May 11, 2011

FUSION GOES FORWARD FROM THE FRINGE:

A Navy-funded effort to harness nuclear fusion power reports that its unconventional plasma device is operating as designed and generating “positive results” more than halfway through the project.

The latest quarterly update from EMC2 Fusion Development Corp. comes amid other signs that seemingly oddball approaches to fusion research may not be all that oddball after all. Just last week, General Fusion announced that Amazon.com’s billionaire founder, Jeff Bezos, was part of a $19.5 million investment round to further the company’s plan to take advantage of a technology called magnetized target fusion. Another billionaire, Paul Allen, is an investor in Tri Alpha Energy, which is working on its own hush-hush fusion project (and occasionally publishing its research).

EMC2 Fusion doesn’t have tens of millions of venture capital to play with — but it does have a $7.9 million Navy contract to test a plasma technology known as inertial electrostatic confinement fusion, also known as Polywell fusion. The idea is to accelerate positively charged ions in an electrical cage to such an extent that they occasionally spark a fusion reaction, releasing energy and neutrons. The concept was pioneered by the late physicist Robert Bussard, and carried forward by the EMC2 Fusion team in Santa Fe, N.M.

Faster, please, to coin a phrase.

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