Small scale fusion

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How close are we? For the last 70 years fusion has been 20 years away. The pundits are still saying the same thing, so will fusion power always remain a dream? Fusion power with a net gain is an engineering problem. When the materials and the electronics are available it will function. The interesting questions are around the shortcuts. It’s all about getting the atoms to stay close enough, long enough to actually fuse. Up until now this has taken more energy than the resulting fusion makes available. Yes we can create a fusion reactor, but it has a negative gain. Some new ideas may change that sooner than expected. Fire is a plasma, so is the energy generating reaction inside the sun. Fire takes oxygen out of the air and combines it with carbon to make CO2. These are chemical reactions which release subatomic particles called photons which we experience as light or heat. The difference between chemical reactions releasing subatomic particles, and nuclear reactions which also release subatomic particles is one of scale. Atomic scale or molecular scale, or turning a gram of material into watts or megawatts. If this scale is continuous and not quantised then the cold fusion folks may have something. Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) is the preffered name. CBS has a laymans overview. The other set of options for fusion on a budget are epitomised by the Bussard poleywell fusion project. These ideas are much closer to the conventional wisdom about what makes fusion possible, and unlikely as they may seem are still getting minimal funding. By using innovative ways to attack the confinement problem size and complexity can theoretically be reduced resulting in a fusion reactor that may fit in an automobile, giving it enough power to hover. Jetsons here we come!