Bogdan Maglich: Aneutronic Energy
B. Maglich: Harper's Weekly Magazine (October 6, 1975)
S.R. Channon, et al.: Phys. Rev. A 17: 407-409 (January 1978)
D.E. Thomsen: Science News (March 9, 1985); ibid., (September 16, 1987)
B.Maglich: British Patent # 1,422,545 ~ Nuclear Fusion Reactors
B. Maglich: Migmacell -- A Low-Gain "Driven" Fusion Power Amplifier as an Interim Energy Source
ANEUTRONIC ENERGY: A Search for Non-RadioacticeNon-Proliferating Nuclear Power
Dr. Bogdan Maglich
The Tesla Foundation Inc. ~ P.O. Box 3037 ~ Princeton, New Jersey 08543 USA
Can we design a nuclear power source that --- like Robbie in Asimov's classic tale "I, Robot" --- is pre-programed never to harm a human?
Can there be a nuclear process whose fuel will never be converted into nuclear weapons?
The recent report (1) of a special committee of the U.S. National Research Council implies that the world may be only one step away from being able to say "yes" to both of these questions. Conclusions of the First International Symposium on Feasibility of Aneutronic Power, held at the Institute for advanced Study in Princeton in the Fall of 1987, suggest that this last step may well be imminent.
What is Aneutronic?
Energy-releasing nuclear reactions involving nonradioactive nuclei (both as the reactants and reaction products) and producing no neutrons have been known for half a century. We define a nuclear reaction as "aneutronic" if not more than 1% of the total energy released is carried by neutrons and if not more than 1% of the reactants ("fuel") and reaction products ("waste") are radionuclides. The definition is somewhat arbitrary and serves only as a guideline. Their product in all cases is predominantly helium, a nonradioactive inert gas.
Success of the Migma IV Experiment~
In an experiment carried out in 1982, referred to as Migma IV, AELabs demonstrated that a 1-Mev deuteron migma can be neutralized by oscillating electrons and exceed the space charge limit density without instability. Fuel density of migma was 1000 times lower than that of the best tokamak but migma's temperature was 100 times higher than that of the best tokamak and its confinement 15 times longer, so that their product is 1,500 times higher than that in tokamak. The migma program had spent $23 million over 10 years. The Western world has spent $10 billion on the conventional plasma fusion program over the past 30 years.
Reflecting this development, the Senate's Appropriations Committee stated in 1982:
"To date, basic research in the field of nuclear fission and fusion has largely overlooked the potential for aneutronic nuclear alternatives using light metals, such as lithium, that produce no radioactive side effects. The Committee recommends that the Department of Energy give higher priority to this non-radioactive and non proliferative nuclear potential."
Strategic and Commercial Ramifications of Aneutronic Power ~
A: Aerospace --- low reactor weight because of no need for shielding as well as very large power-to-weight ratio; low fuel weight (100,000 X more concentrated fuel energy than non-nuclear fuels); 10% lower fuel cost than uranium (for dirty fission);reasonable fuel availability; lower plant capital cost; no heat pollution; modular - units as small as 1 megawatt may be economical.
B: Power supply for radar and telecommunications --- The smallest aneutronic power plant (30 KWe), similar to the proposed Migma V, would have a wide application: this is the power needed to run a radar or CCC station.
C: Naval application --- The advantage of lightweight aneutronic power production also applies to ship propulsion, where specific power is less critical than in aerospace case.
D: Terrestrial applications for utilities --- First, an aneutronic reactor can be small, producing megawatts of electric (MWe), while the minimum economical size of a fission or (projected) fusion power plant is about 1000 MWe. Hence, the small nuclear power plant, impossible today, becomes feasible. A small power unit implies mass production, which results in lower capital cost per kilowatt of capacity than with large reactors that are built one or two at a time. (Initial capital cost is one of the major barriers to nuclear energy in developing countries and smaller communities of developed countries). Second, there are clear environmental advantages of nonradioactive fuel, nonradioactive waste, and the absence of waste heat (heat pollution).
E: Non-Proliferation --- Absence of neutrons means that the aneutronic reactor cannot breed plutonium for nuclear weapons. Since radioactive fuel, radioactive waste, heat pollution, and proliferation are the main current environmental and political issues for nuclear power, the implications of aneutronic nuclear energy for the environment are obvious: not only an acceptable but an attractive nuclear power technology.
Article Source: Nu Energy Horizons, Inc., P. O. Box 22, Rumney, New Hampshire 03266-0022
Harper’s Weekly Magazine (Vol. LXIV, No. 3143 ~ October 6, 1975) ~
"Will Migma Fusion End the Energy Crisis?"
by Bogdan Maglich
Fighting for the Idea ~
In 1969, while I was working in high-energy physics with a physicist by the name of Macek, we developed the principle of self-colliding particle orbits. We published a paper then, called "Fusion Reactions in Self-Colliding Orbits", but we said it was a completely impractical device. The first time I realized that the migma idea could have practical applications was in 1972.
Then, unfortunately, I had an accident where my finger was badly cut and I had to have four operations, so I was pretty well tied up at home. I had a lot of time to make calculations, and then the idea of high-energy nuclear fusion developed.
The patent application was submitted in April 1972, and it’s still being kicked back and forth at the Patent Office. We have been granted patents in some other countries, but not in the United States. It is very unusual for something so utterly new to be patented. The patent examiners very often return things for further information. They just don’t understand, because there is no earlier invention.
As soon as we applied for a patent we felt we needed three tests, which would cost $3 million, so we applied to the Atomic Energy Commission. After almost a year, we were turned down. They said nothing wrong was found, but the policy of the government was to pursue other fusion schemes that were further ahead.
As soon as we were turned down, Rutgers University --- where I was then a professor --- took the attitude that if the government turns you down there must be something wrong. Among professors there was the same attitude, surprisingly, although experts who analyzed our project found that there was nothing wrong. Nevertheless, the chairman of the department, a new man from the National Science Foundation, came and said, "Oh, at NSF I talked to the experts who have been in the field 20 years, and they say it will not work".
This opposition we’ve met is nothing new, and as a scientist I find it very invigorating, particularly when we see that we are winning. Three years ago we were considered total idiots. Two years ago some people were saying, well, it looks rather crazy, but there may be something to it. Now the skepticism is disappearing so fast, what better recognition do you want to see than something like that?
Revolt of the Plasma People ~
Clearly, there is nothing wrong with our scheme. I think our opposition has come from the vested interests in plasma fusion. These people have been in the field 25 years. Ever since the hydrogen bomb exploded they have made their careers in plasma fusion. They are developing devices for then year 2000, so they don’t have goals that can be made and immediately verified. They will retire and be on their retirement funds by that time, so they can actually keep developing this for the rest of their lives.
And, I may add, it’s a very closed community. The people in the CTR [Controlled Thermonuclear Research] division at the AEC are all ex-researchers from various plasma labs who have been working on this idea for the last 25 years, mainly those who were not very successful in experimental research and were kicked upstairs to become bureaucrats. Their loyalties lie with these labs. With the huge amounts of money at stake, it is not a scientific question anymore.
I don’t get angry, but our opponents get very angry. They start shouting, "We’ve been in this field so many years", and so on. At the AEC last year, two fusion experts, the military and Congresspeople were there. We asked them, Okay, so just tell us why this will not work. One man who is a very famous plasma theorist said, "Well, there are certain rules of thumb that we have learned over the last 20 years in plasma, certain rules of thumb". I said, "Please write down the equation for the rule of thumb. What kind of scientific approach is that?"
These "rules of thumb" really mean ingrained thinking. For instance, one of their ideas is that the more ordered a system is, the less likely it is to produce energy. That’s because they’re working on a random system. Plasma fusion is random. Their second belief is that we will not succeed in getting high densities, which we are already working on now.
Because of this opposition, we had to form our own corporation with one objective: to raise funds for Rutgers to build a lab. The reaction at Rutgers back then was incredible, very emotional. For a professor to bring $3 million to Rutgers was unrealistic, and, formally, we were turned down. In the meantime, the Navy came to Rutgers and favorably reviewed our project. Then the president of Switzerland, their ex-minister of energy, ordered a review of migma --- I have lived in Switzerland and I go there quite often.
At that time something unusual happened. A big Swiss aluminum corporation called Alusuisse came in and said they would give us $3 million for one third of the stock, which we agreed to. To avoid speculation, we have not sold stock to any individuals. We had people here from Merrill Lynch and many other houses asking for stock, and many individuals, but we feel that selling stock would be wrong because we do not guarantee that we will make a source that will be the answer to humanity’s prayers for energy.
Now we do plan to bring in a new group of high-technology American investors, not just any corporations, but corporations that know the ups and downs of research. We know we are going to have ups and downs and delays, so we want to get companies that are sophisticated in their corporate structure and that know that things are not always rosy.
We have private investors now, but we will also be willing to take money from the government, We are not turning down money; it’s just that it takes a tremendous effort to raise money. You almost have to stop doing research just to keep coming to Washington to negotiate a $10 million deal. We would have to triple our staff. Without government aid, we can operate with simplicity. We have practically no administration, and all our management is technology management.
The Future of Migma Power ~
This country has shown that once a principle has been demonstrated --- like in the case of the atomic bomb --- we can put so many resources and so much technological manpower into a project that it will take very little time to produce an economical device. Once we demonstrate that we can produce even the smallest amount of electricity from the Migma Principle, there will be all kinds of migmacells.
First there will be single units used for military applications, because the military does not care about economy. The Air Force is very interested in having a compact power source to power a laser, because the whole future of warfare is laser warfare. The Navy is interested in having remote underwater power stations to detect Soviet submarines. These military applications could be developed in 5 years from the moment the principle is shown.
The next step is to develop a migmacell of one megawatt, which can then be stacked into any configuration. A big nuclear power plant is a thousand megawatts, and a cube of migmacells ten units on a side will give you as much power as a large nuclear power plant. Our calculations show that a migmacell power plant can produce as much as six megawatts, enough for some small local power stations, but in a space about 4 feet in diameter.
We had envisioned individual household power units, but we were told by the Westinghouse people that it takes them about 8 to 10 years just to develop a new concept for something like a toaster, because household people just always push the wrong buttons at the wrong times. With the household units about a decade away, it’s better to have professional manpower to use for a block or a section of a town, or even a single building, but attended by somebody who really knows what he is doing.
Migma at the Moment ~
Where does our project stand now? The first test was to make migma. A first, migma was a very beautiful computer drawing of an ordered system, and our first experiment was to demonstrate that it could be made. We have done this. We’ve shaped a beam of nuclei so that it comes back and collides with itself. The products are mostly charged particles carrying the nuclear energy.
So we do have fusion, but the only way we can prove that the fusion is coming from the migma is to demonstrate that the fusion rate obeys the basic law of colliding beams, the quadratic law, which states that the collision rate is proportional to the square of the beam intensity. We are taking the very strict attitude that the only way to prove fusion is to prove the quadratic law experimentally. This is what we are doing now, in a test that may last from 6 to 8 months.
This is our second test, but that is still not enough. We really want to break even. We want to have the energy out to be equal to the energy in. Our third test is to compact more nuclei. Since the nuclei all have the same positive charge, we’re going to put negative charges in the migma to overcome their natural repulsion. In this way, we hope to build the density of the migma and reach the break-even point.
Our current plan is to get an experimental confirmation of the last two tests within the next 18 months. Our next objective is to build an operational prototype fusion power plant which will be the first to produce more than break-even energy. At the rate we are working now, this will take from 4 to 6 more years.
I spent 6 months approaching the leading scientists in the country in every field, including Nobel Prize winners, to set up one meeting here which lasted two days. At the end of June, we presented our theories and our work at a meeting of independent scientific and engineering consultants whom we hired to evaluate our project and report their findings to our board of directors. They unanimously endorsed the project. Not only did they say they found nothing wrong with the principle, but they said they saw nothing that will prevent it from working.
When I formed this committee of consultants and informed some of our business people, they said they had never heard of anything such as this, where the president of a company invites such an independent board that can essentially demolish you. But we received their unanimous endorsement.
The general belief that fusion will not be conquered before the next millennium is bases on misguided research in plasma fusion. In my opinion, effecting controlled fusion is a relatively easy task, provided that one gets rid of all old concepts and accepts the high-energy fusion concept.
The US Energy Research and Development Administration is not supporting one clean fusion project. Their projects are all based on tritium, an artificial isotope which is highly radioactive.
We are being criticized for keeping our work too quiet, but I believe that it is better to make big advances in the lab than to talk in advance about what you are going to accomplish. To our knowledge, we are the only group throughout the world that is working on a totally non-polluting, clean fusion power source. It is just shocking that, in spite of all the pressure on the part of environmentalists, the government is not supporting one nuclear fusion power source that is clean.
Dr Maglich Explains the Nuts and Bolts of Migma Fusion ~
The first artificial fusion energy reaction which released significant amount of nuclear energy was the explosion of the hydrogen bomb in 1952. Since then, physicists have tried without an explosion to use it as a source of cheap power in the form of electrical energy.
Until now there have been two approaches to controlled fusion. As a basic fuel, our method uses the natural isotope of hydrogen, deuterium, which is not radioactive and which can be extracted from ordinary water. The oceans contain enough deuterium fuel to meet our energy needs for millions of years.
In the deuterium fusion process, almost all energy released goes into charged particles. The kinetic energy of charged particles can be converted directly into electricity, thus eliminating cumbersome boilers and turbines, and the heat and radiation pollution associated with neutrons.
Instead of heating, we use the concept of colliding beams. We accelerate the nuclei of deuterium to higher speeds than can be accomplished by heating, and we fire them head-on against each other at these high speeds.
In our method, we use one single accelerated deuteron beam and make it collide head-on with itself. This configuration we call the "figure-of-eight". The deuterons in both the lower and upper loop move clockwise and collide nearly head-on. As time progresses, the figure-of-eight configurations superimpose one on another, until a mixture --- and the Greek word for mixture is migma --- of orbits has been established. In this mixture the deuterons being to interact and fuse.
In plasma fusion you heat the ions to high temperatures often by magnetic means. In laser fusion, you heat the nuclei by concentrating the power of light. We threw away the concept of heating. We know better. With heating, the motions are random. Today, we can direct particles head-on against each other. An analogue to this process is two machine-gun bullets colliding in midair. As you realize, it’s quite difficult to aim bullet against bullet. Well, we’ve already mastered that. We can already aim nuclei to collide head-on.
Now we go even one step further. We have invented a process in which one beam collides with itself. We shoot a beam and bend it so that it comes back against itself. The principle doesn’t change; we still have an ordered system.
Migma is an ordered system in which fusion is ignited by head-on collisions instead of heat. Once you have that, then you can have much higher collision energies, because in fusion what counts is the relative velocity with which one nucleus hits another, not the temperatures involved.
Inside the stars, fusion is accomplished by heating, but we don’t seriously intend to build a star on Earth. We make no bones that we are building a machine. It has to be done differently, completely artificially. There is nothing natural about our process, the same as there is nothing natural about a rocket or a car engine.
Once we have these higher energies of collision, we can ignite clean fuel, for example helium-3. Nothing becomes radioactive. The energy released is carried off by charged bodies --- protons and nuclei --- which can be collected by a series of positively-charged plates surrounding the cell. As the positively-charged bodies approach the plates, they slow down, giving up their energy to the plates. Connecting an external circuit to the plates would draw off an electric current.
Our products are clean, and everything is converted directly into electricity.
Phys. Rev. A 17: 407-409 (January 1978) ~
Estimation of Diamagnetic Limitations to the Fusion Rate in a Migmacell
S. R. Channon, J. E. Golden, and R. A. Miller
Migma Institute of Clean Fusion, Fusion Energy Corporation, Princeton, New Jersey 08540
We describe a two-dimensional analytic calculation of the equilibrium diamagnetic field strength and shape, applicable in the regime of high magnetization to the high-energy low-angular-momentum ion orbits which characterize the distribution in a Migma fusion device.
In 1982 Dr Bogdan Maglich carried out experiments with his "Migma" light fission reactor --- the size of a car tire, designed to be used as a clean
source of power in third world countries. It was funded mainly by an Arabian prince. However in 1991 the funding ran out. No government was
interested, because no weapons can be produced from the technology.
In 1992, in sheer desperation, Dr Maglich sold the US Air Force on the idea that aircraft, fueled by Migma light fission reactors could stay in
the air for years without refuelling. Since the military took it over, nothing further has been heard of the development of this technology.
Chemical Abstracts 83: 67244q ~ ibid., 83: 105035g ~ ibid., 85: P11484 ~ ibid., 86: 178999q
J. Applied Physics 46(7): 2915-2923 (1975)
IEEE Trans. Nuclear Science NS 22(3): 1736-1742 (1975)
Proc. Intersoc. Energy Conversion Conference 11(2): 1123-1129 (1976)
Nuclear Instr. & Methods 11: 213 (1973)
Bull. Amer. Phys. Soc. 21: 1 (1976)
Science News (March 9, 1985); ibid., September 16, 1987
Harper'sWeekly vol. 64 #3143 (October 6, 1975)
Planetary Association for CLean Energy Newsletter (May, 1979); ibid., (July/August 1980)
Science News (March 9, 1985) ~
"Migma: An Approach to Neutron-Free Fusion"
By D.E. Thomsen
Nuclear fusion, according to its proponents, will be the ultimate cheap-fuel energy source, an answer to the world’s energy problems --- if they can make it work. Although significant progress has been made in recent years, development has been much slower than the first proponents of fusion hoped when they began 40 years ago.
About 12 years ago, at a meeting of the American Physical Society, physicist Bogdan Maglich presented an unorthodox method of approaching fusion. At the time, other physicists were quite skeptical. Now, in the Feb. 25 Physical Review Letters, Maglich and co-workers report a significant achievement in what they call "aneutronic fusion" --- "a word so new it is not yet in any dictionary". Other physicists are still somewhat reserved.
In principle, "conventional" magnetic fusion experiments involve the formation of a plasma (consisting of atomic nuclei and electrons) by ionizing a gas. This plasma is then confined by a suitably shaped magnetic field and heated to a temperature at which significant numbers of fusions occur. In practice, magnetic fields do not confine very well. Instabilities in the plasma’s behavior tend to build up until they enable the plasma to break out of confinement. So the race is to hold the plasma at least long enough for a useful number of fusions to occur.
In conventional experiments the plasma is heated so that the nuclei gain enough energy to overcome the electrical repulsion between them and so are able to fuse. In Maglich’s scheme, which he calls a migma (from the Greek word for mixture), the nuclei gain energy not by heating by being accelerated in a linear accelerator. In the current experiment, deuterons --- the nuclei of deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen --- come out of the accelerator with 0.7 Million electron-volts energy, the equivalent to heating to 7 billion kelvins. They also have a directed motion rather than the random motions of a thermally energized plasma. Therefore, a magnetic field can be set up in the migma cell, as they call the vessel they use, that forces the nuclei into self-intersecting orbits that form a kind of rosette around the center of the field. Orbits of this kind provide many opportunities for nuclei to encounter each other and fuse.
The containment time in this experiment, 20 seconds, was less than the 60 seconds of the DCX-1 device, a conventional experiment chosen for comparison. But the triple product of energy confinement time and density --- three critical parameters --- is 10 to 20 times that of DCX-1, and none of the instabilities formed.
The word "aneutronic" comes from the reaction they ultimately hope to use, in which hydrogen and lithium fuse to helium with two protons left over. The easiest reaction (and the goal of most conventional experiments) is deuterium and tritium yield helium plus a leftover neutron. The neutron is a penetrating and potentially dangerous particle. The protons from the lithium reaction, being electrically charged, are easy to capture and not damaging. Energy is harvested from these leftover particles and that, too, is easier with charged particles.
According to James Nering of United Sciences, Inc., in Princeton NJ, the organization Maglich and co-workers formed to do these migma experiments, the present experiment used deuterons because they make measuring and following the reactioneasier.
In 1973,when Maglich first presented the idea, the physics community reacted so skeptically that he could not get funds from the DOE, which funds most of the US fusion program. He did, however, obtain $20 million in private funds from sources in Japan, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, and the USA. Now, according to an announcement by United Sciences, money is included in the Defense Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 1985 for a study of migma’s space applications.
Science News (September 16, 1987) ~
"Seeking Aneutronic Nuclear Fusion"
By D.E. Thomsen
"Aneutronic" is a word that has not yet made its way into the dictionaries.It refers to processes of thermonuclear fusion that produce few or no neutrons. In energy-producing fusion reactors, aneutronic processes would have advantages in both safety and in ease of gathering the energy released. However, this breed of has had low priorityin the fusion research program funded for the last 40 years by the DOE and its predecessors. Now something of a push toward them seems to be developing.
Last week, the Committee on Advanced Fusion Power of the National Research Council’s Air Force Studies Board issue a report advising the Air Force that research on aneutronic fusion processes is worth supporting as a possible answer to Air Force requirements both for electric current and for propulsion. As the report was issued, many of the interested scientists were gathered at the Symposium on Feasibility of Aneutronic Power, meeting at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton NJ.
The study was generally well received, although some people, particularly Bogdan Maglich of AELabs in Princeton, thought it too pessimistic in predicting how many years it would take to bring about practical aneutronic reactors.
Conventional fusion requires confining atomic nuclei at high density and high temperature. The easiest conditions of confinement and temperature, and therefore the ones sought first by the mainstream fusion program, are those for fusion of deuterium and tritium. However, the energy released in such a fusion is carried away by neutrons --- dangerous, penetrating particles, which will yield their energy only by the inefficient means of heating something.
But in an aneutronic reaction (for example, deuterium and helium-3), the energy comes off with protons. Protons can be converted directly into electrical power in the form of radio waves. Protons are not very damaging or dangerous and so minimal shielding is necessary. However, in the jargon of the DOE, these substances are "advanced" fuels because the confinement and temperature conditions necessary for them go beyond those for deuterium-tritium.
Proponents of aneutronic fusion say that to the DOE "advanced" means far in the future or even in the hereafter. But Bruno Coppi of the Massachusetts Institute of technology argues that experimentation with deuterium and helium-3 could be done in some current mainstream experiments --- MIT’s Alcator, for example. "You could make with today’s technology an experiment that burns deuterium and helium-3", he says. However, it lacks funding. Quoting the Swedish physicist Hannes Alfven, one of the grand old men of this kind of physics, Coppi says that there seems to be "a conspiracy not to do fusion".
Instead of depending on more or less random encounters of nuclei that have been heated to overcome their repulsion for one another, as the mainstream experiments do, aneutronic systems like Maglich’s "migma" use the principle of colliding beams, directing the nuclei into intersecting orbits, where they are more likely to encounter each other. "Our position is that the whole concept of heating to achieve collisions is obsolete", he says.
The most recent migma experiment, Migma III, achieved confinement conditions that rival those of conventional experiments, and did it without the disruptive instabilities that plague conventional experiments. Migma IV, to be built in Palatka, FL, in collaboration with the University of Florida at Gainesville, will attempt to increase the density of nuclei in the center of the experiment to 300 billion, ten times that of Migma III, reaching the "space-charge limit", the point where electric repulsions will prevent further crowding. It will test whether neutralizing some of the charge by introducing electrons will permit higher densities, and it will also test predictions that the resulting plasma should be stable under these conditions.
If deuterium-helium-3 fusion works out as a source of power, it will require a continuing supply of helium-3 (Deuterium can be obtained from sea water). Although helium-3 is rare on earth, George Miley of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign notes that is "one of the most plentiful fuels we can find in the universe". But we will have to get off the earth to get it.
On earth, the immediate source is radioactive decay of tritium, a by-product of nuclear fission reactors. According to Miley and the National Research Council, by the year 2000 we can obtain about 600 kilograms of helium-3 from tritium decay. This would run a 200-megawatt power plant for 20 years, "not enough for an economy", says Miley.
Scientists would have to go to the moon and mine helium-3, which the solar wind generates in the lunar surface. Ultimately, when space travel is sophisticated enough, says Miley, we could get it from Jupiter.