Friday, December 04, 2009

Fusion Takes Baby Steps

Two articles: this one from Brian Wang, and this from Alan Boyle, look at some recent developments in and around controlled nuclear fusion research.

Brian's article looks at DARPA research development of a chip-scale proton accelerator, "laser-pumped proton beams", that might eventually lead to a hand-held fusion device. Particle accelerators at that scale are nothing to sneeze about. Hand-held fusion devices might conceivably bring about a few insignificant societal changes as well.

Boyle's article looks at recent progress in IEC Bussard Polywell fusion, Lawrence Livermore's laser inertial fusion, and the ITER magnetic confinement tokamak project. Boyle also links to a few lesser known fusion projects.

Essentially, the large scale fusion projects are geared to eating up large sums of research grant funds. The smaller scale projects such as IEC Bussard are squeaking by with a few million here and a few million there -- showing just enough positive results to keep the trickle of funds flowing. Who should you bet on -- small or large project? Al Fin oddsmakers say potential payoffs per dollar invested suggest going with the small scale.

So when can we expect honest to goodness fusion power to the grid? Anytime between 2015 and 2115. That gives you a 100 year window to aim for.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Ronduck said...

Al Fin wrote...

The smaller scale projects such as IEC Bussard are squeaking by with a few million here and a few million there...

This sounds a lot like Wikipedia. Wiki survives on small donations from its users, despite being one of the greatest information resources available to the common man since WW2. On the other hand Harvard has a multi-billion dollar endowment, and has been accused of looting the Russian economy in order to make its endowment even larger.

4:38 PM  

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