DailyDirt: Making Progress Towards Fusion (Again)

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Fusion would be a real game-changer if we could actually harness it to generate energy. The problem, though, is that we’re pretty far from controlling the insanely hot nuclear reactions in a way that produces net energy. Sure, almost anyone can build a fusion reactor. (But seriously, don’t bring one to school to impress your teachers, kids!) The trick is maintaining hot plasma somewhere safe for as long as you need to — and to figure out a way to get usable energy out of your fusion reactor. Some folks have reported reaching some milestones, but fusion still sounds more than 30 years away, as usual.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Making Progress Towards Fusion (Again)”

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14 Comments
Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Fusion Is Irrelevant.

I don’t know that Fusion Power would be that much of a game-changer. If you look at where the shoe actually pinches, the issue is not about energy in general, but about particular kinds of energy.

For example, the whole mess in the Middle East is not based around energy as such– it’s based around oil. State-of-the-art fossil-fuel-based electric power plants are about twice as efficient as an automobile engine, and they run on fuels an automobile engine cannot use (coal, gas, biomass, etc). As for greenhouse gases, a fossil-fuel electric power plant can be designed to inject its carbon-dioxide exhaust gas into a suitable well. If you can find a practical method of running a car on electricity, you are most of the way home. Conversely, a perfect electric power plant only takes– at best– a few cents off the per-kw-h price of electricity. The lion’s share of your electric bill goes to maintaining a local electric grid, and fusion power isn’t going to change that. Fusion is not going to help you get an electric car. For electric cars to be practical, you need either better batteries, or a system of electric contacts built into the roads. Fusion energy is not going to help you string trolley wires.

Now, let’s look at the electric grid. The grid’s big issues have to do with things like black-outs and peak load. At present, the main component of peak load is air conditioning, and the necessary measure is to convert a lot of buildings to geothermal heat pumps, which store head and cold in the ground. The same applies to solar hot-water heaters. Beyond this, it may be necessary to provide electricity storage. The most economical way to store electricity at grid level is to push water uphill, and and then let it spin a turbine coming down again. Ideally, you should have about a thousand feet of vertical rise, and it is often possible to achieve this in an obsolete mine. If you have decent electricity storage, you can use windmills to provide electricity in the first instance.

Heinrich Hora says:

Avalanche boron fusion may be a solution

The proton-boron11 fusion (HB11) is indeed the ideal solution excluding any nuclear radiation problem, is of unlimited availability, and now at a low cost solution:
H. Hora, G. Korn et al. Fusion energy using avalanche increased boron reactions for block ignition by ultrahigh power picosecond laser pulses. Laser and Particle Beams. 33, No 4 online “first view” ,14 July 2015, DOI:10.1017/S026.03461.5000634
The key is the discovery of the avalanche HB11 reaction which is only possible for this kind of fusion as consequence based on measured super-high gains by Picciotto et al. This is combined with a new non-thermal initiation of the reaction by ps-plasma block ignition with laser pulses of 35kJ energy and picosecond duration resulting in more than GJ energy of alpha particles if a solid cylinder of HB11 fuel is trapped by a laser produced magnetic field of few kilotesla. This is a fully controlled nuclear fusion reaction within few cubic millimeter volume for about ns duration in power stations with one Hertz repetition. Estimations of costs for a one reaction per second operation may result in $300Million profit per year of electric power.

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