Why did they invest in...

Discuss funding sources for polywell research, including the non-profit EMC2 Fusion Development Corporation, as well as any other relevant research efforts.

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Why did they invest in...

Post by polywellfan »

... Tri Alpha?

I mean, Tri Alpha have got large investments ( larger then 100 Million $), why can't EMC2 (Polywell) oder LPPX (Focus Fusion) acquire more investments?

Is there any way to make spending in these approaches more popular?

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Post by bennmann »

The biggest reasons polywell is currently ONLY funded through an ONR grant (basically):

1) Park has a deep seated desire to have as professional and reviewable results as possible (according to a source on this forum that I don't have the link for right this second). This limits him to smaller steps that others in academia can and are willing to follow. We WANT the tokamak community to come to the light, as many of them as possible.

2) The US Navy has a very very large interest in being the first and best fusion power generator in the world, the contracts hiding behind the contracts we see are of a much different kind. Think NDAs.

which leads to

3) Park and Nebel are really the most qualified right now and don't have the time or the ability (NDAs) to train anyone else up to their level. This point is debatable and pure conjecture.

Funding is hard to come by for polywell for those reasons. I wish Mark Suppes had more funding though - another kickstarter would probably do wonders but to what end? Even he would probably say he doesn't have the skill to make a WB-D for an indefinite amount of time.

This is mostly speculation based on just being here a little while.

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Post by MSimon »

3) Park and Nebel are really the most qualified right now and don't have the time or the ability (NDAs) to train anyone else up to their level.

This point is debatable and pure conjecture.
The first part is correct. But it doesn't matter. There are enough people with enough know how to set up at least 5 more first rate teams. Training time a couple of weeks per team.

The real problem is not physics. It is management, logistics. OK. You have a pile of money. What do you plan to do with it?
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

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Post by KitemanSA »

Didn't Dr B turn down a pile o bucks due to the strings attached? That's the rumor I recall.

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Post by Roger »

KitemanSA wrote:Didn't Dr B turn down a pile o bucks due to the strings attached? That's the rumor I recall.
DJ White of Earth Trust had an at least an email exchange with DR Bussard, Re: 3 million. There were strings attached though.
I like the p-B11 resonance peak at 50 KV acceleration. In2 years we'll know.

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Post by Tom Ligon »

Bussard also turned down Jim Benson of SpaceDev, due to strings.

There were other interested parties as well, which may have prompted the Navy to step back in before they lost the chance.

I see no reason to believe there are not still interested parties, maybe even more than before. I expect they would love to have the current projects proved out before they plunk down their dough, though. The questions remain:

1. Can they make it work?
2. If it does, how liberal will the Navy be in allowing commercialization?
3. Once (if) we know it will work, could others do and end run and develop their own versions?
4. And if all this comes to pass, how will the business develop? A monopoly to make a few owners filth rich? A government monopoly? A competitive environment? A liberal licensing of the technology?

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Post by Brian H »

Lerner of LPP is upset that he doesn't get gov't funding. "Be careful what you ask for!" sez I. Government strings are steely and twitchy. Observe the St. Vitus' Dance that NASA goes through.

His stance re private investment is that only profit-participation shares are for sale, no voting rights. Once a design for mass production exists, it is to be licensed, at low cost, to all available and interested parties for manufacture and resale/use, anywhere. It is then the licensee's responsibility to deal with local (national, state, etc.) regulatory environments.

The early adopters would have significant competitive advantage in energy costs, which ripples through the entire economy. Regulators elsewhere would be hard put to resist the pressure to approve production and installation.
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Just to Add...

Post by mattman »

Just to add....

The history of Big Innovations or Technology Jumps do not favor the large. They favor the small and nimble.

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Re: Just to Add...

Post by CharlesKramer »

mattman wrote:Just to add....
The history of Big Innovations or Technology Jumps do not favor the large. They favor the small and nimble.
That's an over-generalization.

Some projects need only a genius, and others need brute money. Fusion hungers for both.

The phrase "Manhattan-Project" (as a metaphor for speeding tech development) is over-used. The actual Manhattan project was more a matter of materials science (how to separate isotopes) than physics research. By the time the project started, there were multiple candidates for the materials problems (centrifuges, gaseous disfusion, and others) and it took brute cash to test them all. The physics question was already answered (get enough of the right stuff in one place, and boom!).

Some research isn't ready for such mass investment.

I don't have the science chops to back this up, but my sense is brute cash would be useful in fusion -- if not now, then soon.

Why not the same device in various configuations -- geometrically, and materials? What about different capacitor discharge rates? Different gases and fuel combinations? Different pressures and different insulators? Ever variable becomes more complex when you consider it doesn't exist apart from the other variables -- try 'em all.

The great majority of money spent would be wasted, at least in one sense (duplication, failures) but why wait 50 years to learn the secret is beryillium instead of copper, or to learn the scaling laws don't apply and a particular configuration is the sweet spot? Why wait 50 years to decide stellartors were the right idea, and go back to them (as Princeton tried to do recently until the latest NCSX was canceled)?

Industrial civilization may not have 50 years.

And once the basic fusion questions are answered (with a crude impractical device that generates net energy) the engineering occurs were big resources are undoubtedly needed. There will be millions more variables that affect durability, reproduceability, servicing, safety, fuel storate, transport and so on.

The earliest guy to figure this out was possibly Tom Edison. He invented very little -- his main contribution was the research lab where well funded teams with lots of resources could try to implement his crude sketches. His lightbulb worked partly because he figured out previous attempts didn't have good enough vacuums, so he hired someone to make a better vacuum pump (the core idea -- bulb, vacuum and electrical resistance across a filament -- was not Edison's). He also has the resources to test many filaments -- brute cash at work again.

Nikola Tesla, in comparison, did his best work (research and engineering) in his head -- and laughed at Edison for having the diligence of bee looking for a needle in a haystack when a few calculations would solve the problem. Helps to be a genius... but his type are rare, and if one exists in the fusion world, no one knows about it yet.

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Re: Why did they invest in...

Post by asdfuogh »

I think something that can't be forgotten is that there is also a use for FRCs outside of fusion. It's also used to study magnetic reconnection, plasma propulsion, etc. To get similar investors, I think we have to provide possible secondary functions of Polywell that would be in high demand, especially if there isn't enough "look, we have a shit ton of data from a bunch of universities and governments" (which Tri-Alpha does have, since FRCs have been and are currently studied by various universities and national labs).

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Re: Why did they invest in...

Post by mattman »

I spent several months looking at this. The comparison to the Manhattan Project is not a fair one. The invention of flying is a better analogy. Flying was invented by two guys with no college degrees. It's not just an innovation, it's doing something people think is impossible... For that the history of invention favors small teams on the fringe... Not large burecratic efforts. You can read about this in my post inventing the impossible.

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