Oh, The Possibilities
Each fusion reaction does have an optimum slam energy. This hints at a very important Polywell concept: that the machine could be “tuned” for the specific fuel being fused. For example, the PB11 reaction operates best at a slam energy of 550 keV. Presumably, the polywell would try and contain enough electrons create that slam energy. This creates a high voltage drop. Ions are shot into the center at some energy. They see this voltage. They fly towards the center, building up kinetic energy and they slam into one another. They hit at some energy: the slam energy. This can be adjusted by varying the amount of electrons in the center or it may be adjusted by changing the way ions are injected. The slam energies, the cross sections and the energy released in each reaction is included below . For this analysis, we assume each fuel is being burned at the energy listed here. This is important when looking at the core’s durability and the amount of x-rays the machine produces. Though, there is good reason to think that these energies should be adjusted [25, 42].
Remember, this is operating costs, staffing, maintenance and construction costs need to be added on top. To keep costs low, DD would probably be the best fuel to start with, though this is subject to debate. The key to burning better fuels revolves around increasing the voltage drop inside the machine. Initially tritium should be avoided. Its radioactivity adds expenses for safe handling and makes the machine less marketable.
Ideally, a beta version would be DD fusion, with a price point of $0.91 a kWh. That is roughly less than the current solar power price point. This assumes 20% conversion and recovering 1% of the energy. This low efficiency is supposed to account for the energy needed to run the reactor as well. We can easily push these efficiencies. If the reactor is burning P-B11, under the worst case scenario this predicts a price of 0.16 a kWh, though it will take more energy to burn PB11. That is five cents higher than the national average for electricity in 2011 . This burn would also give the reactor a very long durability, as will be shown.
Deuterium, Deuterium Calculations:
For the economic calculation, I used both DD energies. The cost of deuterium is 400 dollars for 50 liters at 99.999% purity . I also figured in gallons how much clean water per dollar this reactor could make – it takes 2.8 KJ to make one liter of clean water . It was assumed that the reactor burned a kilogram per hour. Please see below.
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