HOW IT WORKS
Invented in the 1980’s by Dr. Robert Bussard as a Fusor adaptation, the Polywell is an IEC device which works under the same principle as the Farnsworth- Hirsch Reactor. It operates under vacuum and uses an electric field to accelerate and fuse ions of deuterium. However, there is one difference which separates the two and puts the Polywell at a higher level of efficiency than the Fusor. This difference lies in the fact that the Polywell contains no “inner grid” and instead uses a cloud of electrons which act as a virtual cathode to accelerates the ions. As the name suggests, this virtual cathode has no physical barrier unlike the Fusor’s inner grid, meaning that ions are not lost through ion bombardment losses. This increases the Polywell’s efficiency by several orders of magnitude and previous research suggests that this retained efficiency is what allows for a net energy gain to be achieved.
The applications of the Polywell are very similar to that of the Fusor. Being a neutron source, the Polywell can be used for medical isotope and activation research. However, considering that the Polywell is a much more efficient fusion machine, it’s focus is primarily on that of power generation and further plasma research.
The primary goal of all fusion research is to design a device which produces energy. Due to the simple design of the Polywell and the promising research it carries, the potential for the Polywell to become the world's first source of fusion energy is likely. With further testing and research, the conception of a net power producing Polywell reactor is not far away and with it will come clean and unlimited energy.
As the space industry continues to boom in the private sector and aeronautic technology reaches further development, the topic of humanity visiting other worlds has become more prominent. However, current space engine technology makes that goal appear near impossible. Fusion propulsion engines are a solution to this problem because of the high energy to mass ratio that fusion fuel carries. The smaller the fusion engine, the better, which is why the Polywell is the best option for space- fusion applications.