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Thread: DIY Nuclear reactor

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    DIY Nuclear reactor

    So how long will it be before we can get plans to build a Do-It-Yourself nuclear reactor?

    Or perhaps someone knows where there are plans now?

    Web designer builds nuclear reactor in spare time

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    Quote Originally Posted by Atraveller;1751154
    [URL="http://www.news.com.au/technology/web-designer-builds-a-nuclear-reactor-in-spare-time/story-e6frfro0-1225883566928"
    Web designer builds nuclear reactor in spare time[/URL]
    I don't know what the guy built, but I'm pretty sure that you can't build a "fusion reactor" for 40,000 dollars. Scientists are having trouble creating viable fusion reactors despite decades of development work. I wonder if they are talking about "cold fusion"? Plus the article states that nuclear fusion doesn't produce radiation. I don't think that's accurate. It seems strange to me, but the news sources seem OK. Is there something I'm missing?
    As above, so below

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    It is complete **. I am pretty sure that the only factually correct thing in that article is that Brooklyn is in fact in New York.

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    Aren't they talking about Fusors and Polywell Reactors? Those aren't "complete **".
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polywell
    General request: If I ask a question, I'd like people who know about the subject to answer it with factual answers (preferably with references). Saying we don't know is fine if that's the case. However, I'm not really interested in guesses or personal opinions. Thanks!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Atraveller View Post
    So how long will it be before we can get plans to build a Do-It-Yourself nuclear reactor?
    Google Farnsworth–Hirsch Fusor. The article doesn't say, but that would almost certainly be what he's built. Quite a few people have built these, though most don't achieve fusion, and even if they do, the design will never produce more energy than it consumes.

    That article has almost no detail, and this bit is misleading:

    While it may concern those close to his makeshift lab, fusion reactors are perfectly legal in the US and pose no radioactive threat.
    If somebody used deuterium and managed to get significant fusion, there would be enough neutrons to be dangerous. In practice, most people who build these things don't bother with deuterium (they just use regular hydrogen), and they don't have hardware that can cause many (if any) fusion events even if they do, so it's not usually an issue.

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    original news story can be found here.

    That guy is building a IEC device. Those are fairly simple to build, and can be built from mainly off the shelf components. Fusion has been achieved in IEC devices for ages. the problem isn't in achieving a few fusion events. it is in getting more energy out than what you put in.
    If you want something a bit more tricky to build, you can try to build a polywell instead. It is a bit more complex, but it does away with most of the issues with the grid approach. It's not all that hard to build one of these devices. well within the capabilities of a decently sized university. Building one that could make net power is a tad harder. especially since the polywell crowd has put the bar a lot higher than the ITER crowd. While ITER is only trying to make D-T fusion to break even, the polywell guys are going for broke with P-B11 aneutronic fusion and direct conversion.
    If they succeed then we could see a 100MW polywell built for around 200 mill. mass produced units of this scale is very much possible and a massive rollout with favorable economy of scale can easily follow.
    Now that is what i would call disruptive technology. we can forget all the old arguments about power generation. with aneutronic fusion even the evangelical greens would be satisfied. altho I suspect they would probably find something else to complain about. it's what they do to make a living after all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Antice View Post
    original news story can be found here.

    That guy is building a IEC device.
    Yep, it's a Farnsworth Fusor. He is loading it with deuterium, and he claims to be getting a few neutrons.

    While ITER is only trying to make D-T fusion to break even, the polywell guys are going for broke with P-B11 aneutronic fusion and direct conversion.
    And P-B11 is much, much more difficult. One of the things with the polywell reactor, if they get anywhere with it, is that it would be quite a bit larger than a toy fusor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    Google Farnsworth–Hirsch Fusor. The article doesn't say, but that would almost certainly be what he's built. Quite a few people have built these, though most don't achieve fusion, and even if they do, the design will never produce more energy than it consumes.
    That sounds reasonable.The problem isn't what he's doing but the way the article was written. It makes it sound like he's doing something potentially dangerous and difficult to believe, that he's a mad genius of some kind. The truth apparently is a bit more mundane. And that explains why the article says it isn't dangerous.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    That sounds reasonable.The problem isn't what he's doing but the way the article was written. It makes it sound like he's doing something potentially dangerous and difficult to believe, that he's a mad genius of some kind. The truth apparently is a bit more mundane. And that explains why the article says it isn't dangerous.
    The article also mentions he is one of only 38 or 39 people who have built one of these units. Fusioneers they are called - and if only they could get a net output...

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    Polywells do sound really intriguing, I hope they're researched more (I think the ITER approach is possibly a much harder approach, and it doesn't really seem to be getting anywhere).

    Though I guess one problem is the need for Boron - "traditional" fusion needs hydrogen, which is much easier to find, but if (say) the P-B11 fusion gets off the ground, how long would Boron stocks last?
    General request: If I ask a question, I'd like people who know about the subject to answer it with factual answers (preferably with references). Saying we don't know is fine if that's the case. However, I'm not really interested in guesses or personal opinions. Thanks!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Atraveller View Post
    The article also mentions he is one of only 38 or 39 people who have built one of these units. Fusioneers they are called - and if only they could get a net output...
    Actually, that's apparently the number of amateurs that have claimed to be getting fusion. There are definitely more people that have built fusor demonstrators, though many don't get fusion (that's harder, and requires more dangerous high voltage hardware). There is a commercial version, and have been many professional lab versions over the decades that have achieved fusion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by EDG View Post
    Polywells do sound really intriguing, I hope they're researched more (I think the ITER approach is possibly a much harder approach, and it doesn't really seem to be getting anywhere).

    Though I guess one problem is the need for Boron - "traditional" fusion needs hydrogen, which is much easier to find, but if (say) the P-B11 fusion gets off the ground, how long would Boron stocks last?

    while Boron is fairly uncommon it will last for a very long time when used for fusion. The reason is simple. The energy released from each fusion and subsequent rapid decay chain is very easy to harvest. the process promises to convert fusion to electricity at an efficiency of close to 80%.
    Current Boron reserves are based only on the easy to get sources. Boron can be found as a trace element in seawater. and can be extracted with a positive EROI even from that. interestingly enough. so can Uranium and Thorium if one were to use them in MSR reactors with a full burnup cycle.
    However. extracting Boron and fission fuel from seawater is a long ways off. we haven't even started to look at second grade sources of either boron nor Thorium as of yet. they are investigating second grade sources of uranium however, But those are mine-able with a decent EROEI even with once trough reactors like the types we have today. Thorium otoh is considered an unwanted and troublesome waste product from rare earth mining. So Rare earth mining activities can cover the worlds energy needs in the form of Thorium fuel for hundreds of years all by itself.

    This planet has plenty of energy. the only thing lacking is a willingness to exploit it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Yeah. that is a much better article.

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    It is still **. A polywell isnt going to be a viable source. It will be way too leaky to ever be a viable energy source. You are also going to get large energy losses from waves induced in the plasma when you inject the D.

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    The fusor.net site claims that the real breakthroughs will come from these sort of projects rather than those great big multi-billion dollar projects. To me it seems more like people playing with paper aeroplanes because they have an interest in interstellar travel. But good luck to them.

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    Given his background, I would at least hope his version is stylish.

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    I put a glass of tapwater on my breakfast table this morning, With some of the ambient cosmic ray flux exceeding ~ 10 million electron volts, and that being the approximate binding energy of a neutron in either a deuteron or the isotopes of oxygen, I get a few neutrons, too. No coils. No electric current. No energy input from "green" sources, but rather from "Out-of-the-Blue", free energy supply.A few of these strays will join up with protons from the dissociation constant of water. DOH. Now, who wants to throw a couple of hundred millions my way too? I'm with Korjik...it's absolutely fraudelent. pete

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    With the ambient cosmic ray energy sufficient to pry loose (binding energy) nucleons from my morning glass of orange juice. I get a few neutrons too. The incoming cosmic ray, or secondary, will strike a water molecule, knock out a free neutron, or proton and with water having a dissociation concentration of ~ 10-7 Molar H+ ions, some of those can react with free neutrons, producing a fusion reaction in my juice glass for about 50 cents. That's a lot cheaper, "greener" deal than this nitwit article. I'll call my invention from "Out-of-the-Blue" Free Fusion Reactor to be had with every half gallon of orange juice you purchase.....and the rest of the nitwits who think Matt & Ben created that script can start up a Nitwit Fusion Company and sell stock. Whee! What a country.
    I'm with Korjik. **. pete

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    I have a feeling of deja vu



    4000th post!

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    I'm wondering what the connection is between what trinitree says here and what is going on in fusors. Two people asserting that "it's **" is not solid evidence that this will not or cannot work.
    General request: If I ask a question, I'd like people who know about the subject to answer it with factual answers (preferably with references). Saying we don't know is fine if that's the case. However, I'm not really interested in guesses or personal opinions. Thanks!
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    To those calling IEC fusion a fraud really do need to read better. Most Hobby fusioneers aren't asking anyone to fund them. they pay for everything themselves. The label Fraud is reserved for willingly or purposefully misleading others for personal gain. There is no lies in those articles as far as i can tell.
    ITER is far more deserving of that description than polywell or Farnsworth Fusors. Multi billion facilities built in order to manage to do what the Farnsworth achieved decades ago. a measurable neutron flux.
    Ironically. There are indications that Dr Buzzards claims for his WB-6 results are true. Once the Navy brought the project back under it's stewardship they put a sucessfull replication of the WB-6 results as a milestone for progressing with a bigger test article (WB-8) WB-8 is being built as we speak. so despite the Information embargo there is indications that the polywell may be a workable design indeed. Or at least that the design warrants further investigation at a higher power level.
    This is pretty cheap research as well. the Polywell design is not costly to build at all. If dr Buzzards scaling math is correct, then a 100MW Net power producing pollywell may cost as little as $200 million. This scaling issue is one of the things WB-8 is suposed to test.

    I am happy to withold any judgement til WB-8 is finished sometime next year. If the US Navy funds the next step then we will know for certain weither it works or not. the next step after WB-8/WB-8.1 is WB-9/WB-D. WB-9/WB-D is suposed to be a net power production unit. pricetag is estimated at $200 million. that is pocket change compared to what ITER has cost over the years.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Antice View Post
    To those calling IEC fusion a fraud really do need to read better. Most Hobby fusioneers aren't asking anyone to fund them. they pay for everything themselves. The label Fraud is reserved for willingly or purposefully misleading others for personal gain. There is no lies in those articles as far as i can tell.
    ITER is far more deserving of that description than polywell or Farnsworth Fusors. Multi billion facilities built in order to manage to do what the Farnsworth achieved decades ago. a measurable neutron flux.
    Ironically. There are indications that Dr Buzzards claims for his WB-6 results are true. Once the Navy brought the project back under it's stewardship they put a sucessfull replication of the WB-6 results as a milestone for progressing with a bigger test article (WB-8) WB-8 is being built as we speak. so despite the Information embargo there is indications that the polywell may be a workable design indeed. Or at least that the design warrants further investigation at a higher power level.
    This is pretty cheap research as well. the Polywell design is not costly to build at all. If dr Buzzards scaling math is correct, then a 100MW Net power producing pollywell may cost as little as $200 million. This scaling issue is one of the things WB-8 is suposed to test.

    I am happy to withold any judgement til WB-8 is finished sometime next year. If the US Navy funds the next step then we will know for certain weither it works or not. the next step after WB-8/WB-8.1 is WB-9/WB-D. WB-9/WB-D is suposed to be a net power production unit. pricetag is estimated at $200 million. that is pocket change compared to what ITER has cost over the years.
    cost is not an indicator of correctness

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    Unlike most everyone here, I call ** cause I know plasma physics.

    This is a device which magnetically confines electrons to create a virtual cathode to electrostatically acellerate and confine nucleii to get them to fuse.

    First, the polyhedral magnetic field configuration is going to be very leaky to electrons. To minimize this, you need to make the polyhedron with as many sides as possible, so that electrons cant slide out the corners. This will radically ohmic heat losses from the magnets. You may get around this a little by having superconducting magnets, but the tech to make hi-temp superconducting magnets isnt really here yet.

    Second, injecting the ions for fuel requires either injection inside the magnetic confinement, which would get eroded away, or accelerating the ions so that they can penetrate the confinement, which would cause alot of leakage when they slam into the far side of the confinement.

    Third, the streams of ions would excite more than a few wave states in the confined plasma. This is what is currently killing tokomak style reactors. everytime they fire the puppy up, they find another energy loss from an excited wave state.

    Fourth, even if you use an aneutronic fusion, you will still have alot of gamma and x-rays coming out of the system. If he really does get a decent amount of fusion going, he is going to glow in the dark

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    Bremsstrahlung has been defined as a major loss factor in a polywell. and a lot hinges on wither this issue is manageable or not. this is one of the items that is going to be tested in WB-8. it strongly affects the scaling factor. by itself it is not a deal breaker for polywell.
    As for electron losses trough the magnetic cusps. not so much an issue as you seem to think. the electrons are prevented from hitting the magnets trough the geometry of the device. the magnetic cusps (cusp used as meaning the intersection point of the magnetic fields) are situated trough the center of the magnetic circles, and in the open corners between the magnets. these are the major leak points for electrons. electrons that do not have enough energy to escape the magnetic field lines entirely and hit the wall of the chamber are promptly returned to the center of the chamber. This is clearly explained in dr Buzzards patent for the device.
    The theory about the formation of a wiffleball like magnetic structure in the center of the device is a bit more iffy. it's very hard to test wither such a structure forms or not, but it is not essential for achieving fusion in the polywell. the wiffleball hinges a lot on wither electrons express diamagnetic behavior when subjected to intense magnetic fields. AFAIK. this has not been proven outside of simulations as of yet. they may have done it with WB-7, but no information has been released to the public. so nobody outside of the per review panel and the team working on it knows anything about it at this time.

    All that we do know and has had secondary confirmation from dr Nebel on is that WB-7 results were positive, and that the project were moving forwards to the next stage. (WB-8/WB-8.1)

    Comparing IEC devices to that of a tokamak is like comparing an apple tree to a cat. cat's and apple trees are both living entities. and the similarities more or less ends there. Everything you think you know from a tokamak does not necessarily apply in an IEC device. their method of operation is different.
    The tokamak tries to make fusion from random movement in a thermal plasma confined in a giant donut shaped magnetic field. While the IEC devices accelerate ions directly against each other trough electrostatic attraction. 'The plasma is not behaving in a thermalized way. The ions are moving as individual particles. zipping in and out of the center of the device multiple times before eventually being lost through one loss mechanism or other (or fused to another ion). the plasma is not being squeezed together in any physical manner of speaking. in the polywell the plasma isn't even contained by the magnetic fields. the electrons are. the Ions are strongly attracted to the potential of the confined electrons. thus resulting in the ions accelerating inwards. any ion that does not impact another particle moves clear trough and swings back for a new fly trough. Thermalization do tend to occur after a while during operation. But there are solutions to this. like pulsing the device on and off to allow the thermalized plasma to be vacated from the chamber. How big a problem thermalization is going to be is still being investigated for polywells. it's one of those unknowns that must be looked into.

    That leaves us your word. An anonymous internet poster, and that of the late Dr buzzard and Dr Nebel, the guy in charge of finding out wither Dr Buzzard was onto something interesting or not. Not much to really go by now is there. Governments have funded crazier stuff than polywells. And with more money to boot. So in this case funding it IS the right thing to do. you never know what might happen if you actually test something out instead of naysaying because you think you know everything there is to know about fusors.

    This doesn't mean that i think other lines of research aren't worthwhile. If it was up to me more projects would get funding. not fewer. And I'm not betting the farm on fusion ever working out at all. I have a plan B and a plan C up my sleeve as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Antice View Post
    Bremsstrahlung has been defined as a major loss factor in a polywell. and a lot hinges on wither this issue is manageable or not. this is one of the items that is going to be tested in WB-8. it strongly affects the scaling factor. by itself it is not a deal breaker for polywell.
    As for electron losses trough the magnetic cusps. not so much an issue as you seem to think. the electrons are prevented from hitting the magnets trough the geometry of the device. the magnetic cusps (cusp used as meaning the intersection point of the magnetic fields) are situated trough the center of the magnetic circles, and in the open corners between the magnets. these are the major leak points for electrons. electrons that do not have enough energy to escape the magnetic field lines entirely and hit the wall of the chamber are promptly returned to the center of the chamber. This is clearly explained in dr Buzzards patent for the device.
    The theory about the formation of a wiffleball like magnetic structure in the center of the device is a bit more iffy. it's very hard to test wither such a structure forms or not, but it is not essential for achieving fusion in the polywell. the wiffleball hinges a lot on wither electrons express diamagnetic behavior when subjected to intense magnetic fields. AFAIK. this has not been proven outside of simulations as of yet. they may have done it with WB-7, but no information has been released to the public. so nobody outside of the per review panel and the team working on it knows anything about it at this time.

    All that we do know and has had secondary confirmation from dr Nebel on is that WB-7 results were positive, and that the project were moving forwards to the next stage. (WB-8/WB-8.1)

    Comparing IEC devices to that of a tokamak is like comparing an apple tree to a cat. cat's and apple trees are both living entities. and the similarities more or less ends there. Everything you think you know from a tokamak does not necessarily apply in an IEC device. their method of operation is different.
    and you show your ignorance. I compared one of the major loss mechanisms between the two machines, not the machines themselves. Shooting an ion beam through a stationary plasma is going to create massive amounts of instability to the plasma.
    The tokamak tries to make fusion from random movement in a thermal plasma confined in a giant donut shaped magnetic field. While the IEC devices accelerate ions directly against each other trough electrostatic attraction. 'The plasma is not behaving in a thermalized way. The ions are moving as individual particles. zipping in and out of the center of the device multiple times before eventually being lost through one loss mechanism or other (or fused to another ion). the plasma is not being squeezed together in any physical manner of speaking. in the polywell the plasma isn't even contained by the magnetic fields. the electrons are. the Ions are strongly attracted to the potential of the confined electrons. thus resulting in the ions accelerating inwards. any ion that does not impact another particle moves clear trough and swings back for a new fly trough. Thermalization do tend to occur after a while during operation. But there are solutions to this. like pulsing the device on and off to allow the thermalized plasma to be vacated from the chamber. How big a problem thermalization is going to be is still being investigated for polywells. it's one of those unknowns that must be looked into.
    You will notice that I never mentioned thermalization. But, since you brought it up, the fact that the fusion requires collision is going to lead to a good deal of thermalization losses. For every collision you are going to have alot of scattered particles. The amount of scattering may be small per pass, but this sort of machine is relying on huge numbers of passes. Heck, it is prolly why you get bremsstrahlung.
    That leaves us your word.
    Am I lying? If you think so, say so.
    An anonymous internet poster, and that of the late Dr buzzard and Dr Nebel, the guy in charge of finding out wither Dr Buzzard was onto something interesting or not. Not much to really go by now is there.
    Arguement from authority. and there is plenty to go on if you actually learn the physics.
    Governments have funded crazier stuff than polywells. And with more money to boot. So in this case funding it IS the right thing to do. you never know what might happen if you actually test something out instead of naysaying because you think you know everything there is to know about fusors.
    The government wastes money on more worthless projects so they should waste it on my pet project?

    I dont know everything about fusors. Unlike you, I have bothered to to learn physics tho, so I can make judgements on what they are doing based on learning, instead of 'I just like it'.

    This doesn't mean that i think other lines of research aren't worthwhile. If it was up to me more projects would get funding. not fewer. And I'm not betting the farm on fusion ever working out at all. I have a plan B and a plan C up my sleeve as well.

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    You aren't showing that you make judgement on anything else but your gut feeling that it wont work. Just because you do not have any insight on how to solve a challenging issue does not mean that it is impossible. others may very well have a much better handle on the issues than you have. Closing down a line of scientific experimentation because you think it's not possible is just not good enough for me. Nor for the navy luckily. especially not when respected physicists with more intimate knowledge of the system in question think they are onto something important. In any case we will get answers sometime next year at the earliest when the WB-8 testing is finished. If they move on to demonstrating p-B11 with WB-8.1 we have reason to hope for positive results. altho those wont be done until late 2012.
    The lack of information is the big drawback of having the navy fund it. why they chose to go that route is beyond me. but dr Bussard seemed to have had a preference for working for the Navy. the EMC2 company has continued that tradition.

    Unlike you I'm not claiming that it will or will not work. My stance is that it is deserving of investigative attention. the tokamak crowd has had several orders of magnitude more funding than any other fusion device research combined. they have still to present anything even approaching a useful power plant. as it is now a tokamak fusion plant will be so large and expensive as to be totally non-viable as a future power source even if they do make it work. We do not need a big white elephant of a power plant that costs tens of billions just to produce a small amount of power. if it cant beat good old fashioned fission on cost effectiveness then it's not worth using.

    Your comparison of loss mechanisms between tokamaks and polywell is false. the mechanism you describe for the tokamak does not exist for the polywell.
    1. The plasma in the polywell is not a thermalized plasma at all. the bremsstrahlung is from electron ion encounters. most notably it will be an issue when Boron is used as a fuel. this is due to the high cross section of Boron compared to the lighter fuel types. For other fuel types the bremsstrahlung is a non issue. tokamaks otoh do use a thermalized plasma. any issues with bremsstrahlung in tokamaks is unrelated to polywells.
    2. There is no magnetic confinement of the ions in the polywell. It's the electrons that are confined. the ions stay around because that big cloud of electrons in the middle is acting as a whooping big attractor for them. Any ion that gains enough energy to climb all the way out of the potential well will be lost. any that looses energy will get stuck further down the well. the ones that leave are a non issue. those that get stuck is a potential big issue. they can potentially poison the fusion reaction. That is the reason for calling it a polywell
    Tokamaks again do use magnetic confinement directly on the ions. so again this is a wildly different situation. hence very different loss mechanisms are at work.

    The method of operation and confinement between polywell and tokamak is so different that in fact the only thing they have in common is that they both have electromagnets in their designs. they both are fusion designs, and they share 2 of the possible fusion reactions.

    just to address your ion gun erosion issue while i am at it. the ions start out with very little energy. barely energized at all when they are inserted at the inner edge of the well. those that make it back to the ion gun will have lost all of their momentum when they reach it. it's that whooping big attraction thing going on again. it's like inserting a marble at the edge of a bowl. it will happily speed up on the way down, and slow down on the other side when it climbs back up the edge. The ions are going to be slow moving and therefore have very little energy at the top of the gradient. but when they wizz trough the bottom of the potential well they will be moving more than fast enough that any ion-ion collision that hit's at the right way will end up in a fusion event. There are no hot ions around the ion gun. optimally they should be very very close to being stationary.


    And are you lying? I did not claim you did. what I did claim is that you are an anonymous poster on an internet board. just like I am. authority from self is fallacious when one is being anonymous. Authority from known professional authorities in the field of dispute is not fallacious. It's a pretty normal way of argumentation between anonymous forum posters. your ad hom is also noted and ignored. unless you show what i have written that is in error then you have no case for asserting anything about my knowledge about the matter under debate. hence this is a fallacy on your part.

    For detailed info on the inner workings of the polywell there is several sources that i have used today. as per normal courtesy i am going to link them here.

    here is a paper from Dr Bussard detailing a lot of the mathematics around bremsstrahlung losses. (PDF)
    The final report with conclusions from the WB-6 by Dr Bussard.(PDF)
    I also did some searching at the talk-polywell forum to get some clarification of my understanding of some items of interest.
    Last edited by Antice; 2010-Jun-26 at 01:02 AM. Reason: shoddy spelling

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    I don't usually correct spelling, but please, it's Dr. Bussard.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    I don't usually correct spelling, but please, it's Dr. Bussard.
    Sorry about that. I keep having trouble with double s's for some reason. they tend to come out as z's no matter the word or name involved.
    It must be how the double s sounds like to me when spoken i think. I tend to write like i hear it. makes for lot's of interesting spelling mistakes. I may share the same alphabet. but it sure does not sound like it's the same one when spoken.

  30. #30
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
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    2,364
    I'm guessing that Dr. Bussard (and the other people working on this topic today) might know a bit more about plasma physics than Some Guy On An Internet Board.

    Regardless of what anyone here thinks, it's clearly something that people think is worth investigating. If it turns out to be a dead end then so be it, but it's better to try than to just dismiss it out of hand.
    General request: If I ask a question, I'd like people who know about the subject to answer it with factual answers (preferably with references). Saying we don't know is fine if that's the case. However, I'm not really interested in guesses or personal opinions. Thanks!
    Website: http://www.evildrganymede.net

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