I applied for a control system engineer job with them about 2 years ago, and was rejected because they had already hired someone. This job was for someone to design and program PLC-based control systems for their equipment.

Skipjack
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Re: 20 years away, and always will be

Postby Skipjack » Sat Dec 28, 2013 10:49 pm


mvanwink5
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Re: 20 years away, and always will be

Postby mvanwink5 » Sat Dec 28, 2013 11:15 pm

If a reasonable person were to look at General Fusion's development and funding approach, pessimism would not make sense. Complete optimism though also would not be believable as the investors have not thrown a billion bucks at the project (yet). Instead funding has been judicious and staged as progress is made, but each stage is fully funded. So, General Fusion is making prudent speed. As far as I can see, the same can't be said for Polywell's funding, and I base that opinion on the skimping on electron gun size. Also I don't put much confidence in Convergent Scientific's model predictions on Polywell scaling, because if a model was able to reliably provide that level of prediction with any confidence there would be no need for a physical device.

So, fusion pessimism makes no sense nor does champaign cork popping optimism. For the dark horse fusion efforts, except for Polywell, the efforts are prudently fully funded and that bodes well for their possible success. I think we will have a significantly better read on prospects in a year for General Fusion (full scale plasma injection being the hold up).

Just my take on it.
Near term, cheap, dark horse fusion hits the air waves, GF - TED, LM - Announcement. The race is on.

Skipjack
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Re: 20 years away, and always will be

Postby Skipjack » Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:58 am


CharlesKramer
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Re: 20 years away, and always will be

Postby CharlesKramer » Sun Dec 29, 2013 1:48 am

[quote="Skipjack"NIF was never meant for fusion for energy. The concept is by design completely useless for that[/quote]
Thanks. That's what I suspected - just 'cause it's SUCH a giant machine, all for imploding such a tiny target. And to produce steady energy it would need to be a pulse device, loading and imploding new targets probably multiple times a minute (I have no idea how often).

Still... to my non-physicist brain the failure (so far) of NiF may signify a bigger problem. NiF was *expected* to work --- based on theory that was honed on decades of similar laser experiments (NiF's many predecessors, "Shiva" etc.)

NiF's problems may be NiF-specific (how to aim lasers for a symmetrical impolsion, or whatever the problem is), or it could mean something is wrong with fusion theory. Am I being unfair or unduly pessimistic?

I grew up in the 1960s -- I'm still waiting for the flying cars promised by the Jetson's and Popular Science Magazine. :)

CBK
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CBK
Blog: http://www.provideocoalition.com/ckramer

Skipjack
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Re: 20 years away, and always will be

Postby Skipjack » Sun Dec 29, 2013 3:47 am


CharlesKramer
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Re: 20 years away, and always will be

Postby CharlesKramer » Sun Dec 29, 2013 11:59 pm

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CBK
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Skipjack
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Re: 20 years away, and always will be

Postby Skipjack » Mon Dec 30, 2013 1:24 am



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