The Alternatives

Posted by Rezwan Razani on Feb 07, 2012 at 09:52 PM
What do you think about this? Let us know in the comments below!

The term “Alternatives” is a catch all for a wide variety of lesser known fusion approaches.  Some alternatives can be classified as “Magnetic Fusion” and others as “Inertial Fusion.” Still others are hybrids and fall somewhere else along the parameter space of fusion.

Links for Alternatives

The Innovative Confinement Concepts Workshop (ICC2011) took place August 16 to 19, 2011 in Seattle Washington.  This conference is where many of the Alternatives present their updates.  Going forward, the group will now be called, “Exploratory Plasma Research”.  Links to previous workshops:

Alternatives starved for funds

How much is spent on alternatives?  Take a look at the graph in the US Federal Budget Process article. The small yellow points on the graph correspond to “Experimental Plasma Research” in the FY2013 Budget. This is the line item for fusion alternatives.  FY2011 had them at $24 Million, FY2012 took them down to $11M.  this budget takes them down to $10.5 Million.  A boost in this number would bring a lot more vitality and diversity to the fusion program at very little cost in the larger scope of the budget.

What is and isn’t funded by OFES?

Per Albert Opdenaker of the Office of Fusion Sciences:

In your letter, you recommend expanding the fusion program to a greater diversity of approaches.  Currently, the Department is already funding research on magnetic fusion concepts including tokamaks and tokamak innovations, spherical tori, stellarators, field reversed configurations, spheromaks, reversed field pinches, and rotamaks. 

Due to a change in program emphasis, concepts such as flow-stabilized Z pinches, levitated dipoles, and inertial electrostatic confinement are no longer being funded.

Beyond the various approaches to magnetic fusion, the Department is also exploring a large number of concepts for producing fusion energy by inertial confinement, including high-gain direct drive, fast ignition, shock ignition, heavy-ion fusion, Z-pinch inertial fusion energy, and magneto-inertial fusion.

The Department is always open to new fusion concepts when proposals are submitted to standard peer-review processes and if there are sufficient funds available.

As for aneutronic fusion:

For some time, the Department’s position has been that p-B11 fusion is more difficult than D-T fusion, which is already sufficiently challenging.

Who is funding Alternatives?

A few of the alternatives have had success in attracting private capital.  These include:

  • General Fusion (32 M$)  –Thick Liquid Liner Magnetized Target Fusion
  • Tri Alpha Energy (120 M$) –Fast ions stabilized colliding FRC
  • Helion –Compressed Colliding FRC
  • Woodruff Scientific –Compact toroid plasmas
  • Lawrenceville Plasma Physics (2M$) –Dense Plasma Focus
  • MIFTI –Staged Z-Pinch for Magneto Inertial Fusion
  • EMC2 (~5M$) –Polywell Inertial Electrostatic Confinement
  • Fusion Power Corporation –Heavy Ion Fusion

More information on private sector inroads and challenges » 

What projects need funding?

Quite a few.  I’m working on the inventory. Pitch in to help complete this, especially if you want your project listed.

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