NASA 1998 SBIR Phase I


PROPOSAL NUMBER: 98-1 04.02-3772

PROJECT TITLE: A Breakthrough Fusion Power unit for Space Applications

TECHNICAL ABSTRACT (LIMIT 200 WORDS)

Experiments to prove the feasibility of developing a D-He3 fusion power plant for space applications (both station/site keeping and propulsion) are proposed. Prior conceptual studies by various groups have concluded that the high power-weight ratio of the IEC makes it one of the most attractive power units for space application. Due to breakthrough physics associated with potential structure formation in the IEC plasma core, scaling up in fusion energy gain appears possible without a significant increase in size beyond present laboratory experiments. Thus a "fast tract" physics proof-of-principle scale-up is feasible. Pulsed operation will be employed to obtain high peak currents such that the plasma physics can be studies during the pulse, minimizing power supply and other technogical requirements. The proposed Phase I unit would be designed to achieve an energy gain (fusion energy out/energy in) during a pulse of 10-4 . This would provide a physics demonstration of the concept and the design basis for the Phase II Q=1 (during a pulse) experiment. If successful, these two experiments would justify the R&D funding needed to develop the technology (high rep rate power supply, active grid cooling, energy extraction/conversion) necessary for a Phase III demonstration D-He3 fusion power unit.

POTENTIAL COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS

The high specific power D-He3 IEC fusion unit represents a most attractive power supply for a variety of space applications, ranging from station keeping to landing site power and, in a modified version, deep space propulsion. Commercial involvement would range from system engineering of overall units to supplying individual components. In addition, a number of spin-off commercial applications appear feasible for intermediate scale units providing intense neutron or proton fluxes, including medical uses such as isotope production, tomography, and radiation therapy. Indeed, smaller IEC units are already in commercial use for portable neutron sources for neutron activation analysis, and higher neutron intensities could extend this to luggage inspection and industrial neutron tomography.

NAME AND ADDRESS OF PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

Jon Nadler
NPL Associates
912 W. Armory St.
Champaign , IL 61821

NAME AND ADDRESS OF OFFEROR

NPL Associates
912 W. Armory St.
Champaign , IL 61821