DailyDirt: Just Fuse Some Atoms Already…

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Most of the time, when people are talking about nuclear energy, they’re talking about fission. Fission gets all the attention because it’s already commercially available, and every so often there’s an accident that makes the news and scares people away from all kinds of nuclear energy. But fusion is entirely different. Aside from the fact that no one has ever actually built a reactor that has generated more useful energy than needed to ignite atomic fusion (hydrogen bombs don’t count!), fusion energy could be a great source of energy. We’ve covered fusion a few times before, but here are just a few more interesting links on fusing atoms together.

If you’d like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

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Companies: indiegogo

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Just Fuse Some Atoms Already…”

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Dennis Peterson says:

Prometheus isn’t the main project building the Polywell, it’s just one guy in an apartment in NYC. The research is mainly being done by a company called EMC2, which has people who worked with Bussard. It got funding from the Navy, just released a paper showing good progress, and is seeking investor funds to take it further.

The Indiegogo campaign is to purchase a specific reactor part, for an approach called Focus Fusion. The team published a 2012 paper in the leading fusion journal, showing it’d attained the 1.8 billion degree temperature and the confinement time necessary for boron fusion. What remains is to increase plasma density. The crowdfunded part is a key part of that. They’ve spent $3 million so far and it’ll take another million total to finish their testing.

To attain net power they have to be right about several things. However, they’re doing science that’s solid enough for publication in serious journals, so we should learn something however things turn out. Given that it’s thousands of times cheaper than ITER, and they’ve gotten good results so far, it seems worth a shot.

Cdaragorn (profile) says:

This is pretty awesome to read. The problems with fusion have always been how to get enough energy in to cause fusion to happen without creating radioactive waste (read: hydrogen bomb), and how to collect the massive amount of energy that comes out once the atoms fuse together.

Seeing them able to model how the sun does it is just incredible. I wish the article described more how they actually collect the resulting energy.

Dennis Peterson says:

Re: Re:

@Cdaragorn: In the case of focus fusion (the indiegogo campaign), energy extraction is especially convenient. Most of the energy is released in a burst as a beam of charged particles, which basically is already electricity. Just aim it through a coil. There’s also x-rays, which they plan to collect with something akin to solar panels.

With ITER, the energy is released as neutron radiation and heat, so you’re pretty much limited to heating up a fluid and running a turbine.

Anonymous Coward says:

Seriously…did you people even read the the focus fusion info over at indiegogo? Or did you just automatically assume that any project that isn’t government funded is gonna automatically fail? The Focus Fusion team’s science is peer reviewed and has already got promising results. Why turn people off from potentially investing by automatically declaring it wouldn’t be surprising if they fail?! I know one website I am unsubscribing from!

robertsteinhaus (profile) says:

Just fuse some atoms

“no one has ever actually built a reactor that has generated more useful energy than needed to ignite atomic fusion (hydrogen bombs don’t count!”

The only form of terrestrial nuclear fusion that has ever produced any net energy at all in 60 years of hard research effort is fission/fusion or fission ignited fusion. Fission ignited fusion worked in 1952 in the Ivy-Mike nuclear test and continues to be the only real technology demonstrated to produce reliable energy from fusion at a practical industrial level.

Millions of dollars are budgeted each year to pure fusion projects based on diffuse energy ignition of fusion plasma.

Today there is almost no one that advocates use of fission-fusion, even though it is the only practical demonstrated fusion technology in existence that has ever produced energy break even and a fusion gain factor Q=>1.

Ivy Mike fission ignited fusion achieved net energy and Q>=100,000 using the low cost, sustainable D-D fusion reaction.

Fission Ignited Inertial Confinement Fusion is practical nuclear fusion that works now (not always just 50 years from now).

In modern implementations[1], Fission Ignited Fusion can use as little as 0.25 grams of fissile (U-233 or Pu-239) to ignite about 16 grams of Deuterium using D-D fusion and produce, with help of a fusion driver, a fusion burst of about 250 Gigajoules per shot (the energy released in efficiently burning about 1947.5 gallons of gasoline).

Comparison of current ICF fusion approaches –

All current Inertial Confinement Fusion concepts currently are repetitive pulse energy generators producing energy through a succession of controlled small fusion bursts.

National Ignition Facility produces a 1.8 Megajoules burst per shot which is the energy produced from burning 0.014 gallons of gasoline (while producing no net energy)

Sandia z-pinch experiment produces a 30 Megajoules burst per shot which is the energy produced by burning 0.23 gallons of gasoline (while producing no net energy)

California Energy Commission proposal TN-72616 fusion (mini-Mike)[2] is designed to produce 250 x 10^3 Megajoules of energy per shot which is the energy produced by burning about 1947 gallons of gasoline (with commercially significant, large, usable amounts of net energy)

1970s LLNL PACER Fusion (3 kt. size device) produce 1.2552 x 10^7 Megajoules per shot which is the energy produced burning 95,264 gallons of gasoline (with commercially significant large amounts of net energy)

[1] – Winterberg, F. “A Third Way Towards the Controlled Release of Nuclear Energy by Fission and Fusion” – http://www.znaturforsch.com/aa/v59a/s59a0325.pdf
[2] – CEC ICF Fusion reactor (proposal TN-72616) submitted for 2015 ? 2917 CEC Triennial Investment Plan support ? http://bit.ly/1fTRJWY

robertsteinhaus (profile) says:

Re: Rate of shots for ICF

Anonymous is right that you cannot access to average power generated without knowing the rate of shots.

ICF fusion has the advantage that the rate of shots can be adjusted over a wide range to produce different amounts of power on demand (and to back up unpredictable renewable energy).

The NIF laser fusion power plant concept is called LIFE. LLNL has proposed that a LIFE laser fusion power plant capable of generating net fusion yields of 35 to 75 MJ per shot at 10 to 15 Hz (i.e., ~ 350- to 1000-MWt fusion and ~1.3 to 3.6 x 1020 neutrons/s), coupled to a compact subcritical fission blanket, could be used to generate several GW of thermal power (GWt) while avoiding carbon dioxide emissions, mitigating nuclear proliferation concerns and minimizing the concerns associated with nuclear safety and long-term nuclear waste disposition. The subcritical fission blanket could be fueled with fissile (example. ?excess? military Pu-239) or abundant inexpensive fertile fission fuels like U-238 or Thorium, or run on separated Minor Actinides from LWR spent nuclear fuel (burning long half-live transuranics down to short half life fission products.

TN-72616 fusion (mini-Mike)would use about 150 micrograms of D-T fuel to ignite a tapered column of pure cryo-deuterium; producing a total yield per shot of 250 GJ. Only one mini-Mike device need be ignited per minute to produce power at an average 1 GWe rate.

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