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Polywell is still moving ahead

There is finally some news on the Polywell fusion tests that are under funding by the Office of Naval Research. This, as you may remember, is the project started by Dr. Bussard before his death and the one ‘small fusion’ project most of us take very seriously.

The report that it operated the way it was supposed to says a great deal to those of us who have been following them for the last several years.

14 comments to Polywell is still moving ahead

  • Damn Dale, this time you beat me to it.

    Not an announcement of success, but an announcement of no failure yet.

  • Navy funds it in order to power its boats. Guess what happens if it works some day ? You won’t hear about it anymore. Classified. And poof, gone.
    But the USN will have its rayguns, non kinetic weapons (or direct energy beam)…

    Well maybe I’m pessimistic. Hope I’m wrong.

  • Imae,

    All the work and information gained up to the death of Dr Bussard is in the public domain, and it is too easy and cheap to build a polywell. Hell, there are hobbyists putting basic systems together.

    If this just disappeared off the radar in the manner you suggest it would just be too easy for someone to replicate the work so far. Any large corporation could finance the work so far from petty cash.

    Besides, you think that if warships started appearing with new and secret power systems the penny wouldn’t drop? You think the air force wouldn’t want to put something this size into its larger planes? A power source which could make a brick not just fly but keep it up there forever?

    Secrecy is not as easy as you may think. And you think the other arms of the government wouldn’t raise a stink?

  • JadedLibertarian

    I firmly believe that cheap, clean energy is a possibility. I also firmly believe that it will never be allowed to happen.

    One of the primary functions of government is managing competing interests in a land of scarcity. If we lived in a world of abundance, people might start getting idea that they didn’t want politicians telling them what to do.

    Take nuclear power for example. Thorium is cheap, plentiful, less radioactive as waste, is not suitable as a nuclear weapon and if subduction disposal were made workable, what waste there was could be safely and permanently disposed of.

    So what do governments do? They use uranium precisely because it is expensive, dangerous and can be used to create WMDs. They then shove it in a salt mine somewhere and wax lyrical about how poisonous it is.

    Why? Well, I would suggest they want nuclear energy to be expensive and deny it large scale acceptance. They want people to be afraid of it, and they want to create work for an army of regulators, both before and after the nuclear fuel is used. That they can extract barbarous weapons with which to ratchet up the fear is a bonus.

  • There is the Rossi’s E-Cat also in the game.
    The last weeks were very interesting. Not only Rossi wrote that they have a deal in Greece for 1 MW test plant and a production facility. He wrote he have a deal in the US too. He wrote there are 97 e-cat working on 4 locations in the world an some in the US. He is busy, now, to build the e-cats needed for the test plant in Xanthi in October.

    Projected costs are less than 1 US cent for KWh with a 2000$ for KW installed (full cost, I suppose, in an industrial setting).

    The test conducted by Prof. Levi (University of Bologna) and Essen and Kullander (Sweden) reduced the skeptics to talk of conspiracies and incompetent measurements.
    The tests were simple measures energy in, energy out. Not easy to fake with kW and kWh in plays for hours.

  • @JadedLibertarian:
    The USG does not manage competing interests; it is blown about by them.

    We use uranium for power because, having used uranium for nuclear weapons, it is easier than thinking and cheaper than lawyers. My question is to what degree anti-nuclear hysteria is (1) indigenous to the US, and to what degree it is/was stimulated by (2) the Saudis and (3) the dead hand of the USSR.

  • APL

    DA: “and the one ‘small fusion’ project most of us take very seriously.”

    I think I recall you commenting that you thought Polywell was not going to work, have you changed your mind?

    If so why?

  • Laird

    I’d like to hear more about Rossi’s E-Cat system. I googled it and read some Q&A, but not being an engineer I don’t know what to make of it. Does anyone here know anything about it?

  • Mike Lorrey

    Polywell won’t be flushed down the black hole of secrets. Fusion power is far too important to keep relegated to navy vessels. It means far more to future US national security to be able to end the need for foreign oil and send all those in nasty parts of the world who are funding our enemies back to living in tents and herding camels and unable to fund anything more than one wife.
    We send over 300 billion dollars of GDP each year to countries we dont like much, and who dont like us much, while turning around and borrowing hundreds of billions from another country we dont like much, China, to pay for all the crap they sell us. Furthermore, fusion energy will be much MUCH cheaper than any other energy source, so electric rates should drop in coming decades by up to 75%, which will have additional benefits to economic growth. Ending the petrodollar gravy train and lowering our electric rates will put America’s fiscal house back in order for the remainder of the 21st century.

  • Tedd

    Guess what happens if it works some day ? You won’t hear about it anymore. Classified. And poof, gone.

    Can I then expect my friends who are currently working on one of these projects to mysteriously disappear, never to be heard from again?[/snark]

    Honestly, it amazes me the nonsense some people believe. Life is not a bad movie.

  • JadedLibertarian

    Can I then expect my friends who are currently working on one of these projects to mysteriously disappear, never to be heard from again?

    I suspect if they wanted rid of it that is not the way they could go about it. As you say life is not a movie.

    If the government was concerned that Fusion power could truly end energy shortages (and thereby much of their role of rationing) I would wager they would kill it in the following way:

    – Vauge innuendos about safety and scare stories leaked to the press

    – Setting up a regulatory body staffed by thousands of fanatical greenie paper shufflers.

    – Massively increasing construction and running costs through the establishment of “standards”.

    – Require new fusion reactors to obtain licenses before construction.

    The final result would be the USA would have maybe 5 fusion reactors, and the electricity they produce would cost more than solar.

  • Tedd


    That’s also the methodology they employ for technologies they want to promote. “Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.”

  • Thon Brocket

    The E-Cat is a little black dot out on the horizon that’s getting bigger and starting to look kinda swan-shaped. Very much worth watching.

    The bit I like is the inventors’ implied FOAD to the science establishment, whose position (when they’ve deigned to notice it at all) is “Sorry, old boy, but it’s obviously fraudulent. It hasn’t even been peer-reviewed, and anyway cold fusion was bebunked a generation ago”, rendered in the usual sneeringly superior tones of the senior common room. Rossi and Focardi are simply moving quickly towards putting the technology out there with paying customers, in classic libertarian style. If the customers keep buying because the black box works, then the Peer-review Perfessers of Pomposity are no more relevant than fruit flies; and boy, would I enjoy watching them suck that up.

    We’re told that there are a number of prototype / pilot units already operating. No investments are being solicited (indeed all offers and enquiries are being rejected) which lessens the likelihood of it being a scam. The first publicly-accessible installation (for a 1 MW heating plant in a Greek factory) is due to be commissioned in October / November 2011. We’ll see.

    And if it is the Real Thing, watch the government tax-gangsters dive on it like gannets.

  • The real game changing of Rossi’s E-Cat is it is small and cheap. It will make seasteading much more cheap like it will do for space travel and much more.