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
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 PhD in physics from the University of California, Irvine.
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 U.S. 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 U.S. leadership in nuclear research.
Dane Andrews and Jeremy Adams are two high school students in the Chicago area who built a Farnsworth-Hirsch fusor in their garage. They were able to raise $2,016 dollars on Kickstarter and used 3-D printing to partially construct their device. In our interview, we walk amateurs through the nuts and bolts of building a fusor.
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, nor the people involved in the effort. Mr. Aung-Thwin co-founded EyeSteelFilm, a Montreal-based film studio, in 2000. He has produced more than 25 feature documentaries, including “Up the Yangtze.”
Mrs. Stephanie Thomas serves as vice president of Princeton Satellite Systems. In June 2017, the company was awarded a small National Aeronautics and Space Administration (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 Cohen's lab at Princeton. In our interview, we go through the specifications of this machine, its size, its performance and its implication for space flight. Mrs. Thomas holds master's degrees in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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 its founding, the group has educated roughly 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 U.S. high schools.
Dr. George Miley is a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois. He has devoted his career to finding breakthroughs in fusion research. Over the past five decades, he has worked on a 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 also was 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 bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from Carnegie Institute of Technology and received his master's and doctorate degrees from the University of Michigan in 1959. He met his wife, Liz, at Michigan and they now live in Illinois.
Mr. Sutherland is current CEO and co-founder of the startup CTFusion in Seattle, Washington. He is also a PhD student at the University of Washington, in Dr. Tom Jarboe's lab. The pair are spearheading 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.
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, Dr. Cohen has been performing research on plasma devices known as Field-Reversed Configurations (FRCs), studying their potential as power plants and rocket engines. In November 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 transitional period in his career, from his time spent as a manager on the U.S. 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 U.S. 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.
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, 2017). In our interview, we talk about the history of fusion research in America.
In this episode, we continue with Dr. Dean's story. This show opens with some man-on-the-street interviews; testing the general public's knowledge of fusion. We talk about the field's problems communicating with the public and how it affects lobbying for fusion in Washington. We then move on to talking about private efforts in fusion.
The first episode introduces you to this podcast. We start by exploring fusion's significance to mankind. We move on to the discovery of fusion and the first fusion reaction, at Los Alamos National Labs. I give my personal story and my start in the field as a graduate student working on inertial confinement fusion. Next, we go through the mechanics of ICF, the concept of ignition and the NIF machine.
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.
Dr. Stephen O. Dean co-founded the Fusion Power Associates in 1979, with Drs. Nick Krall and Alvin Trivelpiece. Dr. Dean has led this organization since its founding. The FPA has been providing coordination and communication among leading fusion research institutions for the past four decades. Dr. Dean 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 '50s.