My Quest - Part 1. What is Fusion? Why is it important?

As an introduction to this story, the first thing to understand is what fusion is.

As one example, fusion is the process by which hydrogen combines to form helium. There are other examples of fusion as well, but for now we'll just concentrate on that single example. And even that example may require some explanation.

It has been scientifically proven that normal matter, things such as water, trees, baseballs, an iron fence - even you - is all made up of atoms. Basically, if you take any normal matter and start dividing it down to smaller and smaller chunks, eventually you get down to a chunk that is so small that it can no longer be easily divided. That smallest chunk is called an atom. Atoms come in many different types, and each individual type is called an element. Elements include hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and about 100 other basic types of matter. By combining in different ways, these elements make up everything around us.

Elements combine in ways that is studied by the science of chemistry. When the elements combine chemically, sometimes a little bit of energy is produced, such as when hydrogen combines with oxygen to form H20, or water. One way to get energy then is to burn hydrogen in the open air. The energy is released as heat, and that heat can be used to boil water, which can push a turbine and get us going somewhere!

But what if we really pound on atoms? Can we even split them apart and find out what is inside of them? The answer is yes! And when we do this what we find is that all atoms are made up of the same things. Atoms are made up of protons, electrons and neutrons. The protons and neutrons are in a small ball at the center of the atom, and the electrons form a much larger cloud further outside.

It turns out that elements are different because of the number of protons they have. Hydrogen has one, Helium two, Carbon six, Oxygen eight, and so on for the approximately 100 known elements. But the number of neutrons doesn't matter much for chemistry. For instance, some Hydrogen atoms have one neutron, others two, and most don't have any. But it is still Hydrogen. For Helium, the element most often has two protons and two neutrons.

We saw that we could combine elements like hydrogen and oxygen to form water and get some energy. So the next question is whether we could maybe combine nuclei to get energy too! And the answer is yes we can! We can take a nucleus of hydrogen that has one proton and one neutron (called deuterium), smash it into a nucleus of hydrogen that has one proton and two neutrons (called tritium), and produce a nucleus of helium that has two protons and two neutrons. After this is done, you might notice that we have one neutron left over. So the process is that we can collide deuterium with tritium to produce helium and a neutron. But why would we want to do that?

The reason we'd like to collide deuterium with tritium to make helium is because the process produces energy. A lot of energy! The process produces about 20 million times more energy than we get by burning things like gasoline. Therefore, if we could figure out how to control the fusion process we could get 20 million times more energy out of a gallon of water than we presently get out of a gallon of gas (provided the water was half deuterium water and half tritium water).

Furthermore, not only do we use up far less fuel than when we burn things, but we also produce no carbon dioxide gas at all! Fusion is extremely clean! And we also don't produce any material that can make fission bombs, nor is the process unstable. Fusion is extremely safe!

So now we can answer the question in the title of this PR! Fusion is the process of putting nuclei together to make different nuclei. And fusion is important because it has the potential to be an unlimited source of clean and safe power for all of mankind!

My Quest - Part 2. A Lifelong Quest Begins

In a PR found here I wrote a little bit about one of the causes I devoted much of my life to, and that cause is bringing fusion energy to the world. I actually got started on that cause at a very young age.

It was way back in elementary school that I first learned about pollution. It was a hot topic back in the 1960's. Lake Erie actually caught fire! There was so much waste being dumped into the lake, some of it combustible, that the top of all that waste caught fire! Some rivers became dead zones due to all the pollution being dumped into them. There was fear that the oceans themselves might eventually die because of what we were doing. Litter on the roadside was a major eyesore. It wasn't that long before that automobiles had become accessible to the common folk, and it was quite common for people to get food and drinks for their drive and when done just throw paper plates and cups and any containers or uneaten food out the window. Highways were getting to look like garbage dumps. But fortunately, we all knew that if we would just change our ways we could recover the nature that God had blessed us with. National movements took place to clean up our act, and before long laws were passed to limit what people could dispose of. The roadsides, rivers and lakes were beginning to recover quite nicely by the time I entered middle school.

In seventh grade I remember learning something far more horrific, however. Not only were we messing up our roadsides, rivers and lakes, but we were also causing a change to our very atmosphere! It was back then that I learned about Carbon Dioxide, or CO2. I learned that animals breathe in oxygen and produce CO2 to live, while plants breathe in CO2 and breathe out oxygen to live. I learned that this created a tremendous balance in life on our planet. And I then learned that this balance was being altered by burning coal and gasoline, since that burning put more CO2 into the air than ever before. And the horror was that this burning was changing the very atmosphere of our planet. Even at the North pole! When I threw out some paper, I could go pick it up. But when we burned gas it changed the world forever! Mankind was polluting the whole planet! (Or at least this is what I believed at the time.)

By 10th grade a new horror entered our collective consciousness. The next fear was that the world was running out of oil! Calculations were done that showed that the known oil reserves of the whole planet would run out around the year 2000. This caused widespread concern, since even by the late 1970's we were becoming quite dependent on oil. It was oil that created fertilizers and ran the machinery to grow our food! Without plentiful supplies of oil we might return to a period of starvation in much of the world!

But a bit later I started learning about alternative sources of energy. There was wind power, hydroelectric power, a new thing called solar power, and nuclear power plants that might all enable us to still have the power we needed for our modern way of life. Yet each of these power sources had significant drawbacks in comparison with coal and oil. Wind, hydroelectric and solar all need quite a bit of real estate to bring us power in the quantities needed. They also cause significant environmental damage in their own right if you scale them up to the quantities needed. Nuclear power had seen some very nasty accidents, and the technology could lead to the making of bombs that had enormous destructive power. And all of these other power sources were far more expensive than coal and oil.

But then, at age 17, I learned about fusion. Fusion was the process that powered the stars. The process was so clean and powerful that if we could harness fusion we should solve the vast majority of mankind's power needs forever. Fusion used a fuel found in large quantities in our oceans. We have billions of year's worth of fusion fuel. Fusion emits no CO2. By using fusion, we could return the earth's environment to its original more natural state.

That was the moment I knew what to devote my life to. Fusion could save the world! I was going to work to bring fusion to reality! At 17 you know you can do anything. The quest had begun!

My Quest - Part 3. Getting Educated

In a PR found here I wrote a little bit about one of the causes I devoted much of my life to, and that cause is bringing fusion energy to the world. After learning about the energy problems facing mankind, and then learning that fusion could solve those problems, I set out to get a proper education so that I could work on this important problem.

I graduated as valedictorian of my high school class and was quite confident in my mental abilities. But that confidence was rather short lived, as I still needed to take placement tests to get into college. I had set my sights on the best college in my state - the University of Wisconsin in Madison. After taking our placement tests we all met with counselors. At my meeting I was informed that I had no chance whatsoever at becoming a physicist or medical doctor and I should aim lower. If I were to work extremely hard I might be lucky enough to get a degree in engineering. The reason was that while I was valedictorian, my test scores were pretty low. I was tagged as an overachiever, and they'd seen many high school overachievers fail in college. They told me that the problem was that the test scores indicated that I just wasn't all that bright. I must have worked my tail off in high school to achieve what I had done!

In my case I thought that one of the reasons for my low test scores might have been that I had never had a trig class at all. I learned the definition for the sine, cosine, tangent and secant just before taking the test and got the minimal passing grade. Also, I had never taken a book home once during all of high school, so I wasn't quite sure where they got that bit about me working so hard. But in any event, I was sufficiently humble that I thought the counselors likely knew more than I did about my abilities and so I signed up for engineering studies. Saving the world through fusion was apparently far too high of a goal for my actual abilities. The experts had said so! Maybe I could help out as an engineer.

My first college semester was indeed very, very hard. I was very much behind many of the other students. Most of them had taken classes in high school that were just not available in my remote small town. But at the end of that first semester I got all A's. After that things got vastly easier, since I had now caught up with others my age. I then switched my major several times over the next few years and eventually settled on a math degree. But I was also only a few classes away from getting either an economics degree or a physics degree. I made that choice to keep all of my options open for the future.

When it came time to decide what to do next with my life, I chose to pursue a Ph.D. in physics. The goal of solving fusion that I had set for myself five years earlier returned. I was going to devote a portion of my life toward working to save the world!

My Quest - Part 4. Graduate School, Electron Cooling and Antimatter

In a PR found here I wrote a little bit about one of the causes I devoted much of my life to, and that cause is bringing fusion energy to the world. After my four year degree in Math was complete, I started the Ph.D. program in physics.

The first two years of my Ph.D. training involved taking advanced courses in Physics and being a teaching assistant for the sophomore level physics course taught at the University of Wisconsin. During the first year in graduate school we had to take a qualifying examination for the Ph.D. About one third of the incoming students historically failed it even after taking it twice, and if they didn't do too badly they could leave with a masters. I had the top score my year. A couple years later, when the advanced classwork was complete, we also had to take the "prelim" exam. As I recall, about a third to half of the students failed that one and would leave with a masters. I again finished near the top.

After your first year or two of graduate school you needed to find a "major professor" who would guide you on a research project. We would attend lectures once a week by the professors telling us what they were doing, and one of them said something like "if you go into accelerator physics I guarantee you a job!" That was the ticket for me. I knew that many physicists could not find work in the field when they were done, and I wanted to use what I was learning to earn a living!

After meeting with that professor, Dr. David B. Cline, I was encouraged to work on a project called "electron cooling". It was not cooling things in a normal sense, like you do with a refrigerator or air conditioner, but rather the cooling was scientific. The idea was to form a beam of electrons and then merge it on top of a beam of something else. When that "something else" bounced around inside the electron beam it would hit the electrons and kick them. The energy from those kicks would slow the "something else". This process would eventually make the "something else" move right along with the electrons. What once was a big noisy beam of "something else" would become a very well-ordered beam. The newly well-ordered beam could be focused to a much smaller spot than when it was noisy.

In my case, the "something else" was anti-protons. A big lab in Chicago, named Fermilab, was going to make antiproton beams and collide them with proton beams and study what came out. They were actually making beams of antimatter! And my thesis project was planned to assist them with making those antimatter beams more focused!

My Quest - Part 5. Great Expectations

In a PR found here I wrote a little bit about one of the causes I devoted much of my life to, and that cause is bringing fusion energy to the world. In the present series I am presenting the story of how my fusion design came to be.

After meeting with Dr. Cline while I was in grad school back around 1982, he offered me a research associate position in his group. I was going to do research into "electron cooling" for antiproton beams. Dr. Cline was a frequent flyer in the world high energy physics community, and as a graduate student I rarely saw him. But he was very active in bringing people together, and he arranged to put together a group to begin the electron cooling project. The group included himself, myself, and Drs. Herb, Mills and Rubbia. We met at a restaurant in Middleton WI.

Ray Herb quickly became a hero of mine. Ray had been a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin, and at age 65 set out to start a new company, National Electrostatics Corporation, or NEC. Over the years, Ray grew his company to supply large electrostatic accelerators all around the world. Ray called his devices "Pelletrons" rather than the more familiar term "Van de Graff" since he and Robert J. Van de Graff had been in competition over the years, and Ray's devices worked far better. Ray had a three million volt test accelerator in the basement of his company, and he agreed to loan that device to us as we worked to develop an electron cooler for antiprotons.

Fred Mills was someone I developed enormous respect for. He seemed to know everything about accelerator physics. Fred was an expert in the area of electron cooling, and he was a leader of Fermilab's recently completed electron cooling experiment. (Fermilab is a major international atom smasher located just outside of Chicago.) Fred would go on to serve as co-major professor for my graduate studies, and I would make the short drive from Madison to Fermilab to meet with him about every other week throughout the remainder of my graduate student career.

Dave Cline was also someone who I had great respect for. Dave had his hand in just about anything that might lead to a Nobel Prize. He was very much involved in the search for new particles called "intermediate vector bosons", but he was also looking for evidence of proton decay, magnetic monopoles and muon oscillations. All of these topics were in the realm of "experimental high energy physics" which is a sub-discipline of physics that involves looking deep within the atom to see what the world is made of at a very fundamental level.

Carlo Rubbia was a partner with Dave in the search for intermediate vector bosons. Carlo came from CERN, the major high energy physics lab of Europe. Not long after our meeting, Carlo's team went on to find evidence for those intermediate vector bosons and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1984. I understand that Dave was also nominated, but he did not share in The Prize.

As a 25 year old, I was very much blessed by being able to work in the company of such giants of the physics community. My career was indeed starting out with Great Expectations!

My Quest - Part 6. A Beginner's Mistake Becomes a Known Truth

In a PR found here I wrote a little bit about one of the causes I have devoted much of my life to, and that cause is bringing fusion energy to the world. In the present series I am recounting the story of how my fusion design came to be.

My thesis project involved working on a 2.5 million volt electron beam accelerator. As a first step in the project, it was decided that it would be good to measure the emittance, which is a key aspect of the beam. The emittance of a particle beam is a measure of how ordered it is. The smaller the emittance, the more ordered the beam, and the better the beam would be to cool antiprotons.

Dr. Fred Mills of Fermilab suggested that we use the fact that the voltage of the accelerator would droop as electron current left it in order to measure the emittance. This droop would change the beam energy, and in a fixed magnetic field this would cause the beam to sweep upward. We built a vacuum system to go after a magnet and placed some wires within that vacuum system. We then connected an oscilloscope to the wires and watched the signals. There were wires at several positions.

It was my job to take the signals we observed on the oscilloscope and determine the beam size at the position of the wires. From that analysis, I could then work backwards to determine what the emittance was. It was known theoretically what the emittance should be at the beam source, and our goal was to see how much the emittance grew as it went through the accelerator. After running the calculations I determined that the emittance of our measurement was actually a bit smaller than the theoretical value as it left the source. Hence, we had shown that there was no emittance growth in electrostatic accelerators.

The news that there was no emittance growth in electrostatic accelerators spread quickly around the world. It was viewed as a very positive result. I began work on my first scientific paper to present the work. Since I was a new graduate student, I passed the paper to two senior colleagues for their review before publishing. They made a few grammar changes and we were ready to go. I presented the work as a poster paper at the next international particle accelerator conference.

Once back home from the conference, I dug into things a bit further. I had been confused as to why we had seen an emittance a bit smaller than what it should have been. To my horror I found that I had missed a factor of pi in the definition of the emittance. Further analysis showed that what we had found was an upper limit of the emittance of about 2.7 times more than the expected theoretical value of the source. (It is still possible that there is no emittance growth, we only measured an upper limit. But we could no longer state that we had shown no emittance growth.) I sent out a correction to everyone who had signed up for my paper. And I learned a valuable lesson. I had thought my senior colleagues would carefully check works that listed them as authors - especially papers that were written by a new graduate student on his first paper. But I learned that no one - no one - could be relied on to check my work. From that point on, every scientific paper I ever wrote was checked and rechecked extremely carefully and more than once prior to publication - by me.

But the story didn't end with a correction of the scientific record. The original result - that there is no emittance growth in electrostatic accelerators - was already lore. Many years later I was critiqued on a proposal I had written. In the proposal I had written that it was shown that emittance growth in electrostatic accelerators had been shown to be small. The critique was that I should have written that there was no growth at all! It was a well-known fact! Everyone in accelerator physics knew it to be true! So here I was the one who did the measurement, but because early word got out in error, even the one who did the experiment could not state what was actually true without being dinged for it. What was more important in getting funded was to state what everyone believed to be true, not what was actually true. If you make a statement that is not what everyone believes to be true, you clearly aren't one of the experts!

A beginner's mistake had become a Known Truth. And once something becomes a Known Truth it is very hard to refute it. Even if it is not true.

My Quest - Part 7. A Bench Test

In a PR found here I wrote a little bit about one of the causes I have devoted much of my life to, and that cause is bringing fusion energy to the world. In the present series I am recounting the story of how my fusion design came to be.

My thesis project involved working on a 2.5 million volt electron beam accelerator. After we had measured the emittance (as described in my previous PR) it was next suggested by Jim Adney that we should do a test where we took our electron gun and hooked it up to the electron collector to make sure that much would work. Why try to put the beam through 2.5 million volts of acceleration if we couldn't even get it to 50 thousand volts? Jim was a technical guru at National Electrostatics Corporation and everyone agreed that his suggestion made a lot of sense.

So I did some calculations and determined that we could indeed do such a test provided that we hooked up a big solenoid between the gun and the collector. The solenoid would focus the electron beam back into the collector. In the full device this focusing would come from other beamline elements, so we needed the solenoid in place to get a reasonable test.

The test went well, and we obtained about a half an amp of electron beam current with the bench test set up. We were now ready to put together the full accelerator.

Important to the full functioning of the device was the operation of the collector itself. Modeled on the collector used at the Fermilab electron cooling experiment, our collector had a neck just before the collection surface. The electrons were slowed to a very small energy in that neck. Since electrons repel each other because of their like charge, the beam would not be able to make it through that neck if there wasn't some positive charge neutralizing the negative charge of the electrons. It was theorized that positive ions would form from ionization of residual gases and once formed those ions would be trapped in the neck due to applied magnetic and electric fields.

The successful operation of our electron beam collector was my first experience in space charge neutralization. This would later play a critical role in my later design of a fusion energy device.

My Quest - Part 8. The SCAT Program

In a PR found here I wrote a little bit about one of the causes I have devoted much of my life to, and that cause is bringing fusion energy to the world. In the present series I am recounting the story of how my fusion design came to be.

My Ph.D. thesis project involved working on a 2.5 million volt electron beam accelerator. In parallel to doing the experimental work of putting the device together I also had to do quite a bit of analytical work. The analytical work involved both how the device would eventually perform in cooling antiprotons and it also involved calculating what electric and magnetic fields would be needed to make the accelerator work.

A good start on the calculation of how to make the accelerator work was already available when I started my graduate school studies. Bill Hermannsfeldt of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center had written a program called EGUN that could calculate the trajectories of electrons as they left their source. (The source was a hot metal that essentially boiled the electrons off the surface.) What I needed to do was to input a file that contained coordinates for the metal surfaces and also tell the program what electric potential would be on those surfaces and then EGUN would calculate the electron trajectories. This would work for a while, but only to a couple hundred thousand volts in our situation.

A second start on things were some analytic calculations of how things worked in electrostatic accelerators. But there was a problem. In our case, no one had ever built an electrostatic accelerator with as intense a current as what we were proposing. In our case, the self-repulsion of the electrons in the beam was a significant contributor to the problem.

Fred Mills of Fermilab suggested that I should try numerical integration on the problem. There was quite a bit of math involved to reduce the problem, but once reduced, the problem was a rather simple set of differential equations, the Twiss Equations. Those equations could then be integrated numerically, by simply evaluating the trajectories at one point, calculating the kicks they would get at that point, and then calculating what the trajectories would be at the next point. Then the process was iterated until the full evolution of the trajectories was arrived at. We could compare this numerical solution to exact solutions in some limiting cases and everything worked quite well. I named the program SCAT, for Space Charge Acceleration and Twiss, as it was a numerical integration of the Twiss parameters in the presence of space charge forces and acceleration.

Over the years I extended the SCAT program to include just about every effect that one runs into in the science of particle beams. SCAT was used for free electron laser designs, beam transport designs, proton therapy accelerator designs, as well as in the Fermilab PET experiment. And SCAT became a central analytical tool in my development of ECOFusion.

My Quest - Part 9. An Omen.

In a PR found here I wrote a little bit about one of the causes I have devoted much of my life to, and that cause is bringing fusion energy to the world. In the present series I am recounting the story of how my fusion design came to be.

My Ph.D. thesis project involved working on a 2.5 million volt electron beam accelerator. Our goal was to build one with a beam current of a few amperes, and early on during the construction effort I began giving talks at scientific conferences outlining my designs. My SCAT program, discussed in my previous PR, was the basis for much of the design, and I was quite sure of the mathematics behind it.

One day, Fred Mills, the Fermilab scientist who had been guiding my research, told me to "be careful, they're going to remember that". I wasn't quite sure what he meant by that. Apparently there was more to this physics business than just learning fundamental equations and using them to derive new breakthroughs! There must be something else important that goes on.

Over the ensuing years I did indeed learn many additional aspects of a career beyond simply achieving technical excellence. Indeed, achieving technical excellence is not the primary, nor perhaps even the secondary, determinant of success in a scientific career. Instead, other things can be far more important.

The most important determining factor in advancing a scientific career is one's reputation among other scientists. This comes about by having a reputation for scientific excellence, which is something different than actually having scientific excellence. There is, no question, an overlap between these two things, but they are not one in the same.

To achieve a reputation for scientific excellence one must get credit for some new advance as well as be fully versed in all of the known truths. It is important that one not be wrong. And who is right and who is wrong is often determined on a consensus basis. Further, credit for the new advance may or may not fall to the one actually responsible for that new advance. The process of determining who has the top reputation is messy, and can involve people with differing levels of social skills. One factor is simply what other scientists, and how many of them, you get to know.

On the other hand, achieving true scientific excellence will generally involve making mistakes. One starts with a hypothesis and works through logic to determine tests for that hypothesis. Often, the tests will show that the hypothesis is wrong. You must then alter the hypothesis and repeat the process. That is, a scientist proposing many hypotheses will from time to time be wrong, and this can severely damage ones scientific reputation. In times of contracting budgets for science, pressure will bear down upon the community to select only those with the best reputations for funding. And this perversely leads to a condition where true scientific excellence may lose out to reputations of scientific excellence. It is not that anyone involved is either "bad" or "good". Rather, the decisions made on what and who to fund come down to human beings. And human beings are likely to side with one who is always right versus the one who has made several mistakes during their career. It is just human nature.

Back when I first heard it as a twenty-something graduate student, the phrase "be careful, they're going to remember that" didn't slow me down at all. I continued to give those talks predicting ampere level operation. But that phrase, "be careful, they're going to remember that" turned out to be an omen for the drama that was to follow me throughout my scientific career.

My Quest - Part 10. The Radiation Machine.

In a PR found here I wrote a little bit about one of the causes I have devoted much of my life to, and that cause is bringing fusion energy to the world. In the present series I am recounting the story of how my fusion design came to be.

Once the electrostatic accelerator design was in place, and we had finished our successful emittance and bench test measurements, it was time to try and assemble our ampere intensity, 2.5 million volt, electron beam accelerator. Over a period of about three years, I, Mark Sundquist, Jim Adney and Dan Anderson led the effort at putting the device together. The device consisted of a large tank within which was contained the acceleration tubes, some chains, a terminal, some equipotential rings, a rotating insulating shaft, insulators to keep voltages up, various electronics, pumps, some other equipment and an elevator. To service the device we would enter through a manhole near the bottom and then ride the elevator up several feet so that we could disassemble the terminal shell and take out any components. The components would then be taken to a workshop for repairs.

We would frequently need to take out various boxes from the terminal in order to fix them. During device operation, lightning bolts would go from the terminal shell to the tank wall from time to time. If there were any wire loops in that terminal, they would act as antennae and induced currents flowing in those wires would then burn out transistors. Then the device would not work. We would analyze where the loop was and redo the wiring so that it wouldn't burn out the transistor the next time. Perhaps we would need to add a resistor. Then we'd ramp up for another test.

The testing consisted first of putting any electronics boxes back in the terminal. Then the terminal shell was closed back up and we would exit out from the manhole. Next, the air would be pumped out and Sulphur Hexafluoride gas pumped in. The Sulphur Hexafluoride gas was used because it was very effective at minimizing those lightning bolts that would occur from time to time. Once the gas was pumped in we'd start the chains running that would charge up the terminal to millions of volts. From time to time we'd get a big sudden voltage drop - that was the sign that a lightning bolt had discharged the terminal. We also would start that rotating shaft which would power a generator in the terminal to provide the power needed to run the electronics in the terminal. If everything ran smoothly, we'd turn on our electron gun and start to produce an electron beam. The electron beam was then bent around and sent back into the device and collected.

There was a bit of a safety issue in all of this. Of course we never came in contact with the 2.5 million volt terminal unless the voltage was removed. But the safety issue was x-rays! Electron beams and those lightning strikes produced an enormous amount of x-rays! So many x-rays that we had to assemble several feet of concrete between us and the machine. With that much concrete, the x-ray dose was small enough to be deemed safe. A friend of mine dubbed the whole thing "the radiation machine". It was indeed very effective at producing deadly radiation if one wasn't shielded from it!

My Quest - Part 11. A First Accelerator Success.

In a PR found here I wrote a little bit about one of the causes I have devoted much of my life to, and that cause is bringing fusion energy to the world. In the present series I am recounting the story of how my fusion design came to be.

Over a period of about three years, I, Mark Sundquist, Jim Adney and Dan Anderson led the effort at building and testing a 2.5 million volt electrostatic accelerator. Prior to our efforts, the most current that had come out of a million-volt-plus electrostatic-accelerator was of the order of tens of microamps. (A microamp is one millionth of an amp). This was because the chains that are used to keep the terminal at high voltage can charge up to tens of microamps. If you send more beam current down than the charging current going up, what happens is the voltage on the terminal drops - eventually to zero. It was thought at the time that if you had enough chains or really pushed the technology in other ways that you could get a milliamp, or one thousandth of an amp. But for electron cooling we needed more current. We needed something close to a full ampere.

When I would go to conferences to discuss our design I was frequently told that it couldn't work. One senior scientist said that he'd be impressed if we could get a milliamp out of an electrostatic accelerator. Yet we had a design for a few amperes - about ten thousand times more than had ever been achieved before.

The secret to our approach was that we were going to recirculate the beam back up to the terminal when we were done with it. That way, the beam that went back up to the terminal would charge up the terminal just as much as the beam going away from the terminal would discharge it. That was the theory. But what this meant was that the beam had to be tuned just right. If the beam would wobble at all, or not be focused just right, the beam going up would hit the walls of the accelerating tubes and !*BAM*! it would start a cascade of electrons and ions going - something otherwise known as a lightning bolt. Those lightning bolts would crash the voltage down and often break things.

Eventually we got things just right, and we were able to run the device indefinitely with 10's of milliamps and got peak currents in excess of 0.1 ampere that could last for many seconds or minutes. It was actually a very successful first attempt at building an electrostatic electron beam accelerator. We did not achieve our full design current, but we had built something that achieved over 1000 times more current than had ever been achieved before, and it was enough to consider using it for the electron cooling of antiprotons in the future.

In the end, my thesis experiment was very successful and it achieved something many experts thought could not be done.

My Quest - Part 12. Detours in Graduate School.

In a PR found here I wrote a little bit about one of the causes I have devoted much of my life to, and that cause is bringing fusion energy to the world. In the present series I am recounting the story of how my fusion design came to be.

The past several PRs in this series dealt with the main thrust of my activities while earning a Ph.D., which was my development of an ampere level, 2.5 million volt, electrostatic accelerator system intended for the use of electron cooling of antiprotons. But it was not my only interest in those years. There were two other topics that I found especially fascinating.

One of the topics I found of great interest was the topic of what the world is made of. Over the millennia, mankind has continuously improved upon our knowledge of what makes up our world. From the ancient theory of earth, air, fire and water to the more modern theory of quarks and leptons, this topic has entertained some of the best minds of history. While I was in graduate school it was generally believed that the theory of quarks and leptons was lacking in some important respects. And, as I studied what was known, I came up with an alternative model for elementary particle physics. Eventually, years later, those early musings led to what I call "The ABC Preon Model". In time, I plan to write another series of PRs on that topic, but for this series of PRs it is relevant only to note that graduate school is a time of life when students can consider interesting topics and do so in some depth.

The second topic that I found of great interest was fusion. Here was a process that is very well known, and one that could have enormous benefits to mankind. The fuel is readily found in seawater. The process itself is inherently safe. There are no long lived radioactive wastes produced directly by the fusion reactions. Fusion produces no greenhouse gases. Fusion power plants would not produce the substances needed for fission bombs. It has long been known that fusion power would be the ideal power source for mankind.

As a graduate student, I was certain I could come up with a design of a system that would bring all of the wondrous potential of fusion energy into a happy reality. In fact, early on - before I had even written my first paper - I came up with a system I thought would work. I excitedly showed it to some fellow graduate students, only to learn from one of them (Tony Leonard) that I had made a mathematical error in my analysis.

But I was not to be denied. I kept coming up with additional designs. I ran through perhaps 20 more or so during my graduate student days. Yet sadly, each and every one would always have some fatal flaw. The first flaw had been found by a fellow graduate student but after that I was always able to find out myself why my designs would not work. I spent a lot of time thinking about the problem, and I soon became very respectful of just how difficult a problem it was to solve.

Coming up with a fusion energy solution was going to take a very long time indeed!

My Quest - Part 13. An Early Physics Career.

In a PR found here I wrote a little bit about one of the causes I have devoted much of my life to, and that cause is bringing fusion energy to the world. In the present series I am recounting the story of how my fusion design came to be.

After graduating with a Ph.D. I held several different scientific positions that increased my expertise in the field of accelerator physics. I was, in turn, a Professor of Physics at UCLA, a Research Scientist at the University of Central Florida, and a staff scientist at the ill-fated Superconducting Super Collider. Each of these positions were helpful in providing an underpinning for my later work on a colliding beam fusion system.

At UCLA I helped to initiate the accelerator physics group there and as part of that I taught the graduate level accelerator physics course. I also worked on electron cooling issues, this time looking into electron cooling of positrons. (Positrons are the antimatter equivalent of electrons.)

After about a year at UCLA I left for a position at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando. My job there was to design several free electron lasers. The free electron laser designs required some modification of my SCAT computer program. (The origins of the SCAT program were mentioned in an earlier PR.)

After about three years at UCF I then took a job at the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC). Jobs in physics were highly unstable, and I wanted a more stable situation for my new family. So we moved to Waxahachie, Texas where I would work on the world's largest atom smasher. I was the lead physicist for longitudinal dynamics for the high energy booster, and I worked to develop a computer program to do the longitudinal physics analysis for the entire SSC. The nation had never in its history closed a national laboratory, and so I thought this would be a place I could work for many years. Unfortunately, there can always be a first for anything, and the SSC project was cancelled just over two years after we moved to Texas.

It would turn out that my next position would prove to be very relevant to my eventual fusion design.

My Quest - Part 14. More detours.

In a PR found here I wrote a little bit about one of the causes I have devoted much of my life to, and that cause is bringing fusion energy to the world. In the present series I am recounting the story of how my fusion design came to be.

During the eight years that I spent as a professor at UCLA, research scientist at UCF and staff scientist at the SSC, I continued to be detoured into topics I found interesting and important. I came to view my accelerator physics position as a "day job" while pursuing more of my central interests off hours.

I had already come up with a rudimentary elementary particle model while in graduate school, but it had some serious flaws. During the next several years I worked to correct the flaws and arrived at the ABC Preon Model. Toward the end of the SSC, with some time on my hands, I decided to work on a derivation of Maxwell's equations from the assumption that space contains a substance called "the aether". This effort proved successful as well. But the most significant problem for my career came when I took a serious look at Einstein's theory of relativity.

It was toward the end of my time at UCLA that I came to the conclusion that the theory of relativity was wrong. Not in the sense that it had a math mistake - but rather, that it was disproven by an experiment. It is not at all known to the general public, but the theory of relativity has been somewhat controversial since its earliest days and remains so to this day. A minority of physicists have continued to question its validity over the decades. A very important experiment, based upon the work of John Stewart Bell, had set up a test based on Einstein's prediction that quantum mechanics may not be a complete theory. In that test between quantum mechanics and relativity, quantum mechanics won out. Yet the community came to the belief that there must be something we don't understand, and that we should not set relativity aside. I believed that we should more correctly question whether relativity is correct, and additionally I came up with an alternative space time theory.

Coming up with a new space time theory DID NOT help my career. Relativity was in the realm of Known Truth, and while some did question it, those who did were usually considered to be outliers, nuts and crazies. (And in truth, I will readily admit that most relativity critics really don't understand relativity at all.)

All three of the above mentioned works ("the ABC Preon Model", "a Two Component Aether"; and "An Absolute Theory of the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies") were published in the refereed journal "Physics Essays". If you are interested you can google any of the phrases quoted within the parenthesis and you will find reference to them on the first page of Google even to this day. Each of these topics is worth a series of PRs in themselves, and I hope to get to that some day.

Another detour during these years was my efforts at coming up with a fusion energy system. And while I continued to make progress, every time I thought I had a solution I found out something that would make it fail. Of all the intellectual puzzles, fusion was proving to be the toughest nut to crack!

My Quest - Part 15. A Career Interrupted.

In a PR found here I wrote a little bit about one of the causes I have devoted much of my life to, and that cause is bringing fusion energy to the world. In the present series I am recounting the story of how my fusion design came to be.

The Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) was planned to be the next great advance in High Energy Physics. The idea was to build two rings of magnets that were each about 55 miles in circumference. The rings of magnets would be placed with one on top of the other, and each would contain beams of protons that would be an energy of twenty trillion electron-volts. These two beams would then be arranged to collide, and the smashing of these proton beams would then produce new particles and interactions that had never been discovered before.

The SSC was to be the latest in a long line of atom-smashers, and these devices had, over the years, resulted in an ever-increasing knowledge over what makes up our world. The intent of course was not just to find out what makes up our world, but also how to control our world. The science of physics had brought such breakthroughs as electricity, magnetic levitation, nuclear power plants, and the microchip. (The microchip underlies computers and mobile devices.) It made sense to many that we should continue experimenting with our world in order to see what wondrous inventions we could come up with next!

However, there was a problem. The cost of two 55 mile long rings of magnets cooled with liquid Helium was at first sold at an estimated price tag of about $4 billion, but in the early days of the design the cost had swelled to close to $10 billion. Politics then doomed the device. In the early 1990's there was concern about the growing federal deficit. And sadly, the SSC project was cancelled after spending about $2 billion on its early stages.

While cancellation of the SSC was a setback to mankind's search for knowledge, it also severely impacted the careers of the physicists who worked there - one of whom was me. Prior to its initiation, there was a rough equilibrium between the number of accelerator physicists in the world and the available jobs for them. But when the SSC was started, another 400 accelerator physicists where needed. Scientific students from around the world went into accelerator physics to fill that need, as it was an exciting enterprise to be a part of! But when the SSC was cancelled, there were now 400 more accelerator physicists than there were positions for them. I had a wife and two children at the time, and my career prospects were quite bleak. The competition for the few jobs often relied on who you knew, and I didn't have any good options for quite some time. I started to learn more computing languages, since there was this new thing called "the world wide web" and it appeared there might be some jobs there.

I was just about ready to get a computer programming job when Don Young (one of the people I knew) mentioned that his son Phil Young was looking for someone with experience in million-electron-volt beam technology. Phil was optimistic about getting funding for a small accelerator project. I might be able to continue my accelerator physics career after all!

My Quest - Part 16. The PET accelerator - a Problem is Posed.

In a PR found here I wrote a little bit about one of the causes I have devoted much of my life to, and that cause is bringing fusion energy to the world. In the present series I am recounting the story of how my fusion design came to be.

Just when I was about to take up a career as a C/C++ programmer, I got a call from Phil Young saying that he had a contract position for me in accelerator physics. The job was to figure out how to take the final electrons off of a beam of Helium ions that had been accelerated to one million electron-volts, and then figure out how to focus that beam appropriately. It was also very important to keep the system as small as possible. Taking the electrons off was actually a part that had a known solution, since one could send a gas jet across the beam and that would do the trick. The problem was focusing the beam while keeping the system small.

Phil had contacted many scientists and no one had come up with an appropriate solution to the focusing issue. The problem was that these one million electron-volt Helium ions were coming out of a device called a Radio Frequency Quadrupole, or RFQ. RFQ's were handy in that they are very compact by accelerator standards, but they have the attribute that the beams they produce are quite small in all three dimensions. But not only are the beams extremely small, they are also very divergent. As soon as they leave the RFQ they have a tendency to quickly explode to a very large size. The problem Phil's team was having was that after the electrons were taken off, they wanted to put the Helium-3 ions into a second and third RFQ to bring the energy up to ten million electron-volts. But since the beams would be large after passing through the gas, only a small amount of the beam would fit into the next RFQ's. So the problem was to come up with a system that would both take the electrons off and result in a very small beam when everything was done. And all this had to be done while keeping the overall system size small.

Of course I next asked why they even wanted to do this. I learned that the Helium being used was a special, rare type of Helium called Helium-3. That type of Helium has two protons and one neutron in its nucleus. And when you accelerate Helium-3 to over ten million electron-volts and collide it with an appropriate target you can make nuclear reactions that create different atoms that emit positrons. Positrons are the antimatter equivalent of electrons, and when positrons run into electrons they can annihilate each other to produce gamma rays, a type of light. That light can then be seen in detectors. By injecting patients with positron-emitting-atoms, doctors can diagnose what is wrong with the patients, and this can help to save lives. (You can click here for a quick article about the PET technique.)

There were other ways to make positron emitting atoms, but the problem was that the existing systems were very large and produced large levels of radioactivity. Therefore, if we could find a way to take that exploding Helium-3 beam and take off the electrons and then refocus it so that it could be put into some downstream RFQ's we could make a meaningful contribution to medicine. However, any system we designed needed to be reasonably small so that it could be placed in a hospital.

And so at that point the problem had been posed! It was now time to try to find a solution!

My Quest - Part 17. The PET accelerator - A Solution to a Vexing Problem.

In a PR found here I wrote a little bit about one of the causes I have devoted much of my life to, and that cause is bringing fusion energy to the world. In the present series I am recounting the story of how my fusion design came to be.

As described in the previous PR of this series, I had gotten a job as an accelerator physicist to design a system that could take a rapidly exploding beam of particles and capture them such that they could be refocused into a small volume once again. This requirement came about because we were trying to take one million electron-volt Helium-3 particles that came from one RFQ and take off their last electrons and then send them into two more RFQs so that we could accelerate them to ten million electron-volts. We wanted to do this to make isotopes for medical use. So we had to keep the system as small as possible.

I came up with the idea of bending a portion of the device 180 degrees. If we used the first RFQ to go out, and then bent things around so that the other RFQs brought the beam back, we could then make things smaller as far as the length was concerned. That proposal was well received, as it was the length that was the most important thing to keep small. I then proposed the idea of using "an isochronous bend" to solve one of the more vexing problems that had been presented.

It is extremely well known how to focus particle beams in two of the three dimensions. One can use simple magnets to do that. But the vexing problem was how to focus the beam in the other direction. The hard direction to focus in was the direction that the beam was moving in. Here is where that isochronous bend came in.

The problem with the particles moving in the beam direction is that some of them move faster than others. In the RFQs, if a particle moves faster it gets ahead of the others. And then those at the front get less kick than those at the back. So that returns them to the main beam. But once free from the RFQ, the faster ones would keep getting ahead, while the slower ones would fall further and further behind.

The trick to getting them back to the same place was to bend the beams. When you bend the beams, faster particles are bent less than slower ones. For that reason, the faster ones will go on the outside of the bends, where the path is longer. By making the extra distance they travel exactly equal to the extra distance they go since they are moving faster, the whole beam can then arrive at the destination point at the same time. However, in order to make it all work I couldn't come up with any design for a 180 degree bend. More bending was needed. So the design eventually used a full 540 degrees of bending to do the job!

In addition to bending the beam, we needed to focus it to a very small spot. Most of this focusing was done with quadrupole magnets. And then, in a bow to nature, we knew that we couldn't be exact in our designs. So we added a couple small "tuning quadrupoles" that were designed to be zero if our calculations where exactly right, but those tuning quadrupoles could make up for any issue if we were slightly off in our design, or if manufacturing led to small errors. The end design appears in the figure below. I had now come up with a theoretical solution to that vexing problem!


Figure - An Early Design for the Medium Energy Beam Transport System for the PET Accelerator. Q's represent focusing quadrupoles. The beam enters the pipe on the left after leaving an RFQ and being stripped of its electrons. The beam is then focused and goes through 540 degrees of bending, and is finally focused to a small spot at the entrance to downstream RFQs.

My Quest - Part 18. The PET accelerator - overcoming mistakes.

One of the interesting side stories during the design work concerned the use of a couple of accelerator physics computer codes. I had developed a very simple particle beam optics computer code as part of my Ph.D. thesis studies, and over time I had built more and more onto that once simple code. That code was named SCAT, and SCAT had been used in several free electron laser designs, as well as some transport beam optics for the Superconducting Super Collider. A few other groups had made use of the code as well, but it wasn't very well known.

There was another computer code that was better known and that had been used in national labs around the world. That code was named TRACE 3-D. One of the advantages of TRACE 3-D was that it analyzed the beam optics in three dimensions, whereas SCAT only looked at two. For steady state beams you really only need to look at two dimensions (since the other dimension is steady) but now we were looking at bunched beams so we needed some of the features that TRACE 3-D brought to the table.

However there was a problem. For the special case that we were looking at SCAT and TRACE 3-D disagreed! There was some back and forth between myself and the author of TRACE 3-D, but eventually I was able to find the problem as being a bug in TRACE 3-D. With that success SCAT gained more credibility with the team. They had heard of TRACE 3-D, but not SCAT, and now SCAT had been right! This helped lend credence to my design, and the team decided to go ahead and build it! The author of TRACE 3-D quickly made the fix that I had found, and we went on to use both TRACE 3-D and SCAT to study our system.

Later I thought I had found a second problem with TRACE 3-D as well. I wrote to the author of TRACE 3-D about that one too. But in that case, during my careful checking, I found that I was the one who had made the error this time! (In that case I was just starting to write a different code; it wasn't SCAT.) The author of TRACE 3-D had also found my mistake and wrote to me about it. This was all back in the day when using computers to design particle accelerators was relatively new, and we were still working out the bugs.

It is part of the business of science to make mistakes. Science is hard! You are (or at least should be) doing things no one has ever done before! The key thing is to recognize when you make mistakes along the way. You should always check your work, compare your results against that of others, and have others carefully review your work as well.

Mistakes are part of life. They happen to the best of us. The important thing is to admit them, learn from them, and use what you learn to improve on what you are doing. Both TRACE 3-D and my new calculations benefited by this positive attitude with respect to mistakes!

My Quest - Part 19. The PET accelerator - The Politics of Mickey.

It took about a year to come up with the design shown in the Figure in Part 17 above. Along the way, there were many iterations, and as a short cut we would often give the various designs nicknames. For the design above, we chose to call it Mickey, as it bears some resemblance to a cartoon character many of us remembered from childhood - Mickey Mouse.

It is often the case in physics that the names for various things start out as inside jokes or spoofs. But once the names have been around for a while, they take on a certain reverence when it becomes clear that a deep truth has been revealed. For the team I was working with, we had fun with Mickey, but I soon learned that our humor was not appreciated - not at all.

My boss for the PET project, Phil Young, was very supportive of trying the design, but the scientists and engineers at Fermi National Lab were not at all enthusiastic. Building accelerators is hard, and the optics of beams at low energies can be very tricky. The fact that we wanted to transport a beam through a full 540 degrees of bending, and through such a large system, just to make it small again seemed to many like a very bad idea indeed!

At one meeting, it was clear just how much disdain the group had for the idea when a lead engineer disparaged the effort by saying something about the "mouse ears". It is always hard to explain intonations in written recaps such as this, but everyone knew that he had severe misgivings about the design. In fact he wouldn't even talk to me much, even though I had known and worked with him a bit at the SSC. The issue was that science had just gone through a severe funding crunch, and jobs were scarce. If anyone worked on a project that failed their lab could be in jeopardy and careers could be ruined. It was, in short, no laughing matter.

After the meeting, Phil told me and the rest of our group that we probably needed to come up with a better name than "Mickey". "Mickey" was leading to some political drawbacks. I think we settled on something like the dual-alpha system or some such - it had to at least SOUND scientific!

Of course whatever you name something should not in any way affect its actual operation. But after that meeting, "Mickey" was no more. It was time to take things seriously. Very seriously!

My Quest - Part 20. The PET accelerator - Monthly DOE Reviews.

While the Fermi National Lab scientists and engineers were by no means happy with my design, the project team decided to go ahead with it. It wasn't that they thought it would work - far from it. Rather, no one had any better ideas. Even a brute force solution did not seem to be viable. But while my idea was the only thing left, there was still great fear that it would fail.

The fear of failure was not confined to Fermilab scientists. The fear of failure extended all the way to the Department of Energy (DOE) in Washington DC.

Besides my radical design, there was another political problem with our work, and that problem was in the way it had been funded. A Senator had put funding for our project into a bill so that the eventual home for our accelerator would be in a hospital in his home state. This sort of funding mechanism was called "pork barrel funding" and such funding was frowned on by the DOE. Our project would likely never have been funded under the traditional funding means.

Since our project had been funded outside of the normal DOE review process, there was a great deal of fear that it would fail. And if the project were to fail, the DOE would also look bad. There are a lot of journalists and congressman who like to point out the tremendous waste that there can be in federal government funding, and failed science experiments can really give those involved a figurative black eye. The SSC had only recently been cancelled, and everyone was fearful for their own job. And so it was decided somewhere that we needed to be watched closely - very closely!

From the time that we decided to build my design, we were asked to defend that design every month in front of a panel of expert accelerator physicists. A significant problem I had was that I was using SCAT - a program I had written myself. None of the reviewers were familiar with it, so that caused both doubts and confusion. A second significant problem was the way I did accelerator physics. What I would do was to do an analysis of each part of the device one at a time, and use different tools for each part. (Some tools are only good for some parts, while others are only good for other parts.) I would then define the parameters at the end of one part and use them as the starting point for the analysis of the next part. It all seemed simple enough to me, but since it was different from what scientists usually did this too caused some confusion.

All of this was rather stressful. I had a wife and two very young sons and one on the way, and this was my livelihood. Yet at each monthly meeting I was told that the DOE might be cancelling the project if the review went poorly. They really weren't at all happy about being forced to do this project by a single senator and if they could clearly show our folly they would feel justified in cancelling the project to save the remaining taxpayer dollars. So I was basically going month to month wondering if I would have a job.

My Quest - Part 21. The PET accelerator - a Termination Discussion.

At about the half way point of the project, the theory for my device was complete, and it was time to order parts and begin construction. And it was at this time that my relevance to the future of the project began to come into question. The issue at hand was whether or not I was "theoretical" or "experimental". Ralph, the leader of the Fermilab team, thought I was mostly "theoretical".

Physicists are frequently divided into two camps. Theoretical physicists are those that do the calculations and provide some high level designs, and experimental physicists are those that oversee the detailed designs as well as having a good overview of the overall system so that they can identify the source of any problems that come up, as well as provide insight on how to fix the problems that do come up. Engineers are the ones that then order the parts needed to implement any fixes as well as understand how all parts go together to ensure everything will work, and technicians are the ones that do the work of putting the parts in place. Each of these roles are critical to the success of the project, and there is often overlap between people as they can take on more than one role in a project. For instance, engineers often take the role of technician.

The problem for me personally was that if it was decided that I was "theoretical" then I was to be terminated from the project. The project was done with its theoretical portion, and it was time to do the experiment. If I was "theoretical" I could no longer stay on. This would have been all well and good if I was an employee of the company that was building the thing, since I could then just be moved to another project. But I was a contractor working on my own. Hence, if I was "theoretical" I'd be out of a job - with a wife, three young sons, and a mortgage to support. It continued to be a stressful time.

Knowing the rocky road that it was to get funding for physics, I had hedged my bets some. While doing all of the calculations I ensured that I used the computer languages of C and C++, as I understood that these languages were in widespread use outside of physics now, and perhaps I could get a job as a programmer if all else failed.

However, my boss Phil was very supportive of me as an "experimental" physicist and so I got to stay on. My physics career had dodged a bullet, and I would now be able to see if my design actually worked!

My Quest - Part 22. The PET accelerator - An Initial success; the politics changes.

Once the design was complete, all the parts for the device were ordered and we put them together. We got the ion beam source working, as well as the first RFQ. It was then time to send the beam through the 540 degree bending system to see if my designs actually worked.

As discussed in earlier PRs, there was tremendous doubt about my design. There was a general feeling at Fermilab that low energy ion beams tended to have a mind of their own. I thought about it day and night, and could not see why my design would not work. I asked the Fermilab staff whether they thought Maxwell's and Lorentz's equations were wrong in that range of velocities, and they would usually respond with something along the lines of "no, Maxwell and Lorentz are clearly correct - what we are concerned about is you!" But I had thought of just about every possible problem and thought all would be well.

When we first hooked up my system to the RFQ, the lead Fermilab engineer put a gizmo on the output of the RFQ. (For this story, gizmo is just a highly technical term). The gizmo produced a signal to see how bunched up the beam was. It was very bunched up. He then moved it to the end of the device. To his surprise the beam was again very bunched up. This was not something that was expected - it had worked right away! He then asked me if I could make it less bunched up, and after a bit of thought I realized that changing one of the small quadrupoles should do the trick. We changed the setting on that quadrupole, and indeed the beam was no longer bunched up!

In the course of those few hours, the politics of my situation changed completely. Those who would avoid me were now quite willing to talk to me. And after that day we never again had another monthly DOE review. That 540 degree bending system worked just as it was supposed to, and so now it was time to hook up the downstream RFQs and start producing PET isotopes!

My Quest - Part 23. The PET accelerator - The importance of space charge.

Once the initial tests showed that the system worked, there was still one experimental question hanging over us, and that question involved "space charge".

Space charge is something that is of concern in particle accelerator design. You may recall from high school science classes that "likes repel, opposites attract". The thing that is either alike or opposite in that phrase is something called "electric charge". It is known that electric charge is a fundamental quantity on various particles. Electrons are negatively charged. Protons are positively charged. When we get electricity in our homes it is the result of electric charge flowing through wires. But in accelerators, we deal with something a bit different. We deal with free particles that contain electric charge.

If you have enough free particles containing electric charge, they will tend to explode. This is because "likes repel", and if you have a whole bunch of "likes" in the same small volume then they all repel each other and that leads to them exploding outward. This outward explosion can be reversed by applying strong electric or magnetic fields in just the right way to contain the particles, and that is one aspect of how particle accelerators work.

In our case, the problem of space charge meant that our system might have trouble getting the beam back down to a small size for reentry into the downstream RFQs. However, I didn't believe it would be too much of a problem. The reason I thought it wouldn't be too much of a problem was because of the important issue of space charge neutralization.

The problem of space charge can be overcome if instead of just having "likes" in the beam we also arrange for lots of "opposites". If we have equal numbers of "likes" and "opposites" then the net charge will be zero, and there will be no problem.

And getting "opposites" into our beams should happen automatically. As our positively charged beam travels through the beam pipe it will collide with gas atoms. Once it hits those atoms it will knock the electrons off the atoms, resulting in free, negatively charged, electrons. Those electrons will then be trapped by the positive charge of our beam until our beam is significantly neutralized. At least that was my theory.

During our testing, we discovered that my theory was indeed correct! Device operation was consistent with design only if there was a very high level of space charge neutralization. The system worked quite well, and we also proved a very important fact of nature - free particle beams will become space charge neutralized very quickly!

This proven fact of space charge neutralization would turn out to be crucial when designing ECOFusion in the upcoming years.

My Quest - Part 24. The PET accelerator - Epistemology: Einstein, Ray Herb and me.

Today in physics, there is a large gap between what theoretical physicists believe about our world and what normal people believe about our world. This was not always true, but it has been so for decades now. The central point of departure is whether or not one believes in an "objective reality", or objectivity. On Wikipedia we find that objectivity is defined as "the state or quality of being true even outside of a subject's individual biases, interpretations, feelings, and imaginings", and this definition is as good as any for the purposes of this blog.

Let us start with the observation that math is pure abstraction. When we manipulate letters and numbers in algebra, such as "a" times "a" equals "a" squared, what we are doing is simply playing games. We have certain rules for what we can do with those letters and numbers, and as long as we abide by those rules we can go on to derive relationships between those letters and numbers. Usually, the letter eventually gets assigned some further meaning. For example, one letter might be the force on a beam in a building, another might be the mass of the building above the beam, and a third might be the stress on that beam. By using math, we can calculate the stress on that beam, and we can see how big of a beam we need so that the building does not fall down. The math is extremely useful to us, but when it is devoid of the meaning it is simply a game played with letters and numbers.

For a long time, Physics involved a belief in objective reality - things around us really existed - and it was the job of physics to model those things with math. Like the example above, physics would imply meaning to various letters used in math, the math was then used to derive relationships between the letters, and then those letters would again be known to have some meaning that we could make practical use of in our daily life.

Relativity was the first modern jump into a newer, modern, fantasy world. Long ago, many cultures had fantasy worlds, but over time the scientific method had eliminated much of the fantasy, and science in the late 1800's was well grounded in objective reality. Relativity changed this somewhat, however, as it boldly changed what once were concrete ideas about space and time. Relativity changed ideas of space and time that were familiar to us since childhood as it blurred space and time into a "space-time-continuum". Space could become time, and time could become space, simply when an observer moves through space. It was and still is quite difficult to envision this in one's mind, yet the fantasy world of relativity had two things going for it: 1) it was mathematically elegant and correct; and 2) it successfully predicted all the results of experiments for decades.

Despite the fantastic nature of the concept of relativity, Einstein was himself still a strong proponent of an objective reality. And while space and time lost some of the usual quality of objectivity within relativity (after all, space and time were now relative to one's motion) it was Einstein's belief that objectivity was still valid when it came to things like the reality of the particles that make up our world. And it was a belief in an objective reality that led Einstein, Boris Podolsy, and Nathan Rosen (EPR) to propose that quantum mechanics must be wrong. John Stewart Bell then refined the EPR predictions so they could be tested, and once they were, it was shown that quantum mechanics was still correct - in contradiction to the EPR paper.

The results of the EPR tests, presently referred to as "quantum entanglement", were quite disturbing. Taken from an EPR point of view, it meant that special relativity was wrong. But it was quickly postulated that perhaps the results simply showed that nature was beyond the capability of man to understand her, and this latter postulate began to hold sway within the physics community. More specifically stated - EPR assumed an underlying objective reality in nature, and if we set aside the concept of an objective reality, special relativity could be saved.

In the past three decades, and really even somewhat before, the idea that there is no objective reality has gained a strong acceptance within the physics community. The result is that physics itself has become an art of pure abstraction, just like math. Equations are produced that lead to the correct prediction of experiments, but those equations themselves are no longer predicated on any ideas concerning what the basic underlying physical entities are. The belief is that mankind has moved beyond such notions. The equations originally had their footing in ideas of an objective reality, but that aspect of things is no longer viewed as being very relevant. Nowadays, one is free to be as fantastic as possible with the math, and only then loosely tie it back to even more fantasy - such as possibly producing full universes in colliding beam experiments!

There is of course a more humble approach to things. That more humble approach is to simply view special relativity as being disproven by experiment and let it go at that. There was a precursor theory that handled things quite well, without all of the fantasy. And while such an approach is frowned upon, I have taken that approach for quite some time. And it is that approach that goes into believing that our particle beam in our PET accelerator really did consist of particles. And that those particles really did hit gas atoms. And those gas atoms really are made up of electrons going around a nucleus. And when those real atoms get hit by those real particles the real electrons really do get knocked off and they really do neutralize the real space charge of the real particles..... Really.

During my time in physics, there were very few physicists that shared my view of things really existing. One who I believe did was Ray Herb, emeritus professor of Physics from the University of Wisconsin and founder of National Electrostatics Corporation. I would talk with Ray about fusion ideas from time to time, and it was quite clear he thought about things from the same reality-based point of view that I did. Ray also built many things during his career that worked better than their previous competition. I always thought that it was his understanding of the reality of underlying nature that allowed such success.

I am quite certain that a tree falling in the wilderness makes a sound even if no one is around to hear it, and I believe Ray would have agreed. However, this point of view is almost certainly a minority position in physics today. And being in the minority often results in the majority thinking that the minority "just doesn't get it", which can be quite damaging politically. Nonetheless, those of us who "just don't get it" are in good company historically. Like myself and Ray Herb, Einstein was always a proponent of an objective reality. The EPR tests were done well after Einstein's death. It is interesting to speculate whether Einstein would have continued to be a proponent of special relativity after the EPR tests were done, or whether, like the vast majority of physicists today, he would have sacrificed objective reality for the sake of a single theory - the theory of relativity.

But even setting the larger ramifications aside, I can state clearly that viewing nature through a lens of an assumed objective reality has proven to be very successful to me during my accelerator physics career. It was successful during my thesis experiment. It was successful during the PET experiment. And I believe that if tried it will be successful in helping to bring fusion energy to the world.

My Quest - Part 25. The PET accelerator - A Radiation Scare.

Working on particle accelerators always involves the hazard of radiation. Radiation can be a very scary thing. You can't see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, nor feel it - and yet it can kill you! And when dealing with particle accelerators it is almost always around!

A first step in ensuring safety when working on devices that produce radioactivity is to shield them. Different materials absorb radiation at different rates. Putting up a thick concrete wall can help protect you from x-rays and gamma rays. Paraffin (wax) can help to shield you from neutron radiation. Once they know how much radiation a source will produce, experts in safety know how much shielding is needed to keep people safe.

A second step in ensuring safety when working on devices that produce radioactivity is to have monitors for it. Both at my thesis experiment, and at the PET accelerator, we had radiation monitors all over the place. They would flash different ways if there was a problem, and there would be a monitor with a needle indicating how much radiation was present. We'd have monitors where we were, as well as monitors near the device that was producing the radiation. Even though the experts calculate how much shielding is needed, the more important thing is the measurement of how much radiation you are getting! We would wear badges that would calculate how much dose we were getting, and if we hit a limit we would not be able to be on site for the rest of the month.

Interlocks are also an important safety step when dealing with radioactive environments. An interlock is some device that will stop the radiation producer if the interlock is broken. For instance, an electrical connection might be set up to come undone if a door is opened, and once undone, a signal can be sent that reliably turns off the device.

Part of our protocol at the PET experiment was to only enter the accelerator room after the device had been turned off for a while. Then we would work on it. When we were done working on it we would be scanned by a portable radiation scanner.

One day, when getting scanned, the radiation detector went to an extremely high level during my scan. This was a moment of high anxiety for me! Had I been contaminated? When that happened I was told to take off all of my clothes except my underwear and I got scanned again. Fortunately at that point I was "clean". We then scanned various articles of clothing and it was found that my sweater was the thing that had become contaminated. We put my sweater on a shelf in the radiation room, I got redressed with the rest of my clothes, and I got scanned again. I was good to go. The next day we scanned my sweater again and it was perfectly fine.

It was believed that what had happened was that my sweater might have picked up some small chunk of metal or some dust that had become radioactive due to the high levels of radiation in the room during the operation of the PET accelerator. Overnight, all of the radioactive particles had decayed away, and my sweater was now completely safe.

Radioactivity is one of the job hazards of being an accelerator physicist. One must take great care around radioactive devices. And while this incident was quite a scare, by quickly removing the contaminated clothing I did not suffer a problematic radiation dose during this possibly very dangerous event!

My Quest - Part 26. The PET accelerator - More Detours.

During the three years from about 1995 through 1997 I earned my living as an accelerator physicist, serving as lead accelerator physicist on Fermi National Lab's Positron Emission Tomography accelerator. However, my main physics interests still were on the fundamental physics questions that have been bedeviling mankind for the past century. These questions involved "what is the nature of space and time?", "what is the world made of?", and "is there really an aether?".

During the closing days of the Superconducting Super Collider I prepared papers on each of the three topics mentioned above, and I hope to be able to write PRs about each of those stories in the future. But if you are interested now, you can find copies of these works online. The papers are: A Derivation of Maxwell's Equations From a Simple Two-Component Solid-Mechanical Aether, D.J. Larson, Physics Essays, vol. 11, no. 4, (1998), The A-B-C Preon Model, D.J. Larson, Physics Essays, vol. 10, 27-34, (1997) and An Absolute Theory for the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, D.J. Larson, Physics Essays, vol. 7, 476-489, (1994).

My work on fundamental physics led to me become a reviewer for the journal Physics Essays. This activity was ongoing during my time at the SSC (1991-1994) and it continued during my time with the PET accelerator (1995-1998). However, during my time with the PET accelerator, and even during much of my time at the SSC, these activities were not actually supported by my employers. In fact, they were frowned upon. For the most part, I had to do these activities outside of my 40 hour work week and do them on my own time. At the SSC I was even forbidden to publish the first of my works for quite a while. Only after the SSC was cancelled was I able to work on fundamental physics, publish my works, and serve as a reviewer during the day.

The time I found to do my review work while working on the PET accelerator was often on planes and in airports. I still lived in the Dallas area, but the PET accelerator was being built in Chicago. Hence, I spent a lot of time traveling during those years. And rather than let that time go by idly, I would bring my reviewing work with me.

During the years between 1991 and 1999 I prepared well over one hundred reviews of papers on fundamental physics. I was of the belief that I was probably reviewing over half of all papers in the world that were sent in concerning special relativity. Most often, the authors were simply wrong, but on occasion there would be a well written paper worthy of publication. Fairly frequently, the authors would be delighted by my review work, and also fairly frequently they would be furious when I pointed out flaws. But no one ever knew who I was, since the work was all done anonymously.

And also during this time I continued to think about colliding beam fusion. I'd try some ideas out, but they always turned out to have some reason why they would not work. Of all the things I looked at, coming up with a fusion energy source was the most complicated problem of them all. I wouldn't say it was the most difficult - fundamental physics is quite difficult! But while fundamental physics is hard, it isn't complicated. Fusion and the physics of particle beams is extremely complicated. With all that complexity, fusion would take far longer to solve!

My Quest - Part 27. The PET accelerator - Success!

The goal of the Fermilab positron emission tomography (PET) accelerator was to make radio-isotopes for use in medicine. We hooked up our Helium-3 ion source to a Radio Frequency Quadrupole (RFQ) to bring the beam energy to one million electron volts, passed it through the 540 degree bend system I designed, and sent it back into two more RFQs to bring the beam energy to 10.5 million electron volts. We then crashed that beam onto appropriate chemical targets to make the desired radio-isotopes.

Radio-chemists from the University of Washington and the BRF from Louisianna did a series of experiments, and this work was able to advance the science of radio chemistry. Our experiment had been successful, despite all of the warnings of experts who said that it would not work. Our team took pride in a job well done.

However, time does not stand still. During the time that we were building this new way to make PET isotopes the competing technology also made great strides. And that competing technology, based on cyclotrons, was now at the point where it was a good solution to the problem we had been working on. As a result, our effort resulted in some great science, but it did not yield a great commercial product.

But despite the lack of a commercial product, one side benefit of our work also occurred. It was now clear that low energy ion beams could be excellently modeled with my SCAT program. It was now also very clear that space charge neutralization was a reality. From time to time I did a few quick calculations to see how these facts might someday lead to a fusion energy solution.

One of the quick calculations was to see how much energy we could produce out of those bottles of Helium-3 we were using. The quick calculation showed that a system using Helium-3 to make electricity would be economical if I could figure out how to do it. This struck me as quite important. Helium-3 is a pretty rare isotope - much less abundant and more expensive than deuterium. If Helium-3 would be economical, then a deuterium based system would be enormously successful.

At the conclusion of the PET experiment I had now led two accelerator efforts that succeeded where many thought we would fail. There aren't that many new accelerators built at all, and I had been the lead on two! I was now quite confident in the tools I had developed for accelerator design, and it would soon be time to focus those tools on one of the most important scientific issues facing mankind. It would soon be time to address the issue of a clean, safe, inexpensive and inexhaustible power source - it would soon be time to investigate fusion!

My Quest - Part 28. The PET accelerator - Credits

Over the past several paragraphs I have told the story of the Fermilab Positron Emission Tomography accelerator. My story has been written from my own personal perspective, but there were many, many people that were critically important to the success of the project. I wish to take time here to recognize their important contributions. It is always somewhat risky to do something like this, since I may forget an individual or two, and I don't mean to slight anyone. But I will risk that in order to mention so many of those who helped the project arrive at a successful completion. (And if I become aware of any oversight I will not hesitate to update this! So on the chance that someone reads this who was part of it and knows of someone I missed, just let me know!)

The Fermilab PET accelerator involved a team from Fermilab as well as a team from Scientific Applications International Corporation, or SAIC, along with experimentalists from the University of Washington and the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana. I was paid as a consultant to the SAIC team.

Members of the SAIC team included Phil Young, project manager, Richard deHaas, vacuum engineer, Jeff Johanning, technical support, John Palkovic, accelerator physicist, Ding Sun, accelerator physicist, and Steve Ringler, mechanical engineer. The first year of the project largely consisted of design work and meetings with group leaders at Fermilab as we planned things out, so not everyone was involved for all three years. Richard and Jeff were pretty much full time on the project throughout the entire last two years, and Phil was a major force both in getting the project off the ground and throughout the duration of the project.

The Fermilab staff leaders included Ralph Pasquinelli, project manager, Frank Bieniosek, accelerator physicist, Kris Anderson mechanical engineer, Bob Webber electrical engineer, Chuck Schmidt, ion source physicist, Miliorad Popovich, ion source physicist, Iouri Terechkine, magnet engineer, Bruce Hoffman coolant engineer, Nancy Grossman radiation physicist and safety officer, and Elliot McCrory software physicist. In addition to these leaders, there were many physicists, engineers and technicians on their teams that I didn't even always meet who would do certain tasks in the areas they specialized in. We also had operator support during run days. (Operators are those at the lab who run the controls to run the accelerators.) The Fermilab team was all part time, as we would get their services only when needed to keep the cost of the project within budget. The Fermilab team would return to their other lab tasks when not working with us.

The experimental team consisted of Professor Ken Krohn and his graduate student Jeanne Link from the University of Washington and Jerry Bida of the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana. The experimentalists were the ones that used our device to advance the science of radiochemistry.

Additionally, there were many staff people and businesses who contributed. For instance, the complicated 270 degree bending magnets (we had two of them) were outsourced to a highly competent subcontractor.

The Fermilab PET accelerator was a $10 million project that lasted for three years. Everyone involved played an important part in the success of the project.

Last, but not at all least, we had the support of the American taxpayer!

I remain indebted to all of those who helped make the project a success.

The Fermilab PET accelerator was typical of a major accelerator research project in that experts from many branches of physics and engineering were needed in order to reach success. A fusion accelerator will require a similar level of expertise and dedication. As I left the project, I hoped someday to return to Ferimlab to build a device that would eventually fuel the world.

My Quest - Part 29. A Poor Job Market

Once the Fermilab PET project was complete (discussed in my previous PRs), it was time for me to look for my next position. Being an accelerator physicist was like that - you would be employed only for as long as you had a project to work on. Things were better for those who could find positions at national labs, since ostensibly those positions were permanent. But even at the national labs employment was somewhat tenuous. Every year there would be great concern about how much funding the national lab would get. Every year there was a fear of layoffs. And occasionally there would indeed be layoffs. From time to time a new lab or project would be initiated, and then everyone looking for work would apply to that new place, usually requiring that they sell their family home in one city and pick up and move to a new town.

I was very aware that if our PET project failed that my career as an accelerator physicist was likely done. If you design something, and then the government spends $10 million on it, and then it fails - well, that is not something that most people feel should be repeated. With more accelerator physicists than there were jobs to put them in, failure on the PET project likely meant my career as an accelerator physicist would be over.

Knowing that my future was uncertain, I hedged my bets some. I had learned at my days at the SSC that computer programmers could always find work, and so I programmed in C++ and Java over the three years I worked on the PET project, rather than programming in Fortran. Fortran was a language used by physicists, while C++ and Java were used by industry where the demand for programmers was quite high. So I worked with C++ and Java in order to be able to support my family in the case I had missed something important in my design.

What I was not expecting was that even with a success at the PET project I would still have trouble finding work. There was some interest at Fermilab in hiring me, but the time to get hired could be up to a year. Fortunately for me, the company that had hired me as a contractor offered me a job to work on designs for a proton therapy accelerator. However, that next job came with a problem, in that it might require that I spend considerable time in Japan down the road. That job too would eventually be dependent on getting funding in future years, but there was a contract in place for one year, and so I accepted that job.

At the time that I transitioned to work on the proton therapy accelerator I also looked at other job possibilities. It is not well known, but scientists are not particularly well paid. When I looked into things, I found that database administrators (DBAs) were making about twice as much as scientists. (This was back in 1998, when the dot com boom was flourishing. DBAs are one type of computer programmer that are needed to make web applications run smoothly.) So at the start of my work on the proton therapy accelerator I started teaching myself the skills needed to be a DBA.

I did almost no more work on my "detours" of fundamental physics or fusion during this year. Instead, I designed particle accelerators during my day job, and spent my spare time learning to be a DBA and working toward my DBA certification. I had three young sons, and I didn't want them to have to move from city to city every three years just so I could keep being employed in physics. As a DBA, jobs were plentiful. It was a good backup plan!

My Quest - Part 30. A Career Switch

Toward the end of my one year of designing a proton therapy accelerator, around spring of 1999, the annual torment began - negotiations were underway for the next year's budget. The project was slated to be built in Japan, and I had been there to see the building site. But as the first year's contract was now ending, a squabble came about on details for any future work.

As an aside concerning that proton therapy work, it was interesting to see the proposed building site. Coming from the US, and being born and raised in small town America, I was expecting to see an open field. But the proton therapy accelerator was to be built in Tokyo, not exurban America. The building site was the site of an existing hospital. The plan was to tear down that building and replace it with a newer one. As soon as I saw Tokyo, I understood. Everything there was packed in. I saw a one cubic foot dishwasher, a device that allowed one car to be lifted so another could be parked beneath, grassy rooftops so there would at least be parks and grass somewhere, and I stayed in a mid-sized hotel room that I measured to be 7 feet wide by 14 feet long. Space was at a premium! I soon also learned that my mid-size hotel room was also the size of many apartments in the city. So of course there were no open fields there to build a new hospital!

The negotiations to continue our work did not go well. I kept being warned that the proposed work might fall through. And indeed, one day, I got the call. The negotiations had failed. I was given an ultimatum - there could still be work for me, but to take it I would have to move my family to California!

I had lived in California before, during my time as an Adjunct Professor of Physics at UCLA. I did not wish to go back. The high cost of living meant in my view that my three sons would not have as good of a life there as they would in Dallas. And beyond that, I was back to the issue of having to move again just to follow a career in physics. I had just recently finished getting my certification as an Oracle DBA, so I started looking for work as a DBA instead. And indeed I found a position fairly quickly. It was 1999, and IT was booming! I did have to take about a 20% pay cut, since I had zero work experience in that field, but I figured I would recover that and then some quite quickly once I got a little experience. And then I wouldn't have to move my family every three years or so.

Also, I believed I could do more of the physics that I wanted to do if I switched careers. This may seem illogical, but I was convinced it would be the case. While having a job in physics, every time I worked on something I thought to be important it was severely discouraged. I was prevented from even attempting to publish on some occasions. The problem was that any significant departure from the presently accepted dogma was viewed extremely unfavorably. Pursuing such work often led to threats that my job might be adversely affected. By switching to an IT career, I figured I could work freely during my free time on anything I wanted to. And I now wanted to work on colliding beam fusion.

About a week after accepting the DBA position, in a twist of fate, I was offered my old job back as a physicist. The negotiations had been renewed, and an agreement was made! But I declined to go back, even in the face of considerable pressure. One, I had given my word that I would take my new position. And two, I saw what the end-game would eventually be - I would eventually have to move, probably often. And that can be quite hard on kids. Given all the upsides of making the career switch, I became a DBA.

My Quest - Part 31. 2000 - An Unstable Year

It was 1999, and the dot com boom was on! Also, there was a large amount of activity revolving around the "Y2K" problem. For those too young to remember, there was a problem that computers often represented the year by just two digits: 1986 was 86; 1999 was 99. The problem was that when we went to the year 2000, a two digit year would go to 00, and that had the potential to really mess things up. Years always need to increase, and 00 would decrease. Also, eventually years might repeat. If there was something in a computer from 1955, something new in 2055 would cause problems if only two digits were used. So in 1999 there was a lot of computer work being done to fix that problem. This meant jobs were plentiful, and I was able to find one easily.

During the early part of my time in IT I worked on some fusion ideas in my spare time. A colliding beam approach to fusion looked promising! But I didn't find a lot of time to work on it. In addition to being a DBA, it was desired that I get certified as a Java developer. So I spent time studying for the certification exam. I was able to pass the exam, and at that point my IT salary had recovered to what I had been making as a scientist.

Things were going pretty well with my new career, but when the century turned, things weren't so rosy for computer programmers and DBAs anymore. The Y2K work all dried up, of course. Additionally, the dot com bubble burst! At the consulting company I was working for, some of the programmers and DBAs went "to the bench". The bench was a place where computer professionals could study to hone their skills while the consultant agency continued to look for places to place them. Early on in this process very few if any were laid off. Back in 1999 the biggest problem was finding computer professionals, and so the mindset was to keep as many good professionals as you could. During the downturn I was still able to get work, and I didn't spend much time on the bench, but things were starting to look dicey.

And then one day I got a call. It was from my prior employer. I was offered the chance to go back to particle beam physics for a project that was following up on the proton therapy work I had done over a year earlier. I really didn't want to go back, since I had made a decision to move into IT. So I set a price of twice what I used to make - high enough so that I thought it would be declined and I could go on with my new career. But the price was considered OK. So I went back to physics for a while.

Throughout this unstable year I didn't have a lot of time to work on fusion. Unfortunately, very soon I would find more time on my hands.

My Quest - Part 32. 2001 - The Birth of ECOFusion

As just discussed, I switched from a physics career into an IT career in 2000, but after a year of that I got an offer to do more physics work at twice my previous salary. The offer involved me setting up a corporation from which to operate, and this resulted in a situation where the money started piling up in the bank. My plan was to go back into IT once the project was done, and be ahead financially for the first time in my life.

However, a new IT job didn't come right away. I was dealing with several placement professionals (headhunters) and I would call every week or two. Every week I would get a new story. The first one was that no one was really hiring in January and February, but it was believed that the demand would pick up soon. I was told that it was often the case that the first part of the year was slow, and they were really expecting that March would be much better, and things would likely take off again quickly. So I wasn't very concerned. Since I had made double my usual salary for about eight months, I had about eight months of cushion to support my family on. I could afford health insurance too, so everything was OK.

Since I had time on my hands, it was during this period of time that I really put a lot of time into a fusion energy design. The early designs were relatively small, and would have likely cost in the range of $200,000 to build. Unfortunately, I would continuously find some reason why each design would not work. Accelerator physics is quite complicated, with many factors that you must consider. Every time I would look into a new factor I would discover why that particular design would not work. I would then think about how to overcome that particular problem, and the correction would then lead to a change in the design. Each design iteration would then get more complex - and it would be more costly to build.

When I started my design efforts, I wrote everything down in Microsoft Word. I would format the equations and then do the calculations on a calculator program that I had written. Then I would put all of the numbers back into the Microsoft Word document. Accelerator design involves a lot of calculations and numbers! To make sure the numbers were correct, I would have to check and recheck each time. And as the device got more an more complicated, each new design would take longer and longer to redo and recheck all the calculations that I had done for the previous design. It was starting to take days just to check out each new design. So at that point I wrote another computer program to do all of the calculations for me. The computer program would take new design inputs and then run all of the calculations in the same order that they appeared in the Word document. That program greatly sped up the new design efforts, but with all of the factors involved, each iteration still took time.

Unfortunately from my financial point of view, my period of going without income began to grow. When March came, the headhunters told me that a hiring boom was still not happening, but they expected it would be better in April. April came, and May became the target. Then June. Finally in July I started to get interviews, but still did not get a job. I was almost out of money now and starting to get very concerned. But fortunately in August I landed a contract position as a database administrator! I no longer had that monetary cushion, but I had a job!

The period of time between January 2001 and August 2001 saw my fusion design make great strides. I dubbed the work ECOFusion, for electron-cooled-fusion, since the science of electron cooling was a centerpiece of the design. I still had several more factors to consider, but ECOFusion was now beginning to look very promising!

My Quest - Part 33. Six Years of ECOFusion Designs

Between the years of 2001 and 2006 I spent all the spare time I could on my ECOFusion design. One by one I worked through all of the effects that can occur in a colliding beam accelerator system. I even looked into things that are often neglected, such as magnet end effects. Generally, in accelerator physics, the calculations have known ways of being solved for the main components. However, when one looks at the ends of things, such as the ends of magnets, things get rather dicey. That is because you no longer have a nice steady field, but instead, you get a rather complicated field profile. I handled any effect that didn't have a known solution by putting bounds on the limits of what it could be. Then I would put in a correction system that could function over the entire range of the unknown quantities. In that way, no matter what reality turned out to be, the system would be able to handle it. This was the same technique that I had used in my successful design of the Fermilab PET accelerator.

The effort of designing ECOFusion took up every free minute I had. I learned that there are actually quite a few opportunities to find some free time in our daily lives. I would take my laptop computer with me whenever I thought I might have to wait for something - such as during trips to the doctor, or when my kids were going to some athletic contest. There are often lengthy "dead times" available before and after such events, and rather than sit idly waiting I would work on the ECOFusion design.

Also, one night a week for about three years I would stay overnight near my work place in an inexpensive hotel. I normally had an hour commute each way, and during that one night a week I made a lot of progress.

It seemed like every time I looked into a new physical effect it caused me to have to make some major change in the ECOFusion design. Even though I developed computer programs to help me, the designs kept taking longer and longer to complete. That is because there was always more and more analysis to redo on each and every new design. Each design involved additional calculations from the previous ones, and so the design document kept getting longer and longer. And for each new design the whole design document had to be redone with new numbers and design parameters.

Eventually, in the fall of 2006 I finally had a design that predicted an energy gain four times larger than the energy needed to power the device. With engineering realities, the energy gain was only a factor of two, but it was clear that optimizations of that design would likely improve things quite a bit from there. At this point the design document was now 360 pages long and it was taking a full six months to do any new iteration of the design, so there was little point in doing yet another design at that point. Rather, we should just build it and then tweak the magnets to find the best operating point experimentally.

I had a design for a system that could fuel the world cheaply, safely, and produce no CO2 or long-lived radioactive waste. It was now time to try and find funding to build the device!

My Quest - Part 34. Getting Ready to Find Financing

After getting the ECOFusion design done in late 2006, the first step was to file patents. I filed two. The legal bill was about $2K each if I recall correctly. But after paying that, I learned that the initial payment was just enough to get you started. There were then payments for "Office Actions" and of course, filing fees. So the price grew. But as of February 2007, the patents were filed. With patents pending I could now look for funding!

After filing the patents, my first thought about getting fusion funded was to go directly to my congressman. Dr. Panarella of Physics Essays was holding a fusion conference in Washington DC in early 2007, and he invited me to speak there. While there, I took a day off to visit my congressman. Unfortunately, he was too busy to see me, and I ended up talking to a staffer. The staffer was reasonably knowledgeable, but unfortunately he referred me to the Department of Energy. I had worked on projects funded by the DoE for many years already, and knew what that meant. It meant that if it ever did get funded, it would likely be many years away. So trying to work through my congressman was not useful on that occasion. His office was friendly, so I would try again later.

Back at the Washington DC conference I was given a chance to speak on the Thursday, as I recall. I then found out what that meant. My talk was one of many "fringe" talks given that day. Most of the rest were ones that I could tell obviously would not work.... But I had already designed and built accelerators that "the experts" said would not work! And work they did! So I thought by this point in my career that I wouldn't be considered fringe. I thought wrong.

My Quest - Part 35. Some Early Funding Attempts

About the time I was finishing up the patent application and preparations for the 2007 Washington DC Conference I also began to look for private funding. I thought this would be a no-brainer, since I believed I had invented the world's next energy source. It was a $6 trillion annual market! I started my effort by arranging to meet with my local banker, who then passed my request up to their Vice Presidents in New York. After a couple of weeks, my local banker reported back that the VP's did not feel they could help me just yet, but my local banker referred me to a local fund manager.

I arranged to meet the fund manager at the top floor of a hotel in north Dallas where a fancy breakfast had been prepared for the well-to-do around town. There I was informed that he typically only dealt with individuals who made at least $250K last year and had every intention of making that much in the years to come. He seemed a bit pained to listen to me, since I was not in the $250K club, and he was of little help. I think he did feel some interest, and he was trying to be gracious, but funding a scientific venture was not what he typically (or ever) did. He asked where I was from, and oddly he was going up to my home town (Ashland, WI) in a few weeks to buy a yacht. He did mention that there were some venture capital companies around DFW that did get involved in startups, and that maybe I should look into that.

In the early days (2007) I also investigated selling stock in a company. I had an idea to sell $20M of stock and work off of the interest. Just about everyone I talked to really liked that idea, since it would leave a steady flow of cash coming in to do continual development with no artificial deadlines to meet. Also, the investors would never lose their principle, and yet investors would still have a share in a company that had a truly tremendous possible upside. After seeing the large level of interest, I began to investigate how to legally sell shares of stock.

And it was here that government first rose its ugly head. I learned that in order to sell stock shares one had to deal with both the Federal and the State securities laws and bureaucracies. In Texas, there was a 0.1% fee, plus a nominal additional fee, for any initial public offering. The papers had to be filed appropriately, with legal help highly recommended. The fees had to be collected up front, and there was no guarantee that it would be approved even if I spent all that money. So this was a non-starter for me, since I could not spend $25,000-$35,000 in legal and government fees on a gamble that the stock sale would even be approved. The securities regulations of course are well intentioned, as in the 1920's there was rampant fraud that led to a need for some government protection of investors, but this interaction of government has precluded a possible funding source that would have likely allowed ECOFusion to move on.


My Quest - Part 36. Seeking Venture Capital

I finished my ECOFusion design in late 2006. During 2007 I got patents filed and then looked to my congressman and banks for help to fund the effort - with little success. Also in 2007 I tried to find venture capital to get ECOFusion funded. The place I went to was called StarTech Early Ventures.

Both Steve Gardner and Rob Crawford had recommended StarTech Early Ventures to me, and so I filled out the StarTech questionnaire and applied for the chance to present ECOFusion to their group. The presentation was scheduled for late September, 2007. StarTech had some money for early stage start up companies, and they also worked to match new ideas to "mentors". The mentors were typically people who had high positions in fairly large companies in the recent past, and who had connections and experience in getting businesses going.

The first step in the StarTech process was to give a ten minute presentation, with ten PowerPoint slides recommended to go over the idea, the market, the competition, and so on. When I gave my presentation it was very well received, as about half the room wanted to serve as my mentor. I was told that usually, at most one or two people might want to mentor an entrepreneur, and often zero did, but for me there was a group of eight. I was told that the one who was chosen to lead, Glenn Carter, had fought the others for the right to lead the group.

The venture capital group met with me several times, with various ideas put forth as to what to do to get ECOFusion off the ground. Ideas ranged from seeking publicity to looking for government funding to contacting anyone with money. Mark Gluck arranged for me to present to the Eyes of Texas, which was another VC (venture capital) group. Terry Reeves arranged for a meeting with Boone Picken's people, Freddie Carroll arranged for a meeting with a leading scientist at Raytheon, and there were email correspondences with other notable scientists and engineers throughout the metroplex. In each such meeting I was peppered with questions, and turned an initially highly skeptical questioner into one who realized that ECOFusion was a mature effort from a theoretical and design standpoint.

But in each such meeting I also met with a scientific staffer rather than meeting with the people who could actually make a decision to fund the project. I had earlier met with people who report to congressman Barton, and now I was meeting with people who reported to T. Boone Pickens, and people who reported up the chain at Raytheon, and so on, but I never got to present to Barton, Pickens, or any other people that might actually make a decision to fund ECOFusion. I still don't know if the people at the top ever even heard of ECOFusion. While it passed reviews at the middle management level, it is hard to say what if any information got to the top.

My Quest - Part 37. A Turn Toward Government Funding

Through the meetings of the StarTech mentors, Glenn Carter was quite strong that the correct way to get ECOFusion funded was to work through the university and government channels, as he was certain that no VC money would ever come. He explained that the entire venture capital community consisted of individuals simply trying to get a bit more return on investments than what is possible from government bonds, and that no one really goes on ventures anymore. Besides, everyone knows that the government funds all sorts of scientific endeavors, and ECOFusion should be a no-brainer to get government funding. So why would a venture capitalist put their own money at risk, when the government would do it with no financial risk to any small group of investors?

Glenn had excellent contacts with the local universities and he was certain that ECOFusion would be funded through those channels. So the upshot was that government funding of science has led to the conclusion among venture capitalists that venture capital is no longer required for scientific ventures, and in fact it would be stupid to fund science projects since the government is already doing it "for free".

Since government regulations precluded me from stock sales as a funding mechanism for ECOFusion, and since venture capitalists would not go on a scientific venture where free government funding is "readily available", the only remaining logical path to get ECOFusion funded was by seeking out the free, readily available, government funding. Glenn Carter was a very active and able participant in the MetroPlex research community, and in late 2007 he arranged for me to meet with Kelsey Downum who was interim VP for Research at UT-Arlington (UT-A), Jim Horwitz, the UT-A physics department chair, as well as one of their top physicists, Andy White. After an hour of discussion it was agreed that ECOFusion had merit, and I was asked to give an ECOFusion presentation for the February 27th, 2008 Physics Department colloquium at the University of Texas - Arlington.

My Quest - Part 38. A Colloquium Presentation

During the day before the 2008 colloquium I met with several professors as an introduction to the department. For the most part it went well, with the exception of one professor who couldn't get over the fact that I was working at a steel plant - that one interview had a lot to do with academic positions and community rank, which was something I had walked away from ten years earlier. The colloquium itself went well, with the only negative comment coming from professor Black who mentioned "you've got a lot of guts." That was a comment I'd gotten often in my career, and only now do I fully appreciate what it meant - whenever a scientist proposes something out of the present mainstream, that scientist puts his or her career in significant jeopardy.

Since the 2008 colloquium and all the local reviews had gone well, UT-A expressed great interest in moving ECOFusion forward to the proposal stage. It was planned that in the upcoming summer I would present the idea to congressman Joe Barton, who was always looking for projects that might make use of the former Superconducting Supercollider properties, and UT-A would explore other possibilities as well. A position for me as an adjunct professor of physics was discussed, as that would allow me to work on and submit proposals with UT-A.

Things were looking up!

My Quest - Part 39. Untimely Deaths.

During the first year of trying to get ECOFusion funded back in 2007-2008 I was fortunate to have the assistance of several people at UT-Arlington and from StarTech Early Ventures. Early on, the most helpful where Glenn Carter and Jim Horowitz, with Glenn being the most helpful of all. Glenn worked steadily to find leads he felt would be useful in the funding effort, and it was as a result of his efforts that I got in touch with the important players at UT-Arlington. Glenn attended most meetings personally, and expressed a desire to pursue ECOFusion as his primary interest in the upcoming years. I intended for him to become president of an eventual company centered on ECOFusion. We were becoming good friends.

Unfortunately, Glenn Carter died from congenital heart failure at the age of 61 on April 11, 2008.

Glenn's passing was a great loss, as he was extremely enthusiastic and we were hoping to work together for a long time. After Glenn's passing, the most helpful person in moving forward with ECOFusion was Jim Horwitz, chair of the Physics Department at UT-Arlington. My partnership with UT-A grew, and in the fall of 2008 Jim got me a position as a Research Professor of Physics, which I understood to be a significant position within the university structure.

Jim invited me to faculty meetings and began putting me on committees. It appeared that my position would grow into my main full-time, paid employment before long. I was reminded of the quirky nature of academia from time to time though, as they seemed very concerned about the conflict of interest I had since I had an outside job. Even though they weren't paying me, they wanted to be absolutely sure I didn't use their facilities in any way that I could make any money off of it, which seemed to be an odd focus when they had someone trying to solve the world's energy problem. (And again, I wasn't being paid by them. How was I supposed to support my family?) It was a bit tough to work the many meetings into my schedule and still put in all the hours required by my full-time steel company job, but I was very hopeful that ECOFusion would be funded in the next year.

In November, 2008 Obama won the presidency and he soon was encouraging "shovel ready" proposals as part of a stimulus to get the economy going. The Obama administration also proposed ARPA-E, a new agency within the Department of Energy, specifically for high-risk energy-related projects. This seemed to be an ideal avenue for ECOFusion. Led by Jim Horwitz, chair of the Physics Department at UT-Arlington, a team of us at UT-A began investigating various possible proposals to send in. It was going to be a new pot of money and we were very optimistic.

Unfortunately, Jim Horwitz committed suicide on January 31, 2009.

So in the span of less than a year, the two individuals who were helping me the most with ECOFusion had died.

My Quest - Part 40. Preparing Presentations.

After Department Chairman Jim Horwitz died in January 2009, the situation at UT-Arlington's Physics department was quite a scramble. Jim had done his job exceptionally well, and the department was ill prepared for his passing. After the funeral services, a new interim chair was appointed. The interim chair had not been enthusiastic about ECOFusion and had not been involved with that effort. The ECOFusion effort at UT-A was picked up by Professor Andy White who was quite helpful, but unfortunately he was gone much of the time on other high energy physics work (often out of the country).

On the business side, Freddie Carroll was providing significant help in getting meetings for me with local venture capital people, but Freddie informed me that at the idea was now becoming "stale". I was surprised at such a determination. I had worked on the idea and its precursors for two decades, and now, a year and a half after presenting at StarTech, with momentum building and funding appearing possible, the local VC community was losing interest.

During the months between November 2008 and May 2009 I spent every hour I could on ECOFusion related efforts. My sister Michelle got me in contact with Lorna Vazquez who was working at the Department of Energy for a year, and Lorna looked diligently around and within the DoE for possible funding opportunities there. Roughly once or twice a week there was a meeting held, either at UT-A or elsewhere in the metroplex. It seemed like every time a new meeting was held I needed a new format for a write-up. By the end of that time, I had my approximately 20 page original publication, my full 360 page analysis, a five page overview, a one page overview, and several power point presentations. Perhaps the biggest hurdle was putting together a full bottoms-up cost analysis, which took weeks all by itself. Toward the end of the process I arranged to give the accelerator physics colloquium at Fermi National Laboratory, as we were hoping to partner with them to build ECOFusion.

If Fermilab was interested things would indeed look very good for funding!

My Quest - Part 41. Talking to a Wall.

By the spring of 2009, the Obama administration's plans concerning energy research were becoming clearer. The new ARPA-E program looked very promising, and we at UT-A decided it might be good to partner with Fermilab if possible. Fermilab is perhaps the leading accelerator lab in the US, and fifteen years earlier I had designed and led a project there (the PET project) that successfully handled beams very similar to what ECOFusion would need. (The PET accelerator is discussed in earlier PRs of this series.) On that earlier effort, almost no one thought my design would work, but it was the only possible solution to the problem and so it was tried. Since it worked, and they knew me, I was hopeful they would now join us on a project that could fuel the world.

I flew up to Fermilab in May of 2009 to give a colloquium to their accelerator physicists on ECOFusion. Unfortunately, the talk went very badly. Several people were scribbling notes and talking to their neighbors and would then interrupt the presentation by shouting out something like "I've just calculated x! By your design, x is 1000 times beyond the known limit!". They would then look to be very smug and proud to have been the one to have proven that the idea being presented was bogus, with a huge smile of self-satisfaction on their face. In each case I would reply, since I had already handled the issue. But it didn't seem to matter. In their own mind, they were the expert and they had just debunked an interloper. Central to all of this was the issue of space charge. Fermilab deals with beams of charged particles and there is no neutralization. But for ECOFusion, and for the device I had built AT FERMILAB over a decade earlier, neutralization of the space charge was the key! Their calculations were meaningless. But they just weren't even listening.....

I felt like I was talking to a wall.

My Quest - Part 42. A Very Bad Day.

A critical moment during my attempt to get fusion funded occurred when I gave the talk at Fermi National Laboratory. I had served as lead accelerator physicist on a project there several years before, and we were hoping to work with Fermilab once again. Unfortunately, as described above, the audience for my talk was far more interested in proving me wrong than they were interested in possibly learning something new.

At the conclusion of the Fermilab talk, I had a several minute, one on one conversation with their lead accelerator theorist. He started by mentioning that the ion beams would be unstable because of the low momentum spread, to which I mentioned that I had looked at that, but that the bigger issue should be the electron beams which had an even lower spread. The electron beams would cure the ills of the ions, and the electrons were single pass so all was well.

He then responded that he had been part of a group that had proven that low energy electron beams were unstable at LEAR (the Low energy Antiproton Ring) back around 1985. There was no questioning as to why they were unstable; just that they were unstable. It was a great mystery of the universe as to why they were unstable, but it was a known fact to experts in the field. Hence, my idea for ECOFusion could not possibly work.

Now, I have a patent on a new technique to stabilize low energy electron beams, but no one would listen to that. EVERYONE KNOWS LOW ENERGY ELECTRON BEAMS ARE UNSTABLE. At that point in time, I knew the future of ECOFusion was bleak. "The experts" had spoken, and while I was sure they were wrong, science is funded by what the experts say.

It was a very bad day.

My Quest - Part 43. A Flashback Memory.

Fermilab gave ECOFusion a bad review in May of 2009, and only later, in late July 2009, did I recall an amusing side tale. I recalled how back around 1985 I had gotten an electron beam collector to work for my Ph.D. thesis device that worked quite well. We slowed the beam down into a cylinder, and then accelerated it into a metal collection surface. The entire device was immersed in a solenoidal magnetic field. Ions would be trapped radially by the magnetic field and longitudinally by the electric fields. Since the electrons were accelerated into the collection surface, an electric field existed near the surface to reflect any low energy electrons back.

Each aspect of the collector was important to its functioning. Ions were needed so that the space charge of the electrons would not cause beam instability. The final acceleration was needed because if it was not there, electrons would be produced (called secondary electrons) that would then cause instability. It was well known that for each electron impingent upon a metal, multiple secondary electrons get produced. If they were allowed to go backward into the beam they would blow it up. Without proper design of the collector, the electron beam would be unstable. But since our collector had a proper design it functioned well and there was no instability.

After our success with stable low energy electron beams around 1985, I was asked to travel to CERN to look into a problem that a group was having with their electron beam collection. Upon looking at their collector, I was aghast. They had built this oddly shaped cone that ended in a needle, and had plates surrounding it. They explained to me that they were absolutely certain it was the way to build things. The needle and cone set up just the right fields to deflect electrons into the plates to achieve highly efficient collection. They knew this. It had been studied on computers. It had to work.... But it didn't.

After thinking briefly, I explained to the group that what was likely happening was that ions were forming as the electrons passed into their collector. This would disturb the fields to be different from their calculations. Particles, whether ion or electron, that hit their needle would produce electrons from secondary emission, which would then further deteriorate operation. It is known (lightening rods function this way) that metallic needle structures lead to high electric fields near the tip, that serve as sources for electric discharges in gases, and so having a needle-like structure might pose problems for collection. I explained the workings of our far simpler collector design that required no highly calculated and machined surfaces to function but was based on the principles of containing ions and suppressing secondary emission. The CERN group was unimpressed. They had done advanced calculations. Their system was far more studied and sophisticated in its design. It had to work.

As I left CERN back in 1985, I had wondered why they had asked me to come. Their system did not work, I explained how to make one work, but they remained entrenched in continuing with what they were doing. Eventually they got something to work, but I lost contact with them and so I don't know if they changed some biases which might have fixed the problem, or if they tried a new design.

What I recalled in July of 2009 was that the group I had talked to at CERN in the mid 80's was the LEAR group. And in May 2009, about 25 years later, that same LEAR group was now ensconced as the leading US experts in accelerator physics at Fermilab! They did not appreciate the role of ions and space charge neutralization within electron beams back in 1985, and they still did not in 2009. At Fermilab the beams are not neutralized, so there was no reason for them to be concerned about that in their careers there. And I am sure they are indeed expert in the area of non-neutralized beams.

Unfortunately for ECOFusion, the experts at Fermilab had claimed it could not work. This claim was made because the experts did not appreciate the role of space charge neutralization in electron beam design. And since this is such a highly specialized field, and there are far more ideas than money, the claim that ECOFusion could not work would prove to be very damaging to the future of the project.

My Quest - Part 44. Doors begin to close.

Upon my return to UT-A after the Fermilab talk of May 2009, we proposed to ARPA-E the construction of an electron cooler for ECOFusion, and began the wait for the ARPA-E review. Later in 2009 we also put together a proposal for internal Texas funds to build a small electron beam test bed, and I was put in contact with a small company to propose a Small Business Innovative Research grant, which we submitted.

In time, all proposals failed to gain funding. The DOE decided that all its fusion dollars are to go to tokomak research. The SBIR proposal also went to the DOE. ARPA-E refined their solicitations to focus on one topic at a time, and novel fusion ideas were never on the list. The internal Texas proposal was denied since I retained patent rights. (But I couldn't give the patent rights to UT-A, since if I did they owned the intellectual property I could not partner with anyone else in the future. I needed to keep all options open.)

The initially promising doors for ECOFusion were closing, one by one.

My Quest - Part 45. A Publication Attempt.

In 2010 and 2011, after the failed ARPA-E, SBIR and UT proposals, I had an occasional UT-A invitation to pitch ECOFusion. But in part because UT-A had required that I not do any promotional efforts outside of their offices, this led to a slow dying of interest. With their approval I did follow-up on an attempt to publish in the Physical Review (the most prestigious physics journal) and I continued to pursue patents.

One of the things I was asked at Congressman Barton's office years earlier was whether my idea was published in a peer-reviewed journal. I told them that publications preclude patents, so I was patenting first and then I would submit to the Physical Review. Once all the patents were done I did indeed submit to the Physical Review.

I had decided to try to publish in the Physical Review's Beam Physics journal. That journal had no length limit, which was good, since the full ECOFusion design document is 360 pages long. But I was immediately told that while they had no length limit, my submittal was too long, and they asked for a shortened version. They also wanted it submitted in TeX, which is an old 1980's word processing software written by physicists. Fortunately they had a converter from Microsoft Word. So I submitted as requested, and the paper was rejected by the reviewers since there were many issues that were not covered, and they were sure that one of those issues would doom the project. Of course, all of the issues were treated in the longer paper, but I could not submit that because I had to submit a shorter one... Even though they had no length limit.... I was also told that I should have purchased a good equation editor since the equations were not readable. Of course they were perfectly readable in Microsoft Word, but their translator from my 2010 software to their 1980 software mangled them.

ECOFusion was an enormous six year effort. It resulted in an excellent 360 page design document. But it was too long for anyone to take the time to review. Even though it has the potential to move mankind off of fossil fuels.

My Quest - Part 46. Patents.

In parallel with my efforts to get funding in the years between 2007 and 2013, the four patents that I submitted were all resolved one way or another. Two of the four were granted, and two were rejected.

The first patent to be granted concerned a means to enable the production of low energy, high current electron beams, and it was given US Patent Number 7501640. That particular patent will be useful both for fusion energy production and also for many other uses.

The second patent to be granted concerned a means to enable a single electron beam to cool more than one ion beam, or to cool the same ion beam in more than one place, and it was given US Patent Number 8063390. That particular patent is important in improving the overall efficiency of the ECOFusion device. Efficiency is very important, since it is hard to make any fusion device produce more energy than it takes to make it work.

The two patents that were rejected included one that showed how to make segmented electron beams in just the right way, and another that concerned the overall fusion system. The latter was rejected on the basis that ECOFusion couldn't possibly work as it violated some theory proposed in some peer reviewed paper. Further inspection of the peer reviewed paper shows that the assumptions made in the paper do not apply to ECOFusion, but the examiner would not consider that point.

And so at the present time, ECOFusion has the benefit of two patents should any investors be interested in pursuing it.

My Quest - Part 47. An Effort to Fund Fusion through MLM.

By the early spring of 2011 I came to the conclusion that my attempts at getting ECOFusion funded by any traditional channel was close to nil. The best opportunity should have been with the beginnings of the Obama administration, since this was one of the rare times that new money was being put into science. But as history has shown, most of that new money was put into energy research projects for things like wind and solar, which had long been the favorite "green energy" solutions of a rather large, loud, and well connected constituency. It had turned out that all funding roads eventually led to one place - the US Department of Energy, and that one place had decided it already knew the best fusion approach to take, and that approach was the tokamak, a device that has failed to produce useful fusion energy for over 50 years. Additionally, my support network had gradually faded over the previous two years, and so it appeared it was time to try something new.

In March of 2011 I resigned my position at UT-A. I did this because my agreement with them required that I get layers of approval before I did anything outside of their offices, and meanwhile their offices had done less and less over the previous two years and by 2011 there was almost no activity at all. I felt there were two possibilities left. I could either try to get publicity, or I could try to make enough money to self-fund my fusion idea. Since you only get one shot at publicity, and it can go badly, I decided to try self-funding first. My first attempt to make money was JSFBuilder. JSFBuilder can write full J2EE/JSF web applications with some very useful properties. It can build in a few hours what would take programming teams man-years to build. It produces high quality, enterprise level custom software that could be worth millions. But I could not find any interest after dozens of attempts at selling it. Next, I tried some efforts at Search Engine Optimization with very little success. And then, I turned to a Multi Level Marketing (MLM) effort as a possible funding source, and I have spent much of the years between 2011 and 2013 working to get it off the ground.

There have been several MLM success stories over time, and if one takes off it can be a fairly quick way to become profitable. I called the company BookWormBiz. My idea was to sell eBooks online, with the eBooks being written by members of the company. Members could earn money as authors or as distributors. After conceiving the company around 2011 I began the effort of getting it off the ground. I paid an MLM lawyer to assist with the legal matters and got everything in place. I soon learned how difficult sales tax handling is - there are 8000 separate taxing authorities in the US alone, and developed a way to handle that issue. Then came the effort of hosting the online business. To keep expenses low, I built the servers for the system myself as well as developed the online application. I signed up with a firm and got ready to accept credit card payments. BookWormBiz was ready to go, launching in April 2013. The hope was to have money for fusion in a few years!

From 2013 to 2014 the launch of BookWormBiz went reasonably well, as nearly one in three of the people I contacted joined the effort. Had those who joined had similar success, it would have been a quite successful business. Unfortunately only a few of the original recruits went on to recruit others and growth stopped. I continued to work in an attempt to get it off the ground, but gradually even the original recruits left their businesses. Along the way I learned that having an MLM can have great tax advantages, and I came to the conclusion that it was likely the tax code that predominantly keeps the industry afloat. I also learned that once one joins one MLM, they are not likely to join a second one, and this makes recruiting quite difficult. BookWormBiz suspended operations in the early summer of 2017.

My Quest - Part 48. Trying for Publicity.

In July of 2014, my son Nate found a post online. In it, mention was made to Dr. Rostoker's work and that of Dr. Laberge. Michel Laberge was someone who presented his work to the same fusion conference I attended back in 2007. (That fusion conference, held in Washington DC, was discussed in parts 34 and 35 of this blog above.) Dr. Rostoker was for a time also looking at a colliding beam approach, and I wrote to him twice about ECOFusion years before, but he never wrote back. The article my son found indicated that both Michel Laberge and Dr. Rostoker had gotten their work funded. Michel had started General Fusion, and he was successful in raising quite a bit of publicity. (As a quick Google search of "General Fusion" will show!)

During the years between 2013 and 2019 I tried several times to get publicity for ECOFusion. Around 2014 I wrote about my ECOFusion story on Facebook in a series of posts. In 2015-2016 I saw several articles referring to Dr. Rostoker and Michel Laberge, and I always wrote to every author of those articles, but none of them have written back. I have also tried contacting publications and TV media, but could never get through to anyone. I also wrote a series of Press Releases at the site IBOToolbox. So far I have been unable to raise awareness of ECOFusion by these attempts.

When trying to contact the media, an issue that came up was whether ECOFusion had been published in a peer-reviewed journal, and so I submitted a paper for publication to the reviewed journal Physics Essays in June of 2016, and it was published later in 2016.

In 2017 Richard deHaas contacted me with good news. His friend, John Gardner was interested in helping to get ECOFusion funded. At one point, John Gardner had the second highest name recognition in the state of Wisconsin, as a result of his dedicated efforts working toward school reform in the Milwaukee area. John also had good contacts that might enable publicity for ECOFusion. In March of 2018, John came to Texas for three days to work on getting a press release for ECOFusion, and it resulted in a nice article that he was hoping to get published in Wired. However, that effort did not succeed, as they get about 20 "new fusion" ideas every month. Next, John worked to find a good lead to get word out on ECOFusion. Here is a report from John, recieved Nov. 3, 2019:

"The only person in a position to help us, and who was trying to help us, was my Nyack NY High School classmate (Well; actually, one year ahead of me.) David Corcoran. David was long-time editor of the NY Times science section. When he retired, he taught journalistic and for-general-audiences science writing at MIT. David got interested because his initial skepticism about "cold fusion" was overcome in a four-step process:

1) He was persuaded that despite the use of cooling in reference to electrons, EcoFusion was not discredited cold fusion

2) From his admittedly limited knowledge of magnet technology, he believed possible that an engineering innovation could advance the frustrating path to fusion; although he remained skeptical that, by itself, it could reach commercial viability

3) In discussions with distinguished physics academics he knew, he became increasingly intrigued by their simultaneous dismissal of the idea, combined with their entire and admitted ignorance of magnet engineering; and their ultimate, if reluctant, admission that it "might be possible."

4) The more he talked with more and more academic physicists, the universality of that response triggered memories of many other fields -- most of them in microbiology with medical applications -- that followed Thomas Kuhn's stages of paradigmatic transformation: denial, admission of minor elements of the new paradigm, profession that the new paradigm was only a way of analyzing something - rather than a new truth, followed in turn by the painfully slow, person-by-person, admission of possibility followed by partial followed by complete persuasion

David repeatedly pointed out to me that what really works for new paradigms is the believers of the old paradigms dying, and new generations without preconceived rigidities growing up, first, with open minds; then, finally, with the new paradigm reinforced by overwhelming evidence and transformed climates of opinion.

His argument would have been either more or less persuasive, had he himself not died on August 5th of this year."

My Quest - Part 49. Attempts to get funded via the SBIR program.

I continue to pursue all leads for possible government funding for ECOFusion. Even though I have tried often in the past, new solicitations occur from time to time. I am also active with a small company that is doing some excellent superconducting magnet R&D, and through my part-time work at that company I continue to make new contacts that may help to eventually get that elusive government funding for ECOFusion. Between the years 2016 and 2018 I submitted several SBIR proposals on technologies related to ECOFusion. While there are no solocitations for alternative fusion energy work, the technology behind ECOFusion could be useful for both inertial confinement fusion and for production of desired isotopes.

Inertial confinement fusion is a process wherein very intense beams (either light beams or ion beams) are focused onto a fusion target. The DOE put out a call for proposals related to this technology, and I submitted a proposal to use electron cooled ion beams for use in inertial confinement fusion. The proposal was rejected, with directions for improving it. The next year I resubmitted after making the improvements. The proposal was rejected that time without review.

In 2018 the DOE solicited proposals for new ways of making certain useful isotopes, among them Helium-3, which is Helium with two protons and a single neutron in its nucleus. Since Helium 3 could be produced by a fusion reaction similar to what ECOFusion is designed to produce, I proposed an electron cooled storage ring to produce the desired particles. The reviewers gave the proposal fairly high marks, but suggested several improvements and encouraged resubmission in 2019. However, in 2019 the DOE pulled the solicitation.

My Quest - Part 50. An attempt to get funded by Bill Gates.

In October 2018 a friend from high school, Kyle Tidstrom, send me an email with an offer to help. He had a friend who had a son that worked with a firm owned by Bill Gates that was involved in venture capital. Kyle got me in touch with his contact within Bill Gates's venture capital group and I supplied information regarding ECOFusion. Unfortunately, I was just a bit late. Bill Gates was in the process of funding another entry into the fusion field, and the policy was to only fund one company in any particular niche.

My Quest - Part 51. Where things are as of January 2020.

This blog has described how I designed and built two particle accelerators in the past that were closely related to what eventually became a design for ECOFusion. This blog then described how that ECOFusion design came to be. And then this blog related the story of how I tried banks, venture capitalists, Universities, National Labs, working with my congressman, contacts with rich individuals, contacts in industry, publishing in reviewed journals, patents and numerous proposals to various state and federal agencies over a four year period, all in an attempt to get ECOFusion funded. None of the funding attempts has worked, at least not yet.

With the story of My Quest now up to date, it is time to recap. ECOFusion has the potential to be a clean, safe and inexhaustible energy source for mankind. It could possibly solve one of the most pressing problems presently facing our planet. However, I've not been able to fund it as of yet. The quest continues.