Who I Have Talked To
The goal of this podcast is to explain a broad spectrum of fusion concepts in plain English. This means that many more people will need to be interviewed. It is an immense task. If you would like to be interviewed, please reach out. The show needs more experts in Tokamaks, Magnetic Mirrors, Field Reversed Configurations, Stellorators, The Levitating Dipole, Magnetized Target Fusion, Inertial Confinement Fusion and many other topics. I would also like to talk to policy wonks, military leaders and entrepreneurs about the potential impact of fusion. This is a long term project - so check back!
Dr. Stephen O Dean leads and co-founded Fusion Power Associates in 1979 with Drs. Nick Krall and Alvin Trivelpiece. The FPA has been providing coordination and communication among leading fusion research institutions for the past four decades. He holds a PhD in Physics from the University of Maryland and is the author of "Search for the Ultimate Energy Source." In our interview we discuss the history of fusion research stretching back into the 50's.
Dr. Simon Woodruff has been the president of Woodruff Scientific Inc since founding it in 2005. Woodruff Scientific is a rare example of a business that has succeeded by filling a niche in fusion research. WSI provides custom pulsed power, diagnostics, magnets, simulation tools and training. The company works on contract with partners in the national laboratories, startups and universities. Since October of 2018, Dr. Woodruff has also been CEO of Compact Fusion Systems, a company he co-founded with Dr. Peter Turchi and Dr. Ronald Miller to develop a fusion reactor based on the liquid metal compression of a field reversed configuration. In this interview, Simon talks about the challenges associated with commercializing fusion, the advantages of Compacts’ reactor design and his thoughts on government support for fusion research. Dr. Woodruff received his doctorate in plasma physics from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology and has worked at the University of Kent and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He currently holds an affiliate faculty position with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his wife and young children.
Dr. Jaeyoung Park serves as the head of Energy Matter Conversion Corporation (EMC2) in San Diego California. Dr. Park received a doctorate in Astrophysical Sciences from Princeton University in 1997 and is the author of over 50 peer-reviewed publications. He worked as research scientist and project leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory for 10 year before joining EMC2. Our interview lays out the company’s recent efforts to numerically simulate the Polywell fusion concept using a high performance computing code. The EMC2 team has partnered with KU Leuven in Belgium to utilize ECsim code. The ECsim, developed by KU Leuven, is a well-optimized plasma code that can handle up to a billion or more particles. The code can run over thousands of CPUs and has the unique capability of preserving the total energy of the system. The collaboration helped EMC2 to improve their understanding of Polywell system and to develop approaches and designs for the next generation Polywell devices. This experience showcases a potential transformation in fusion research: where HPC plasma codes offer physicists the ability to conduct extensive tests before building a machine.
Professor Thomas J. Dolan is author of “Fusion Research” (1982) and editor of “Magnetic Fusion Technology” (Springer, 2013). He served as Head of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, Physics Section. Dr. Dolan has worked at universities (Missouri, Illinois); national labs (LLNL, LANL, ORNL, INL); in industry (Phillips Petroleum); and in Canada, Taiwan, Russia, Austria, China, Japan, India, and Korea. His new book is “Molten Salt Reactors and Thorium Energy” (Elsevier Press, 2107). In our interview, we talk about the history of fusion research in America.
For 44 years, Dr. Sam Cohen has worked as a physicist at Princeton University. He currently serves as director of the Plasma Science and Technology program at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. Since 1998, Sam has been performing research on plasma devices known as Field-Reversed Configurations (FRCs), studying their potential as power plants and rocket engines. In November of 2013, his small group announced that they had held an FRC stable for 300 milliseconds - a world record, by a large margin . Our interview covers a transition period in his career, from his time spent as a manager on the US ITER effort to his personal experiences rubbing shoulders with physics luminaries to the beautiful physics and practical aspects of field-reversed configurations. Dr. Cohen offers advice on how the US government could accelerate progress in fusion by re-invigorating research into small, clean fusion reactors, an activity now proceeding almost exclusively with venture capital support.
Dr. Joseph Khachan is associate professor in the school of physics, at the University of Sydney. His peer reviewed publications cover fusors, space thrusters, polywells, solid-state materials and teaching methods. Our interview talks about how Dr. Khachan got started in fusion in 1992, by working on the TORTUS tokamak, headed by Rod Cross. We then dive into his early work with fusors, and what he saw when he examined a fusor with a spectrometer. Working with fusors led him to create a new kind of space thruster which led him into polywells and exotic IEC designs. Dr. Khachan received his PhD in Physics from the University of New South Wales.
Mr. Sutherland is current CEO and co-founder of the startup CT fusion, in Seattle Washington. He is also a PhD student at the University of Washington, in Dr. Tom Jarboes' lab. The pair are spear heading the development of the Dynomak fusion reactor concept. The dynomak evolved from a spheromak - but it uses a brand new method of plasma heating. Our interview walks you through the Dynomak approach.
Dr. Michl Binderbauer is the architect of research and development of TAE Technologies and is a co-inventor of many of the company’s technological advancements. Dr. Binderbauer has dedicated the past two decades to evolving the knowledge and technology of TAE. He is an expert in reactor kinetics, equilibrium, and stability of advanced beam-driven Field-Reversed Configurations and aneutronic fusion systems. Recently, he has focused on reactor physics, engineering and enabling technologies, and a wide array of applications of the core TAE technologies — from medicine to isotope production and chemical processing. He holds more than 40 issued and pending U.S. patents and numerous international technology patents, and he has authored or co-authored many peer-reviewed publications in the areas of plasma physics and fusion. Dr. Binderbauer holds a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California, Irvine.
Dr. Ralph Moir has had a long career as an innovator in nuclear power. Currently, Dr. Moir is a thorium consultant at Vallecitos Molten Salt Research, in Livermore California. Since 1968, he has worked at LLNL in a variety of roles from staff scientist to group leader. Dr. Moirs’ career has touched direct energy conversion, fusion reactor design, magnetic mirrors and molten salt reactors. He was also personally close with Edward Teller and Dick Post before they passed away. In our interview we zoom through his personal and professional fusion history; we discuss thorium and the potential impacts of nuclear power on climate change.
In 2011, Rezwan Razani founded the Fusion Energy League, which educates the public and policymakers on the value of fusion research. The group is a nonprofit which advocates for a broad set of fusion approaches, concepts and research. Contributions are welcome. In our interview, we talk about the challenges of pushing for fusion research in Washington and the impact fusion could have on climate change.
Dr. George Miley is a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois. George has devoted his career to finding breakthroughs in fusion research. Over the past five decades, he has worked on wide variety of approaches. Dr. Miley is most proud of his support for more than fifty doctoral candidates while at the University of Illinois. Our interview touches on a diverse set of topics, including: fission pumped lasers, Russian espionage, inertial confinement fusion, field reversed configurations, basic plasma theory and direct conversion. Dr. Miley was also nice enough to share personal stories about other famous fusion researchers. His current research is focused on an inertial electrostatic based space engine. Dr. Miley got his BS in Chemical Engineering from Carnegie Institute of Technology and received a Doctorate and Masters from the University of Michigan in 1959. He met his wife Liz at Michigan and they live together in Illinois.
Dr. Terry received a degree in physics from the MIT, followed by the MA and PhD from Johns Hopkins, in 1968, 1975, and 1978 respectively. In 2007, he retired after 22 years as a plasma physicist at the Naval Research Labs, in Washington DC. Previously, he worked at Jaycor, which was a fusion development company and served as a principal investigator for DARPA. Currently he consults on several fusion topics, including the dense plasma focus.
In 2010, Carl Greninger founded the Northwest Nuclear Consortium, which is a high school club that allows teens to work directly with a nuclear fusor. Since it's founding, the group has educated rough 36 students who - collectively - have won $600,000 in college scholarships. In 2013, the teens took second place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, in the physics category. In our interview we discuss the fusor and its' power to excite young people in the pursuit of fusion. We also discuss plans to expand the program to US high schools.
Mrs. Stephanie Thomas serves as Vice President of Princeton Satellite Systems. In June of 2017, the company was awarded a small NASA grant to develop a fusion-driven rocket engine. At the heart of this approach is a field reversed configuration. This is a loop of plasma, which is self-contained by its’ own magnetic properties. The company is building off the progress made by Dr. Sam Cohens’ lab at Princeton. In our interview we go through the specifications of this machine, its’ size, its’ performance and its’ implication to space flight. Mrs. Thomas holds a MS and MB in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT.
From 2009 to 2011, Dr. Klein served as CEO and co-founder of FP Generation. This company raised $3 million in venture capital to develop a fusion concept, in Boston. In our interview, we discuss his time developing the concept, raising funding, running the company and the experience gained when the effort failed. Dr. Klein received a PhD in plasma physics from Columbia University in 2006 and worked on the Joint European Torus, as a post-doc at MIT, until 2009.
In 2017, Mila Aung-Thwin co-directed the film “Let There Be Light” - a documentary about fusion research. The film followed work done at ITER, General Fusion and Focus Fusion. In our interview, we focused on his impressions of fusion research as an outsider, the scope of the film and communicating fusion to the public. Mila points out that most people have never heard of the research behind fusion, or the people involved in the effort. Mr. Aung-Thwin co-founded Eyesteel film, a Montreal-based film studio in 2000. He has produced more than 25 feature documentaries, including “Up the Yangtze.”
In our interview, we focus on Ali Abdous’ experience with the physics of Stellorators. Professor Abdou received a BS in nuclear engineering from the Alexandria University in 1992. He received a MS in nuclear engineering in 2002, a MS in computational sciences in 2003 and a doctorate in nuclear engineering in 2005, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Professor Abdou has over 20 years of experience in the nuclear science, engineering, plasma processing and nanofabrication. His fusion experience was obtained during his master from the Fusion Technology Institute at University of Wisconsin Madison, working in the ARIES project. Dr. Abdou also worked on the Madison Symmetric Torus and did his PhD research on the HSX Stellarator at Madison. He also worked as senior process development engineer at Intel.
In 2008, Robert Steinhaus retired after 34 years working in nuclear research, at the Lawrence Livermore National Labs. During his career he worked on the US nuclear weapons program and on magnetic mirrors. Mr. Steinhaus has been advocating for fusion and fission concepts for several years, as part of the Thorium Energy Alliance and The Fusion Energy League. In our interview we talk about his LLNL career and the links between fusion research and its' connections to US leadership in nuclear research.
Since 2010, Mr. Blair has served as the business end of the fusion startup Convergent Scientific Inc. This company raised $200,000 to develop a fusion prototype in Bellingham Washington. In our interview, we talk about the challenges associated with raising venture capital in fusion research.
Dane Andrews & Jeremy Adams
Dane and Jeremy are two high school students in the Chicago area who built a fusor in their garage. They were able to raise $2,016 dollars on kickstarter and used 3D printing to partially construct their device. In our interview, we walk amateurs through the nuts and bolts of building a fusor.