back to article Fusion boffins apply plasma know-how to building thrusters

UK boffins have used smarts gained through the development of fusion technology to fire up a thruster with the purpose of eventually cutting interplanetary travel times. The UK-based Pulsar Fusion team showed off the thruster last month, a slightly alarming ring of plasma burning at millions of degrees in a vacuum chamber, …

  1. Conundrum1885


    I always wondered if something very much like an IEC fusor could be used for this.

    Seems my reasoning was correct, the beam would be very energetic but using the Pulsar approach may well be more efficient though for certain applications the IEC may work.

    Impulse drive versus thrusters.

  2. Little Mouse Silver badge

    Any non-thrust-related uses?

    I reckon that a hand-held version, flipped around, could sort out the weeds on my patio once and for all.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Any non-thrust-related uses?

      Leaf blower. Hand dryer. The potential use case of a nucular blowy thing are endless.

      1. Conundrum1885

        Re: Any non-thrust-related uses?

        IRL proton pack anyone?

        Just in time for the spook season (tm).

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    YES !

    Imperial Star Destroyer thrusters, here we come !

    Well done on finally having fusion that works. That is why we must continue research in fusion, you never know what it can end up being applied to.

    1. Remy Redert

      Re: YES !

      But they're proposing cutting the 9 month journey in half, when we have designs that will straight up cut travel time to 4 to 6 weeks. That we could build and launch with today's technologies.

      It's called NERVA. Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Applications. And while some Nerva designs are T/W > 1, none of the mission designs made ever featured a fuelled Nuclear rocket being launched, they were all intended to launch the nuclear rocket, propellant and nuclear fuel in separate launches for payload mass and safety reasons. Once fuelled the rocket would make multiple trips to Mars and back, only needing new propellant and payloads.

      1. MyffyW Silver badge

        Re: YES !

        And just for the sake of completeness let me mention the original Project Orion - a 3000 tonne space craft launched from earth by nuclear bombs, with fusion being a significant portion of the energy budget.

        Even post-comprehensive test ban treaty we could use it anywhere outside the Earths magnetosphere with little impact on human health.

    2. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Re: YES !

      They should certainly keep going for things they find along the way, cos fusion power is 30 years away and always will be...

    3. Mage

      Re: finally having fusion that works

      It's not fusion. It's a plasma drive. There is no fusion involved at all.

  4. Dr Who

    Impulse drive

    The guy clearly has a warped mind.

  5. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    One ring of plasma to rule them all?

    I'd better be going. The one with a certain trilogy in the pocketses, pleasssse

    Thumb Down

    Rubbish video

    What a singularly uninformative video. No commentary, nothing. And the music was bloody irritating.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Are we there yet?

    TLDR - no.

    But the lab experiments show promise in both fusion technology (the sustained containment of a plasma) and thruster technology (the controlled emissions of high energy particle beams).

    Right now it's just a man with a plan and the video clearly shows that. But I am hopeful that a prototype can be developed and tested in a real world application.

    Here's to the boffins and the dream.

  8. steelpillow Silver badge

    Nice try Sir, but you didn't engage Rimmer as consultant, did you?

    I worked a while for a waferfab equipment manufacturer, where plasma etching and deposition were both used for key steps in microchip manufacture. My happy tasks were RF power matching into the plasmas and RFI suppression of the bloody consequences. First thing I did with all the design engineers was remind them (tactfully) of their GCSE physics, 'cos electromagnetism knows more dirty tricks than were dreamed of in their philosophies.

    One thing I will say; these processes are all inherently grossly inefficient. If your chamber walls don't get eaten away then they will get crudded up. Get the balance perfect and half gets eaten and spat back out to crud up the other half. "Joy unbounded" as the late Stanley Holloway would say, "absolume tremedoso magnifamble in the practicauiflower" or similar.

    This happy-slappy chappie reckons he can get all the way to Mars. Not relying on his plasma thruster for maximum warp he won't, Captain. He'll burn most of a Saturn V lifting his power supply to where he can switch on the leccy without falling backwards, then he'll find he is limited to sending the ship's cat in Starbug's escape capsule (ain't it th' truth, Mister Lister, Sir?) Oh, and wouldn't it be nice if he could get the cat back again, too? I have a soft spot for Danny John-Jules...

    1. Wincerind

      Re: Nice try Sir, but you didn't engage Rimmer as consultant, did you?

      I believe you mean Stanley Unwin. "Oh deep folly"

  9. the Jim bloke

    Realising they were hitting a problem

    trying to keep a fusion reaction contained,

    so they leave a hole in the containment..



  10. harmjschoonhoven

    20 km/s?

    The mean velocity of protons in a hydrogen plasma of temperature T million Kelvin is 129.0 sqrt(T) km/s ....

  11. Matthew "The Worst Writer on the Internet" Saroff

    Are there any ISP Numbers

    ISP = Specific impulse, not internet service provider.

    It's a measure or rocket fuel economy.

    For example the Dawn probe, which rendezvoused with Ceres and Vesta asteroids, had thrusters with a specific impulse of 3,100 s and produce a thrust of 90 mN.

    Without ISP numbers, it's just a press release.

    1. annodomini2

      Re: Are there any ISP Numbers

      Or thrust, weight, power consumption, propellant consumption

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ball of confusion

    Thanks, it's in my head now.

    I bloody hate Phil Collins

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