Fusion - A New Hope?

A private company has just gotten a $50 million cash infusion for its fusion experiments.

A private company in Foothill Ranch that is reportedly experimenting with nuclear fusion power has raised $50 million in funding, according to a report from Socaltech.com.

Little more information was available Monday about the experiments at the company, Tri-Alpha Energy, or the funding itself. In the past, Socaltech reported, Tri-Alpha has received funding from Goldman Sachs, Venrock, Vulcan Capital and New Enterprise Associates.

Tri-Alpha's experiments, based on the work of UC Irvine plasma physics professor Norman Rostoker, have been rumored for years, but the company has not revealed the nature of its experiments to the public.

Solcaltech calls it a "stealth developer of advanced plasma fusion technology.

Well not exactly stealth. I reported on the work of Rostoker and Monkton in additions to something I first posted in November of 2007. Still, the fact that they are either getting new money or a release of promised money is good news. The more different ideas we explore on the way to practical fusion the sooner we will reach that goal. Because this is an experimental field. And as Einstein once said, "If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?"

Tri-Alpha Energy, Polywell Fusion, and Dense Plasma Focus are all working on the holy grail of fusion physics. The combining of Hydrogen (a proton when ionized) and Boron 11 which is a fusion reaction that gives off very few neutrons and whose reaction product is high energy (relatively) charged particles which would allow converting the resultant energy directly to electricity. This greatly lowers the cost of a power plant. Consider that for a fission (currently Uranium) power plant 80% of the cost is in the steam plant which is used to convert the heat output of the reactor into electricity or shaft horsepower in the case of a ship.

One other point. Consider the millions being spent on these fusion experiments with the billions being spent on ITER which is currently in big financial trouble. The reported fix is to steal money from small research projects in other disciplines.

Of course I like Polywell Fusion. You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

And the best part about Polywell? We Will Know In Two Years or less.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers.

posted by Simon on 07.26.10 at 08:59 PM



I've read you mention that brousard (spelling?) was interested in using pollywell for space, but does that mean he's interested in using it to GET to space, or to expand on space?

Example, continue using chemical to reach orbit, and the fusion output to generate additional thrust once outside the slavery of the gravity well?

I was just thinking on it, cuz Rand and a few others aren't fans of nuclear thermal launch and are iffy on the use of it once outside the well.

Douglas   ·  July 26, 2010 10:38 PM


To space is a possibility if it works. In space is definite if it works.

Dr. Bussard worked on nuclear rockets - Nerva IIRC.

M. Simon   ·  July 26, 2010 10:44 PM

Isn't this news a year or so old? Or did they get additional money?

TallDave   ·  July 27, 2010 10:33 AM

"We will know in two years or less"

Fusion has been "Just around the corner" for my entire lifetime. I am at the half-century mark and am still waiting.

Tolbert   ·  July 27, 2010 11:00 AM
Fusion has been "Just around the corner" for my entire lifetime

The problem with the fusion research about which you speak are the high temperature plasma involved and the magnetic fields required to hold it in place. Think of a ball of warm Jello being held in place by rubber bands. Not surprisingly, this path of research has been slow to develop. While I don't know if Polywell or other alternate path fusion research will pan out, being able to know definitely whether or not it WILL work is a good thing. 50+ years later we still don't know if high temperature fusion will work. There's a good possibility we may not know for another 50+ years. Frankly, I'd like to know quicker so that new avenues of research can be explored if the answer is "no".

physics geek   ·  July 27, 2010 11:23 AM

About three years ago Tri-Alpha raised $40 M. They seem to be researching Field Reversed Configuration colliding beam technology.

We should actually know if Polywell will pay off in a year or so.

Dense Plasma Focus may be a few years behind Polywell.

No idea how close Tri-Alpha is, and ITER wouldn't achieve break-even even if it was successful.

LarryD   ·  July 27, 2010 11:32 AM

@ Tolbert:

The Polywell crew will know whether their approach will work in a couple years; the promise is that their work will have a solid positive or solid negative, none of this "but maybe if we tweak it it'll work" stuff we've been hearing from the Tokamak people for decades.

Boobah   ·  July 27, 2010 12:09 PM

Polywell for the win!

However the US Navy has veiled all polywell research in secrecy. We won't know it works until an Aircraft Carrier or Submarine is launched that uses it /sarc.

Denver   ·  July 27, 2010 12:35 PM

Welllll, considering how these days that even toilet paper purchase is likely to get a SECRET classification, and TOP SECRET seems to hit the New York Times every 6 months, IMHO things will be so leaky 2 years from now that I expect that the success of the US Navy's Polywell Fusion will be reported in my local Thrifty Nickel within a week of it working or at least the Moscow Times.

toadold   ·  July 27, 2010 1:58 PM

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