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  • The Advent of Clean Nuclear Fusion: Superperformance Space Power and Propulsion

    Paper number



    Dr. Robert W. Bussard, EMC2, United States



    Success has been achieved from research and development work conducted since 1986 on a unique concept for creating and controlling nuclear fusion reactions, in an inertial-electrostatic fusion (IEF) device of special, quasi-spherical configuration.  Final design insights were proven by experiment in Oct/Nov 2005, from which full-scale designs can be determined.  This allows demonstration of full-scale, clean, nuclear fusion power systems, based on use of pB11 yielding 3 He4.  This demonstration will require about 200 M (USD) over 5 years, with an IEF machine of 2.5-3 m in diameter, operated at over 100 MW.  It will open the door to superformance, practical, economical spaceflight, as well as clean fusion power, and mark the end of dependence on fossil fuels.  The main point of this paper is to present these results of EMC2’s 20 years of study.
    This concept derives from early work (1960’s) of P. T. Farnsworth and R. L. Hirsch (F/H), who used spherical screen grids biased to high potentials to energize and accelerate ions to the center, where fusion occurred.  Ion collisions with grids gave unavoidable losses, limiting power gain to less than 0.001.  The EMC2 device avoids these by using energetic electrons, trapped in a quasi-spherical polyhedral magnetic field, to generate a spherical electric potential well.  Ions dropped into this well at its edge will accelerate towards its center increasing in density and kinetic energy, collide at high energy, and make fusion.   By this unique design, the power loss problem is shifted from grid collision of ions (F/H) to that of electron transport losses across high B fields to the confining magnets.  The two competing phenomena, power loss and fusion generation, are thus decoupled by the basic design approach, and each can be optimized separately.
    The concept was invented by Dr. R.W. Bussard in 1983, patented in 1989, and studied by EMC2 since 1986.  Design studies of IEF-based space propulsion (AIAA Prop. Conf, 1993,97; IAC, Graz, 1994, Toulouse, 2001) show that this can yield engine systems whose thrust/mass ratio is 1000x higher for any given specific impulse (Isp), over a range of 1000 to 1E6 sec, than any other advanced propulsion means, with consequent 100x reduction in costs of spaceflight.
    Abstract document


    Manuscript document

    IAC-06-D2.8.-C3.5.-D3.5.-C4.7.05.pdf (🔒 authorized access only).

    To get the manuscript, please contact IAF Secretariat.