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.
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.