January 28, 2010

Inertial electrostatic confinement for cheap energy and Space Propulsion

George Miley has been researching nuclear fusion propulsion and has designs for inertial electrostatic space ships.

This article previously discussed the funding of an organization that is investigating nuclear fusion for space propulsion. This information is being directly verified and correct information will be posted as soon as possible.

The information in this article on George Miley's earlier work is correct.




- Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC) fusion power using either D-He3 or P-B11 fuels can provide a high-power density fusion propulsion system for deep space missions, but a large multi-GW thruster is required which is a long term development program.

- As a first step, we propose a progression of near-term IEC thrusters, starting with a 1 -10 kWe electrically-driven IEC jet thruster for satellites followed by a small 50-100 kW IEC fusion thruster module for next generation large deep space spacecraft.

- The initial electrically-powered unit will be a novel multi-jet plasma thruster based on a spherical IEC technology using electrical input power from a solar panel. It would offer major advances in system power density and eliminate use of increasingly scarce fuels like Xe.


IEC is ideally suited for burning advanced fuels (D-He3 and p-B11) due to
beam-like energy and low electron temperature. Energetic fusion products escape the well and can undergo direct conversion to electricity

Star Mode Inertial IEC is simple and lightweight Beams focus through large openings – minimizes interception of grid wires and gives a good focus despite deviations from spheroid shapes.

- The preliminary design of a small 100-kWe p-B11 space power unit is available along with the possible extension to a thruster.

- Difficulties to be addressed include being able to scale up to higher
powers needed for more aggressive future missions. The objective
would be to use a fusion powered IEC for next generation power
units in the 100-kWe range to replace current HCTs.

- This multi-jet plasma thruster offers other advantages for the next
step. The technology underlying the electrically-driven IEC jet unit
underpins the development of a next generation fusion driven unit for
larger deep space spacecraft.

• Modular approach takes advantage of inherently small size of IEC units
• In a Magnetically Channeled Spherical Array (MCSA) Linked units
have improved confinement and guide fusion products out.
• Null-field region created within each pair of Helmholtz coils confine
plasma (confined by peripheral magnetic field and no grid structure)
• Cusp field configuration provides fluid stability
• Radial leakage is recirculated back into confinement region
• Axial leakage is retrapped in neighboring cells



George Miley Background

Professor Miley is internationally recognized for his innovative work on advanced fuel ICF target physics, and for contributions to innovative plasma devices, including the first direct electron-beam-pumped laser, and first visible nuclear-pumped laser, a flowing plasma focus, and the STAR mode IEC as a fusion neutron source for NAA. He and his students performed one of the first series of target compression experiments at the U of Rochester Laser Laboratory. Professor Miley has also made important research contributions to the field of nuclear engineering, ranging from fission reactor kinetics to direct radiation energy conversion and fusion technology. As a result of his seminal book, “ Fusion Energy Conversion” (1976), he is known as the "father" of advanced fuel fusion. His pioneering work on Nuclear Pumped Lasers opened up that field in the 1980s and gained international recognition.

Professor Miley is one of the most prolific researchers in the University of Illinois College of Engineering. Among his published works have been six books, over 230 articles in journals, and another 550 articles in conference proceedings. As a Director of NPRE's Fusion Studies Laboratory, Professor Miley's interests have ranged from fusion science and technology to direct radiation energy conversion. He is considered a pioneer in nuclear-pumped laser research and is widely recognized for innovative research in fusion. Professor Miley holds 19 patents.

Professor Miley is the author of over 190-refereed technical papers and is the editor or co-editor of a dozen books and proceedings. He is a Guggenheim Fellow, Fellow of four professional societies (ANS, IEEE, AAIA and APS), and holds the prestigious Preparata and Edward Teller Medals.

• A pioneering book on Direct Conversion of Nuclear Radiation Energy, a work that initiated the field of nuclear batteries.

• The first electron beam diode pumped laser (1969).

• The first visible Nuclear Pumped Laser (1976).

• A Seminal book, Fusion Energy Conversion (1976), that initiated serious research on advanced fuel fusion.


Philo Farnsworth, inventor of electronic TV, first proposed what we call Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC) fusion in the 1960s. Early theory and experiments were supported by DOE, but then abandoned as increased effort went into magnetic confinement systems like Tokamak.

However, interest in IECs was revived by R. W. Bussard's concept for a magnetic-assisted IEC in the 1990s, followed by Miley's development of a small gridded device operating in the “Star” mode. The Star mode IEC was used commercially by an automobile company as a D-D neutron source for neutron activation analysis in industrial quality control.

Recent work by Miley and several other researchers has focused on fusion power applications with aneutronic fusion burning p-B11 as the ultimate goal. The IEC power plant potentially offers the very important advantages. These include a simple mechanical structure, a very high power-to-weight ratio, a velocity-space confinement scaling which offers modest size units, and a non-Maxwellian distribution enabling aneutronic fusion.
Successful scale up of present experimental devices to energy breakeven faces crucial physics issues including stability of the electrostatic well structure, prevention of space charge build-up effects and improved ion confinement time.

• The first comprehensive theory for solid-state gamma battery (1980).

• Development of the concept and detailed physics for a spark ignited inertial confinement fusion target using burn propagation into deuterium (1990).

• Discovery of Star Mode operation for inertial electrostatic confinement devices, opening the way to small lab scale neutron sources and industrial applications (1994).

• Theory and experiments in low energy nuclear reactions created in multi-layer thin-film electrodes (1997).

• Theory and experiments on a unique phonon-driven solid state x-ray laser (2002).

• Concept of an inertial electrostatic confinement neutron source driven sub-critical fission reactor for use in student laboratories (2003).

• Co-inventor of a regenerative fuel cell that employs hydrogen peroxide and offers major advantages for applications (2004) space power.

Video with George Miley talking About a Fusion Torch to Breakdown unwanted Material






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