Not quite sure how we got onto the subject of tabletop neutron sources, but if it were me, I make up a little H2 plasma bottle, strip off electrons to get protons, accelerate the protons across whatever potential I choose, and then slam them into paraffin. Neutrons aplenty. Looking at that 'zetatron' schematic, I'd guess that the "target" is a paraffin block. As I learned form my visit yesterday, if you want gobs of neutrons but don't want a reactor, then you'd use the technique at the SNS in Oak Ridge- liquid mercury getting slammed with protons from a simple linac. A cuter and more compact technology is the DWA (dielectric wall accelerator) now under development for medical applications at Livermore in collaboration with Tomotherapy. That proton therapy device will be in every cancer hospital within 2-3 decades, mark my words.
I am skeptical that one would want all that zetatron complication in a weapon... it's easy to generate a shower of neutrons from fission. OTOH maybe the zetatron finds application in the baby nukes that contain a net sub-critical mass. But I digress
Originally Posted by Tim Gray
You could be right that nobody schedules breakthroughs. All I am doing is propagating an unsubstantiated comment from someone I knew who also had known some of the fusion guys. (I think this is what is known as spreading gossip... guilty as charged.)
On the other hand I once worked on a US department of energy-funded project. It would not be considered a large project on the scale you proposed (10's of millions of dollars per year)... probably more along the lines of a medium sized project (around a million dollars per year.) We had an interesting mandate for the project, which was to design and build an instrument that was beyond the state of the art, and we had to do it with a zero probability of failure. (I realize that those are mutually incompatible requirements, but that was the mandate.) This wasn't exactly scheduling a breakthrough, but it would come pretty close to that characterization.
One of the things that the project required was to acquire a superconducting magnet having a combination of field strength, bore size, and stability significantly beyond anything that had been built to date, and we had to do it with a limited budget. It turned out to be impossible using the then-current state of the art, so we had to scale back the field strength a little. I left before the project was finished, but I understand from those who stayed that the stability of the magnet was a little disappointing. However. in the end the instrument set a new standard for that type of instrument.
Many technologies weren't around 100--200-300etc years ago.
When the people working on them were held up to ridicule.
Today, some of those experiments and theories that were off the tradtional
direction of then current science are now everyday things.
I guess the point is "never say never".