Tri-Alpha Energy just launched its website

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Adrian Hindes
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Tri-Alpha Energy just launched its website

Post by Adrian Hindes » Sat Oct 31, 2015 11:44 am

So Tri-Alpha just launched their website, finally stepping out of the shadows. http://trialphaenergy.com/

Looks like they're after a bit more media coverage seeing as they did that Time interview posted on the forums just recently.

This is the video of their reactor on the website too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IN7v81yWY0Q

If you ask my naive self, I'd say it looks damn promising. Out of all startups and research groups, they're the only ones going after p-B fusion too. Their design is pretty novel too; a step away from tokamaks and stellarators.

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Paul_Schatzkin
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Re: Tri-Alpha Energy just launched its website

Post by Paul_Schatzkin » Sat Oct 31, 2015 3:52 pm

If you ask my naive self, I'd say it looks damn promising.
I see your "naivete" and raise you a few chips of my own:

Adrian, what part of this contraption looks "promising" to you?

What I see is a cleverly contrived animation and lots of buoyant, promising ... rhetoric.

Sure, it looks "promising" when it's a essentially a hundred-million-dollar cartoon.

And I agree, the emphasis on the P+B11 fuel cycle is a highly desirable destination. Can we tell from anything they're reporting now that they are actually developing their process around that fuel cycle, or is that also speculative?

From the vantage point of my own naive self, I see this and arrive at the opposite conclusion. It's more Rube Goldberg technology. And a really nice cartoon.

But it's nice to see what a nice, clean facility $140 million of Paul Allen's money can buy...

--PS
Paul Schatzkin, aka "The Perfesser" – Founder and Host of Fusor.net
Author of The Boy Who Invented Television - http://farnovision.com/book.html
"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 50 years in the past and we missed it."

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Bob Reite
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Re: Tri-Alpha Energy just launched its website

Post by Bob Reite » Sun Nov 01, 2015 12:37 am

The Polywell researches as well as Focus Fusion are seeking to use proton-Boron fusion.
The more reactive the materials, the more spectacular the failures.
The testing isn't over until the prototype is destroyed.

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Re: Tri-Alpha Energy just launched its website

Post by Richard Hull » Sun Nov 01, 2015 7:49 am

Why not go for the more difficult fusion instead of the easy one? Probably no tritium license needed. Why not go to D-D? Yeah the win would be nice with p-B11, but thats a tough row to hoe. I guess all these folks think they have got it in the bag. I can't understand why they don't shoot for Xe-Xe fusion or Cl-O fusion....If they have fusion in the bag. Ain't fusion great, or what?

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Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

Adrian Hindes
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Re: Tri-Alpha Energy just launched its website

Post by Adrian Hindes » Mon Nov 02, 2015 2:30 am

Paul_Schatzkin wrote:
If you ask my naive self, I'd say it looks damn promising.
I see your "naivete" and raise you a few chips of my own:

Adrian, what part of this contraption looks "promising" to you?

What I see is a cleverly contrived animation and lots of buoyant, promising ... rhetoric.

Sure, it looks "promising" when it's a essentially a hundred-million-dollar cartoon.

And I agree, the emphasis on the P+B11 fuel cycle is a highly desirable destination. Can we tell from anything they're reporting now that they are actually developing their process around that fuel cycle, or is that also speculative?

From the vantage point of my own naive self, I see this and arrive at the opposite conclusion. It's more Rube Goldberg technology. And a really nice cartoon.

But it's nice to see what a nice, clean facility $140 million of Paul Allen's money can buy...

--PS
Apologies for the optimism. The way I see it, Tri-Alpha are trying something innovative, and on a small budget (relatively to virtually all other fusion projects at the moment), they've managed to put together a prototype in record time. Burton Richter and Ronald Davidson (past director of PSFC and PPPL) are on their panel of advisors, so there must be something to the theory. That's promising enough for me.

Calling it a "hundred-million dollar cartoon" is short selling it, I think. It's ambitious compared to other fusion devices, especially with the p-B goal. I'd reasonably speculate that they would use direct energy conversion, seeing as that's virtually a no-brainer.

Of course from what little I understand, I'd much prefer seeing $140 million of investors money go to IEC development, but I don't think it's wise to put all our eggs in the one electrostatic basket.

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Re: Tri-Alpha Energy just launched its website

Post by Dan Tibbets » Mon Nov 02, 2015 3:39 am

I'm impressed. Weather they have the answer, or are on the right path is not what impresses me. I do not have the expertise to judge. But, I am impressed that they seem to have the infrastructure and resources online to pursue the research to useful conclusions. Compare this to the small scale efforts by EMC2 and LLP which are barely above keep open levels, and intermittent at that.

I hope that they do not become entrenched like the Tokamak quagmire.

My impression is that perhaps the most promising features of these small machines, is that if they work, then great, and if they do not work, the smaller scale of the machines allow for more rapid and much cheaper pursuit of an answer than , again, the Tokamak dinosaur.

Who knows, the answer may be some cross breed of these several approaches. Lockheed Martin is already going down this path.

Dan Tibbets

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Re: Tri-Alpha Energy just launched its website

Post by prestonbarrows » Sat Nov 07, 2015 5:35 pm

Paul_Schatzkin wrote:What I see is a cleverly contrived animation and lots of buoyant, promising ... rhetoric.
There are a lot of valid reservations you could have about Tri-Alpha, but judging their technical merit by their elevator pitch youtube clip is silly. What they released is just something that lets the average Joe have an inkling of what their system does in 30 seconds and get people excited about their company. It is a quick sugary bite that can get shared on social media and get people talking, just like we are doing now.

The most interesting thing is that their latest press releases actually show legitimate hardware. Up until now, they have tended towards vapor-ware information if any at all. If any of that shiny hardware ever works is of course another issue.

As a private company, the technical information they have released is sparse, but the fundamental concepts have been worked on by many universities and national labs over the decades. A few of the main topics to look into if you are interested are Field Reversed Configurations, Neutral Beam Injection, and helicity injection.
Richard Hull wrote:Why not go for the more difficult fusion instead of the easy one? Probably no tritium license needed. Why not go to D-D? Yeah the win would be nice with p-B11, but thats a tough row to hoe. I guess all these folks think they have got it in the bag. I can't understand why they don't shoot for Xe-Xe fusion or Cl-O fusion....If they have fusion in the bag. Ain't fusion great, or what?

Richard Hull
On the more practical side, neutrons are a beast to deal with at reactor levels. The immediate complications of radiation hazards while the device is active is almost the least of your worries. Basically everything activates, leading you to add extra engineering hoops to avoid certain common materials and also introducing long cool-down cycles each time maintenance is needed. Of course, even p-b11 has radiation to deal with but it is on a very different scale.

As you mentioned, tritium handling facilities are astronomically expensive and bring in an entirely new level of regulation and redtape. Even if you go DD in the short term, the implicit assumption is that you are going DT in the future and all those issues hang over every engineering, science, and business decision in the mean time.

They are doubling down and sidestepping all of that. Call it bold or stupid, this is a pretty radical difference from the traditional fusion world where DD equivalent-net-gain is the norm. As an outsider, it is difficult to judge the wisdom of this decision without seeing their internal results over the last years. Only time will tell if it pays off for them, but they seem to be doing well for themselves at the moment, if only as a company.

Being a radical trendsetter hiding an ace up their sleeve while being just slightly holier-than-thou is part of their MO as a business. Going straight for clean p-B11 while leaving DD to the rabble of lesser groups is a sexier story for investors, especially when you can point to numbers and previous experiments that make it look at least somewhat feasible. Cynical as it may be, Tri-alpha is a private business and not a public science institute, so that is a legitimate factor. As with almost all R&D companies in their early stages, their product is a story told to investors of a technology developed in the future; the trick is actually creating and selling that technology before people stop buying the story.

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Re: Tri-Alpha Energy just launched its website

Post by Frank Sanns » Sun Nov 08, 2015 2:43 am

This is a glorified neon bulb. Having plasma is easy. So you inject a plasma into a chamber and keep it alive with tangential beams. Put enough tangential beams in and it can stay lit.

The question becomes, where is the collisional energy or the temperature for any kind of fusion at all? A 10v plasma will not fuse to any significant extent with the best of fuels. There is nothing about that chamber that suggest the kind of energy inputs necessary for a single fusion event let alone a self sustaining one.

Snake oil comes from private companies for funding. That building was huge and everything spotless. Looks more like a museum than a research facility. Somebody is getting big private money from a non scientific investor.

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Re: Tri-Alpha Energy just launched its website

Post by prestonbarrows » Sun Nov 08, 2015 8:04 pm

Frank Sanns wrote: So you inject a plasma into a chamber and keep it alive with tangential beams...where is the collisional energy or the temperature for any kind of fusion at all? A 10v plasma will not fuse to any significant extent with the best of fuels.
The fact that you are 'keeping it alive' in a steady state shows that you are putting power into the plasma which is equal to the power leaving the plasma through losses. If you then turn up the input knob so that you are putting in more power than you are loosing, the plasma heats up.

I won't pretend to be an expert on Tri-Alpha's particular setup, but neutral beam injection is a well established method of heating a confined plasma for tokamaks, stellerators, and other FRC machines. It has been demonstrated in NSTX at Princeton, KSTAR in Korea, LHD, and JT-60U in Japan, among many others. It is also planned as a key component for the future W7X and ITER reactors. The general idea is launching a multiple equivalent-amps of neutral particles with MeV's of energy into the core. Since the incoming particles are neutral, they can pass through the confining fields. Interactions with the plasma then ionize these fast neutrals creating fast ions in the process which are now confined. Energy is also transferred through elastic collisions with particles already in the core; this effect can be used to impart 'spin' into the plasma which can help to stabilize it. NBI can dump power on the order of megawatts into the plasma. The process is analogous to heating up milk using the steam wand on a cappuccino machine and causing it to spin around the cup in the process.

Some of the main issues with NBI are efficient deposition of power into the core before the particles fly back out the opposite side and avoiding the creation of instabilities.

The other popular method of CW(non-pulsed) heating is launching in microwaves and coupling them to various electron or ion resonances within the confining magnetic field.

Here are some a few pages giving a basic overview:
https://www.iter.org/mach/heating
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutral_beam_injection
Or for a bit more depth:
https://www.google.com/search?q=%22neut ... letype:pdf



Time will tell how successful their approach turns out, but Tri-Alpha are not complete charlatans.

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Re: Tri-Alpha Energy just launched its website

Post by JoeBallantyne » Sun Nov 08, 2015 11:59 pm

It is noteworthy that there is no visible shielding pretty much anywhere around Tri Alpha's "reactor". But it makes sense when you realize that their 10 Million degree Celsius temperature is equivalent to a pathetic 861Volts in a fusor. Assuming that the ions in a fusor are accelerated across the full potential drop between the anode and cathode, and using the 11604 K/eV equivalence. Some of the ions in a fusor of course will not fall across the full potential difference, but it makes you realize how powerful fusors are compared to some of these very expensive machines that people are spending many tens of millions of dollars building.

Doug Coulter's 50kV fusor is hitting temperatures in the neighborhood of 580 million degrees kelvin. Which of course is why he has to worry a lot more about both x-ray shielding and neutron shielding. At less than 1kV, Tri Alpha doesn't have to worry about neutrons at all, even if they were using D-D as their feed gas. They simply aren't even close to the temperatures required for fusion. By their own admission they are a factor of 300 away from where they need to be for PB11 fusion. I suspect they will spend very many tens of millions more attempting to get there.

Fusors today easily generate plasma that is 35 to 60 times hotter than Tri Alpha's plasma. And they cost a lot less too.

Joe.

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