Is Polywell Fusion Close To A Breakthrough?

As the 'race' to achieve fusion continues, one firm, EMC2, has filed a patent for their technology – polywell fusion.

I've covered this approach to fusion before, one first proposed by the late physicist Robert Bussard and patented by him in 1985. (The new patent improves upon Bussard's original patent.) Unlike the two main types of fusion reactors, tokamak (toroidal magnetic 'bottle') and inertial confinement (lasers), polywell takes a different approach, using electrostatic fusion in a reactor that has been dubbed “Wiffle Ball” since the magnet loops make the reactor resemble a great big wiffle ball.

Will this approach lead to a breakthrough and bring fusion onto the playing field for power generation? Once can only hope. It has shown considerable promise while costing a fraction of either the ITER (tokamak) or NIF (laser) programs. Until recently it even received funding from the US Navy, one of the biggest users of nuclear power. Funding ceased due to budget cutbacks but the Navy is still interested in polywell fusion.

Should it come to fruition, fusion power can quickly overtake fission nuclear power, particularly since the cost to build a polywell reactor will be a fraction of the cost of even the newer Generation III and IV fission reactors.

I have no doubt the usual suspects will find some reason to be against polywell fusion even though it could well be the answer to all of our energy needs while eliminating the problems of high level long-lived spent nuclear fuel at the same time. I expect someone will decry how it will greatly deplete the supply of deuterium (we'll only have a few million years supply) and boron, the fuels used in the polywell reactors.