Monday, June 27, 2011

Small Fusion Projects Run as Dark Horse Candidates

Small fusion startups like General Fusion, Focus Fusion, Helion, etc, may be some of the few hopes to reverse the dominant mood of energy scarcity and starvationism of our times. General Fusion is a small company near Vancouver, BC, that hopes to achieve fusion using "glorified jackhammers", with the assistance of Los Alamos National Labs.
"ITER and NIF are expensive and they take lots of energy," says Wurden. "We think there is a cheaper solution between the two."

...General Fusion aims to achieve net gain fusion experimentally in 2012. By 2018, it plans to complete a power plant prototype that would generate 100 megawatts, enough to power about 100,000 homes.

"We would like to be in a commercial stage of being able to take orders and build power plants by the end of the decade," said Michael Delage, General Fusion VP of business development. _CNN

General Fusion's founder, Michel Laberge, invented the oddball fusion concept 10 years ago, when he quit his day job to try to change the world.
A decade ago, it was Laberge's self-described mid-life crisis that brought him to a career crossroads. Despite success designing technology for printing direct mail materials, he remained unsatisfied. "I was cutting the forest and burying you under junk mail," he remembers. "I said, 'What am I doing here?'"
Laberge took a chance and left Creo to chase his longtime fascination with fusion.

"I had fusion on the brain," he recalls. "I sat at home on my couch for about six months, to the great despair of my wife, calculating all sorts of fusion schemes." Eventually, Laberge had his "aha" moment: a precision controlled piston that hammers giant shock waves into a magnetized sphere -- slamming atoms together hard enough to fuse and create energy.

The idea triggered investments in Laberge's young company, first from family and friends, then from venture capitalists including founder Jeff Bezos. So far, funding has totaled $32.5 million. _CNN
$32.5 million is not much compared to the many billions already spent on ITER, NIF, and other big fusion schemes. But more and more, it seems that the big schemes are meant more for milking large amounts of funds from the world's governments for as long as possible, rather than the actual creation of a beneficial technology.

That is unfortunate. Since the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Europe has backed away, and China has backed away, from planned nuclear expansion, and both seem to have embarked on a futile quest for more wind and solar power.

Around the world, government energy planners are at a loss when seeking replacement energies for fossil fuels -- should those fuels' supplies begin to run short. And no wonder, since it is the alarmism and obstructionism of other agencies of government, non-governmental agencies, and inter-governmental agencies, which is preventing the large scale development of abundant sources of energy.

As more and more forms of abundant and reliable energy are blocked by institutions of government, inter-government, and non-government (big lobbies and interest groups), science is forced to the extremes of research and development in a quest to find forms of energy which the extremists in power cannot possibly shut down. Good luck with that.

But small-scale fusion and small modular fission reactors are two approaches to abundant energy which could conceivably be built in emerging nations outside the reach of the government - faux environmental coalition of corruption. Once these approaches are proven and put into mass production, the energy starvationists of the world will be literally on the run.

A description of the General Fusion approach (see image above):
The outside of the spherical tank will be studded with approximately 200 pneumatic pistons. These pistons will impact the tank, inducing a spherical acoustic compression wave in the liquid metal that will travel to the centre of the sphere. As the acoustic wave travels through the lead and focuses towards the centre, it will become stronger and evolve into an intense shock wave. When the shock wave arrives in the centre, it will rapidly collapse the vortex cavity and the plasma confined within it, creating thermonuclear conditions in the process.

The pneumatic pistons will be controlled by a system that times their impacts precisely to create a symmetrical compression shockwave in the cavity. The control system will adjust the timing of individual piston impacts to control the shape of the cavity as it collapses; compensate for physical and thermal effects and variations within the generator; and, adjust for changes over time as equipment wears and parameters vary. _General Fusion



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