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Boeing "fusion engine" patent?


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Uh, I'm not sure if I'd be comfortable flying something with the uranium in there..... Also Deepak called the aircraft a 'space-craft' XD

Anyways, I still don't understand where the propulsion is coming from, is it coming from the plasma?

Also, 'self powered'? Maybe while running, but you're probably going to need batteries to start it in the first place.

Edited by smjjames
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It looks like Boeing is doing what a lot of large companies do: blanketing and cornering any and every concept they can think of. A lot of companies patent many, many fairly unrealistic things. It is mostly to bolster the patent portfolio. Only a couple need to prove viable (or be similar to another technology, making the patent applicable) to make the investment worth while and it gives the company both a competitive edge, and a stick to beat the competition with in case they do anything even remotely resembling the patented technology.

It is also how smaller companies are left with little to no chance to break into a market, since patents are expensive and defending yourself against a huge conglomerate like Boeing is nearly impossible - even if you are right. I know of a guy that had a neat idea concerning roof tiles, only to find out anything and everything remotely roof tile related has been patented and is off the table.

This is why I am for a use it or lose it patent system. Patents are meant to improve innovation and should not be allowed to be used to withhold new developments from the market.

Edited by Camacha
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Even wild off the top in the cloud ideas like roof tiles made of enchanted mithril?

Way for the patent system to stifle innovation.

He'd probably have to be working for a company that makes roof tiles in order for that idea to get through.

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Many times I've wondered where we would be right now if the current patent system was in effect when humans started developing tools. My guess is: practically nowhere.

Just imagine if all "simple machines" were patented.

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Even wild off the top in the cloud ideas like roof tiles made of enchanted mithril?

Sadly, chances are that there is a blanket patent that would prevent you from producing those. Patents are typically worded in the most general terms possible, so they apply to the largest amount of (competitor) products.

Patents could be a great tool to promote development and ensure people invest, but as it stands it does pretty much the exact opposite.

Just imagine if all "simple machines" were patented.

There is a silver lining: patents usually have an expiry date, though Disney-type setups (which is admittedly copyright, not a patent) are sometimes employed to keep things locked up for a long time.

Edited by Camacha
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Anyways, I still don't understand where the propulsion is coming from, is it coming from the plasma?

If I understand it right then only the heating is coming from the nuclear fusion process otherwise it's a normal jet engine but without kerosene. Both the SU and the US tested similar fission powered engines back in the 60's but each plane powered by it needed a small nuclear reactor on board.

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If I understand it right then only the heating is coming from the nuclear fusion process otherwise it's a normal jet engine but without kerosene. Both the SU and the US tested similar fission powered engines back in the 60's but each plane powered by it needed a small nuclear reactor on board.

Even then, I'm still not sure that I would be comfortable riding such a plane as described in the OP. The 'powered by tiny nuclear explosions' bit doesn't really help, mainly because of the baggage the words 'nuclear explosion' have.

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Camacha is right on, I don't see it much here but patent reform is a big issue for this reason. Some companies referred to as patent trolls don't have any actual product themselves and contribute nothing, they subsist entirely by their patent portfolio. But just like space travel it doesn't make any difference for average peoples immediate lives and so not much is getting done. At least not that I am aware of. The thing is that you can't blame Boeing. As a large company they have to play that game to stay competitive, it doesn't matter how much they may want to or not.

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Even then, I'm still not sure that I would be comfortable riding such a plane as described in the OP. The 'powered by tiny nuclear explosions' bit doesn't really help, mainly because of the baggage the words 'nuclear explosion' have.

I know it sounds like something out of Fallout but these "nuclear explosions" wouldn't even be visible. It's only to "heat up" the uranium. On the second thought the video explains it differently than I did and say that the propulsion is generated by the fusing atoms themelves but that neither sounds right nor really efficient (to me).

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Oh relax. Our smoke detectors have radioactive material in them.

There's no way they'd get away with putting these on commercial aircraft if it couldn't be done safely.

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I think the radiation you'd be exposed to cause of the high altitude would be more than the radiatiod from the uranium panels. I guess. At least there should be proper shielding on the engines and on the hull of the aircraft.

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Oh relax. Our smoke detectors have radioactive material in them.

There's no way they'd get away with putting these on commercial aircraft if it couldn't be done safely.

I know that, but they're very tiny bits.

I dunno, theres just something about that patent which makes me feel like I'm not sure I'd be comfortable riding a plane powered by that.

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I know that, but they're very tiny bits.

I dunno, theres just something about that patent which makes me feel like I'm not sure I'd be comfortable riding a plane powered by that.

Ever hear about The Orion Drive? :D

Anyway, I agree with previous posters, its an empty patent. It's simply to blanket everything and get a leg up on competitors, in case the technology ever becomes available for this sort of thing.

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It's just, I dunno, uranium....

And bananas contain radioactive isotope of potassium. Are you scared of them now? Nevermind that you would have to eat approximately 35 millions of medium sized bananas in one go to get lethal dose :P

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Ever hear about The Orion Drive? :D

Anyway, I agree with previous posters, its an empty patent. It's simply to blanket everything and get a leg up on competitors, in case the technology ever becomes available for this sort of thing.

I've heard of the Orion drive, yes.

Anyways, so, if someone else does manage to make a working engine like that (and not have it be a rocket engine, that design looks like it could work as a rocket of some kind), the thing automatically becomes Boeings?

It's sort of like the patent system REQUIRES companies to do blanket patents just to be competitive, which doesn't make sense really.

- - - Updated - - -

And bananas contain radioactive isotope of potassium. Are you scared of them now? Nevermind that you would have to eat approximately 35 millions of medium sized bananas in one go to get lethal dose :P

No....

And yes I know that they contain a radioactive isotope of potassium.

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Many times I've wondered where we would be right now if the current patent system was in effect when humans started developing tools. My guess is: practically nowhere.

Just imagine if all "simple machines" were patented.

Funny story; an Australian managed to get a patent on THE WHEEL. It was only after he started suing everybody that they reformed the system.

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The video seems to indicate that the thrust of the engines comes from the plasma that results from the fusion pulse...but most laser-fusion rocket engine designs I've seen use the energy from the fusion pulses to heat and expell some reaction mass (such as hydrogen) to produce the thrust. I assume in an atmospheric engine, the energy from the fusion pulses would heat air to expel as a reaction mass.

But the interesting part of the design is using the Uranium-238 dome to capture part of ths fast neutron flux from the fusion pulse to fission the Uranium and produce heat. Normally, the neutrons you get out of the D-T reaction in a fusion power plant are not only useless for propulsion, but they are are detrimental in that they can make the structure of your fusion reactor radioactive by neutron activation of its materials. But this design turns that problem into an energy source.

Of course, most of the neutrons are spraying out the back of the engine (the directions where you aren't catching them in the Uranium blanket), so I wouldn't want to stand off in that direction. And your dome of Uranium is going to fill up with fission fragments over time, making it radioactively nasty like a spent reactor fuel rod. I assume they'd have to replace them often and reprocess them to remove the fission products.

But I'm mainly skeptical of the method being able to capture and convert enough energy to power the lasers (which have poor efficiency).

Edited by Brotoro
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Isn't it essentially a hybrid engine? I mean as I see it uses both fission and fusion. Nevetheless a clever design but even if they'll test it, I don't think it will be used on real commercial airplanes. At least not for now. Although it could cut the costs for air travel for sure.

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But I'm mainly skeptical of the method being able to capture and convert enough energy to power the lasers (which have poor efficiency).

Dude, you have hit a sore spot there. Someone might remember that lasers are mostly furnaces that produce coherent light as a byproduct of heating air, and wonder what will happen with all those megawatts being dumped on the airframe.

Rune. Laser-ignited fusion is mostly useless anyhow, other than to simulate nuclear weapons.

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That's a pretty interesting concept. I just wonder one thing: if they're splitting uranium, then they're getting extremely radioactive decay products. Maybe the engine isn't exhausting them (can Boeing guarantee that?), but that doesn't stop the engine itself from becoming strongly radioactive over time. Also, time between service? Modern turbofans can run 20,000 hours and more between major overhauls, massively lowering the cost of operation. Does the uranium liner in this last anywhere near that long?

Not to mention that D-T fusion releases strong radiation itself (even if the are no radioactive products). Part of it is used to trigger the fission, but the engine will need substantial shielding, and operating it on the ground at the airport may be problematic. Which in turn is an issue because the engine needs assisted startup - it is self-sustaining but it can't start itself. Those lasers eat a lot of power, and one fusion event alone won't spool up the turbine.

I'm really curious if they can make it work, but from my amateur eyes, it looks rather impractical.

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This is why I am for a use it or lose it patent system. Patents are meant to improve innovation and should not be allowed to be used to withhold new developments from the market.

So what happens when the little guy has a good idea, patents it, and then goes looking for investors?

The investors can just deny him, and then he loses his patent because he doesn't "use it"

When someone actually invents something useful, they should get paid for it.

The big companies would rather just call the small entities patent trolls, and not pay them or try to license the patent.

So in the end, if you are rich, you can use your patent. If you are not rich and need investors, they'll just steal your idea despite the patent. Your only recourse is then to go to a "patent troll" agency.

If someone else had the idea first, and made the idea publically available with sufficient disclouse as to be "enabling" they should get compensated when people use that idea.

The real issue is being more discerning about what patents are issued.

If a patent was issues for "the wheel", the examiner failed to do his duty (and it should be easily invalidated due to lack of novelty).

In most patent systems, another party could challenge the validity of the patent in the first place.

Universities are most victimized by this... they do significant research, but don't have large legal division/funds to defend against infringement. When someone starts infringing, they can send a letter - but often the response (if its actually valuable, which it probably is if they are using it) is to not reply directly, but to challenge the validity of the patent.

Boeing is not a patent troll.

If the device is viable, then they are protecting their R&D. If it still needs more than 20 years of R&D, or its not feasible at all - then they've simply wasted their money protecting a worthless idea.

Anyways, so, if someone else does manage to make a working engine like that (and not have it be a rocket engine, that design looks like it could work as a rocket of some kind), the thing automatically becomes Boeings?

No, it absolutely does not become Boeing's.

Boeing would be able to stop them making commercial use of it for the duration of their patent.

That someone can patent the various things they did to make the concept actually work, and boeing wouldn't be able to make an engine the way they did.

Thus boeing would have to find a sufficiently different way of making it actually work, or neither side would legally be able to make use of it. In this case, what they'd want to do is cross licensing, where boing grants that someone a license for thier patent, and that someone grants boing a license for their patents.

Then both sides can do this.

Lastly, if this is a very important patent... but both sides are stubborn, then the government can step in and make them do compulsory licensing (which it did with aircraft manufacturers during wartime), or treat it like any other property and eminent domain.

Of course, the government doesn't want to bother with a lot of that.

A proper nationwide health system would make use of compulsory licensing to make drugs more affordable (even including R&D costs and the low success rate, most pharma drugs are way overpriced)

Edited by KerikBalm
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Patents are being misused for the most part of it.

Back in the days ... if there would have been such thing as patenting .. imagine some Apple-worshiping caveman would have claimed to be the inventor of fire.

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