IEC Bussard fusion has gotten $10 million in funding and it seems that the contract is semi-open in that the Navy will keep funding EMC2 fusion on a cost plus basis, where the project is in the range of $10 million.
Previously IEC fusion had received sufficient funding, $8 million, for work to settle theoretical questions of viability over the next 18-24 months
In a very optimistic situation both IEC Fusion and the Mach Effect for Propulsion could both prove to be workable and could be shown to be clearly workable (but not fully developed) within 2-5 years. Full development could take many more years but they could expand to large and well funded projects starting within 5 years.
Paul March had a Mach-2MHz experiment which had a maximum thrust of close to 5.0 milli-Newton, which is more than good enough to demonstrate the effect if people could be persuaded that all other mundane error sources had been removed from it. There were some legitimate complaints about how Paul performed that experiment. Paul March will try the experiment again, but this time doubling the number of capacitors and build it into a self contained, hermetically sealed and battery powered test article and see how that fairs. [This from a comment by Paul March in the nasa flight forums]
A comment on a advanced nasa propulsion forum by Paul March speculates that IEC fision and Mach Effect Propulsion could be very compatible.
Using a WB-XX reactor as our starting point, we have the required energy source that we could then modulate its output (d^2E/dt^2) by applying a time varying E-field to the already existing 100kV E-field potential well used to retard and covert the kinetic energy of the escaping fusion helium ions into electrical potential energy for the ship. If we then bulk accelerated the fusion core plasma and these escaping helium ions at the appropriate MLT’s 2X the E-field rate by differentially modulating the existing B-field virtual grid coils in a particular direction, we could have one hell of a dual use technology with full 360 degree thrust vectoring in the X, Y, and Z axes.
Using much more massive He ions for our basic M-E element would be preferable to using electrons, especially with the kinetic energy these He ions have with this dual use circumstances. And it doesn't cost us anything to accelerate them.
The interaction between the power generation and propulsion functions could end up being a MAJOR show stopper for this dual use approach, especially in regards to the WB electron flux since they are so light weight in comparison to the He4 ions. However, once we've established that the WB-XX fusion reactors have met our power generation expectations, and that the M-E is a real propulsion technology to be pursued, then we should perform a detailed analysis of the interactions between the two subsystems to see if there is a happy operational middle ground where both of these subsystems can perform their intended functions without too many comprises for either. That point is not now, but it is still a future possibility.
Dr. Neble has to show us that the WB-8 & 8.1 work as advertised and the M-E team needs to conclusively demonstrate that the M-E is real and engineerable into large scale space drives. If and when those two gates are successfully navigated, we perform a trade study on merging their two functions into one light weight reactor/drive unit. If it turns out that this is not possible due to the technical issues discussed and any other issues found along the way, we optimize a two major subsystem M-E space drive that also provides power to the rest of the ship loads.
Mach Effect Propulsion
One-G constant acceleration and deceleration space drive would mean Earth-to-moon in 4 hours, Earth to Mars in 2-5 days, Earth to Saturn in 8-9 days. Advanced nuclear fusion could achieve performance close to this range as well by using microexplosions (external pulse propulsion variants of project Orion).
With fusion microexplosions and/or possible advanced mach effect multi-g acceleration is possible up to 100-Gs. The level of acceleration for a manned vehicle would be limited by what the occupants could endure. However, if the humans were enhanced to be able to withstand higher acceleration and were encased in a breathable fluid then 100-G acceleration could be possible. 100-G constant acceleration would mean Earth to Mars in about ten hours.
the Mach Effect for propulsion is proportional to the applied vxB Magnetic-field
The CUBE of the applied Cap Voltage
The CUBE of the MLT Operating Frequency
The SQUARE of the Cap dielectric constant
The thickness of the Cap Dielectric
Proportional to the total active Dielectric Mass
But Inversely Proportional to the Cap Density
Here is an introduction to the inertial electrostatic fusion concept.
IEC fusion uses magnets to contain an electron cloud in the center. It is a variation on the electron gun and vacuum tube in television technology. Then they inject the fuel (deuterium or lithium, boron) as positive ions. The positive ions get attracted to the high negative charge at a speed sufficient for fusion. Speed and electron volt charge can be converted over to temperature. The electrons hitting the TV screen can be converted from electron volts to 200 million degrees.
The old problem was that if you had a physical grid in the center then you could not get higher than 98% efficiency because ions would collide with the grid.
The problem with grids is that the very best you can do is 2% electron losses (the 98% limit). With those kinds of losses net power is impossible. Losses have to get below 1 part in 100,000 or less to get net power. (99.999% efficiency) [thanks to M Simon for the clarification]
Bussard system uses magnets on the outside to contain the electrons and have the electrons go around and around 100,000 times before being lost outside the magnetic field.
The fuel either comes in as ions from an ion gun or it comes in without a charge and some of it is ionized by collisions with the madly spinning electrons. The fuel is affected by the same forces as the electrons but a little differently because it is going much slower. About 64 times slower in the case of Deuterium fuel (a hydrogen with one neutron). Now these positively charged Deuterium ions are attracted to the virtual electrode (the electron cloud) in the center of the machine. So they come rushing in. If they come rushing in fast enough and hit each other just about dead on they join together and make a He3 nucleus (two protons and a neutron) and give off a high energy neutron.
Ions that miss will go rushing through the center and then head for one of the grids. When the voltage field they traveled through equals the energy they had at the center of the machine the ions have given up their energy to the grids (which repel the ions), they then go heading back to the center of the machine where they have another chance at hitting another ion at high enough speed and close enough to
cause a fusion.
Highlights of Bussard's Google Talk on IEC Fusion
IEC Fusion for Dummies
Polywell fusion discussion board
The next IEC fusion record could be a 100 MW version.
Successful development of IEC fusion would transform space travel and energy
There was speculation that the next IEC fusion experiments would be 100MW versions. This is not clear based on the procurement request.
Robert Bussards 2006 Google Techtalk on IEC Fusion 92 minutes
Analysis of Bussard Fusion Videos
IEC Fusion versus Tokomak Fusion