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Fusion.

Liberty's Edge

If it is true, I'm thrilled. Clean(ish) and plentiful energy for everyone (ie. those who can afford it, but maybe the rates will drop a bit).


Interesting. I hope it works.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

There are a number of factual inaccuracies in that article.


Such as?

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Quote:
In the simplest terms, nuclear fission breaks a single atom into two whereas nuclear fusion combines two atoms into one.

A few 'or mores' would improve this one. Also, these processes work on nuclei, not atoms.

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Fusion, the holy grail of nuclear power, creates three to four times as much energy as fission.

More energy per what? Mass of fuel? Cost of fuel? Per reaction? Any assumptions on efficiency?

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More importantly, fusion’s key advantage over fission is that it does not produce cancer-causing radioactive waste.

This is quite false. Hydrogen fusion doesn't produce radioactive material as spent fuel in the same way that uranium (or plutonium, or thorium...) fission does, but it still produces neutrons, which have to go somewhere, and aren't contained by magnetic fields (they aren't charged). In effect, the parts of the reactor will absorb neutrons and transmute into radioactive material. It's certainly LESS waste than a fission reactor, but way more than zero.

Spoiler:
There is a theoretical helium-3 fusion process that does not emit neutrons, but it would need to be very carefully regulated to prevent more common dirty fusion from happening, and you'd need a supply of helium-3. The best source of which is probably the Moon, which kind of takes the 'cheap' and 'unlimited' parts of the benefit out.

Quote:
cheap and plentiful hydrogen (deuterium and tritium)

Cheap is a relative term, especially when compared to uranium or coal, so I'm going to let that slide, but deuterium represents .0156% of the hydrogen on Earth. It's only plentiful in the sense of there being a LOT of ocean for us to process to get it. Tritium, on the other hand, basically does not occur naturally. There are a few ways to get tritium: 1) Bombard deuterium with neutrons 2) Bombard lithium with neutrons (to trigger a fission reaction) 3) Collect it as waste from a fission reactor. If tritium is cheap or plentiful, it is only because of fission plants. (Tritium is also radioactive, so say hi to cancer causing radiation again.)

Quote:
enabling everything from unlimited fresh water to engines that take spacecraft to Mars in one month instead of six,

Fusion has no special relationship to those things. Any source of power can be used to desalinate water, and fission-based nuclear rockets have been designed since the 50's. I guess because you'll have a lot of desalinated water sitting around after you've gotten done sucking the deuterium out of it?

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The key breakthrough involves using a “magnetic bottle” to contain the vast amount of heat,

This is just woefully short on details. We've been experimenting with magnetic containment for fusion since 1956. The key breakthrough might be something about magnetic bottles, or how their magnetic bottle works, or a unique way of deploying one, but I think we can agree it is false to call Lockheed's 'key breakthrough' something invented by the Soviets back before color TV.

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Containing and controlling the staggering levels of heat and pressure involved has hampered countless previous efforts to use fusion for generating electricity.

The problem hasn't really been containing the power, it's been containing it in a way that uses less power than can usefully be extracted from the reaction.


Thank you. This is a fascinating rebuttal.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

For the record, I'm not trying to say that Lockheed hasn't figured out how to make fusion power profitable. It would be really awesome if they have.

But the science reporting in that article is woefully thin, and fusion power has been a 'just around the corner' technology since before I was born.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I can't wait to see these installed in the new 2024 Ford Fusions and Chevrolet Cobalt Bombs.

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Yeah, the article was pretty interesting, but as Byers pointed out - woefully non-detailed and optimistic. As he also stated - that s&$#'s been "just around the corner" for a loooooonnnggg time.

But, if they were to produce a working model pretty soon, it would definitely be a game changer. A very interesting game changer.


Ross Byers wrote:

For the record, I'm not trying to say that Lockheed hasn't figured out how to make fusion power profitable. It would be really awesome if they have.

But the science reporting in that article is woefully thin

Its science reporting. What do you expect?

Quote:
A few 'or mores' would improve this one. Also, these processes work on nuclei, not atoms.

Well, thats the part of the atom you mostly interact with for fission/fusion but I can't see it being completely incorrect unless you burn off the electrons before hand or something.

Quote:
1) Bombard deuterium with neutrons

Can't you just put deuterium next to the reactor for this?

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Fusion has no special relationship to those things. Any source of power can be used to desalinate water

But a power plant you can put on a truck and park right where the water is needed is a game changer. Hell, even powering a pump in the sahara for a villiage to filter the water and pump it for crops could literally change the world in a way no other power source has managed in a long while.


Ross Byers wrote:

For the record, I'm not trying to say that Lockheed hasn't figured out how to make fusion power profitable. It would be really awesome if they have.

But the science reporting in that article is woefully thin, and fusion power has been a 'just around the corner' technology since before I was born.

that said, printing trade secrets has been stupid since time out of mind.

The Exchange

Yea, now we can have portable nuclear bombs all over instead of just located at big reactors. I am sure that the corporations will follow all the proper (and expensive) protocol to keep such things secure and protected as they have proven how responsible they are no matter the cost.

Just a side note, how in the hell is a mini reactor in the Sahara to pump water any different than a solar-powered pump? How does that change the world in a way no other power source has managed? It will still be expense and if a village can't afford a solar grid to power a pump station then I doubt they are gonna suddenly find the funds to go with fusion.

I am sure that once this tech is viable it will disappear into some government warehouse, like the carburetor that made regular cars get 100+mpg, and cars that ran on distilled water....big oil is not gonna allow a tech to show up that will hit their pockets. They will toss millions at the right politicians to make this story and the tech slowly fade away.


Carburetor was disproven, I think, but the water car seemed possible. I run into a greasecar on rare occasion.

Liberty's Edge

Fake Healer wrote:
Yea, now we can have portable nuclear bombs all over instead of just located at big reactors. I am sure that the corporations will follow all the proper (and expensive) protocol to keep such things secure and protected as they have proven how responsible they are no matter the cost.

Fusion reactors don't explode. They shut off. Even if you did get a MCF reactor to explode it wouldn't be that impressive since the plasma is more or less at atmospheric pressure.

As for the carburetor and the rest, take the tin foil off.


Fake Healer wrote:


I am sure that once this tech is viable it will disappear into some government warehouse, like the carburetor that made regular cars get 100+mpg, and cars that ran on distilled water....big oil is not gonna allow a tech to show up that will hit their pockets.

Actually, big oil doesn't exist. It's big energy, and they would love this technology, for the same reason that Pizza Hut will happily sell you Buffalo wings instead of limiting their menu to pizza only --- or that Yum Brands will happily sell you pizzas or tacos, sometimes out of the same building across the same counter.

And I concur. That tinfoil hat does not become you.


A much better article on it


Fake Healer wrote:


Just a side note, how in the hell is a mini reactor in the Sahara to pump water any different than a solar-powered pump?

Transportability, power density, and amount of infrastructure. That's like asking how in the hell is a truck shipping goods any different than a train.

A typical solar pump puts out about 2 gallons per minute; most building codes recommend a household pump should put out at least 5-10 gpm and sometimes more, depending upon how how big the household is. If you're using it for farming, you need a LOT more.

If we're talking about a village in the Sahara, a single reactor would provide enough power to drive every pump in every household and make sure they've all got water. The alternative would be to use not just one solar pump, but a hundred, and provide an inadequate water supply to everyone.


Caineach wrote:
A much better article on it

Its behind a paywall...


GregH wrote:
Caineach wrote:
A much better article on it
Its behind a paywall...

It is? I wonder if my work just auto-logs in.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

BigNorseWolf wrote:
Quote:
Also, these processes work on nuclei, not atoms.
Well, thats the part of the atom you mostly interact with for fission/fusion but I can't see it being completely incorrect unless you burn off the electrons before hand or something.

For fusion in particular, it happens at temperatures that require a plasma state (i.e. burning the electrons off). I realize I'm being a bit pedantic here.

BNW wrote:
Quote:
1) Bombard deuterium with neutrons
Can't you just put deuterium next to the reactor for this?

Maybe, but I don't think so. Heavy water is used in certain fission plants specifically because it isn't as good as absorbing neutrons as ordinary water (That is, turning hydrogen into deuterium is easier than turning deuterium into tritium), which gives me the impression that you'd need a more powerful source of neutrons (fissionable materials) to produce tritium in quantity this way. I'd welcome the opinion of an expert, though.

BNW wrote:
Quote:
Fusion has no special relationship to those things. Any source of power can be used to desalinate water
But a power plant you can put on a truck and park right where the water is needed is a game changer. Hell, even powering a pump in the sahara for a villiage to filter the water and pump it for crops could literally change the world in a way no other power source has managed in a long while.

Portable, cheap power would be a game changer, but I was replying specifically to the "unlimited fresh water" comment. That can only mean desalination (a cheap pump for your well doesn't mean unlimited water, since aquifers can and do get exhausted.) Shipping water into the Sahara from the Mediterranean Sea and Persion Gulf could be awesome, but that could be done with orbital solar power, for instance.


Thanks for the information. I will strive to find more accurate sources but am gratified to see that some readers have found this topic interesting and deserving of comment.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Two days of posts and not one linking fusion to the villainous plot of the next Bond movie? I am sorely disappointed.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

The Aviation Week article is much better, including details on how they expect to supply fuel and what makes their magnetic bottle different from the tokamaks that have come before.

25 kg of fuel annually is certainly cheap and makes nearly any material plentiful. Worth pointing out though that getting 25 kg of deuterium requires processing roughly 1.5 million liters of water. (Only about one-ninth of the mass of water comes from hydrogen, and only .015% of that hydrogen is deuterium.)

Liberty's Edge

It's just a stepping stone to skimming Jupiter though. ;)

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Freehold DM wrote:
but the water car seemed possible. I run into a greasecar on rare occasion.

Grease burns. (Lots of biodiesel is processed grease.)

Water does not. Water is one of the most stable chemical compounds there is. It will only burn with something more reactive than either hydrogen or oxygen, like Flourine (which displaces the oxygen) or an alkali metal (which displaces the hydrogren). Either option would be more useful to just burn with oxygen or hydrogen than water. (And in such a case it would be more accurate to say that the car runs on cesium than on water, if it's combining the two for an explosive result.)

The only feasible way to have a car that 'runs on water' is to actually have it be a fusion-powered car that extracts hydrogen from the water.


Caineach wrote:
GregH wrote:
Caineach wrote:
A much better article on it
Its behind a paywall...
It is? I wonder if my work just auto-logs in.

Now its not. That was weird...


Ross Byers wrote:
Quote:

But a power plant you can put on a truck and park right where the water is needed is a game changer. Hell, even powering a pump in the sahara for a villiage to filter the water and pump it for crops could literally change the world in a way no other power source has managed in a long while.

Portable, cheap power would be a game changer, but I was replying specifically to the "unlimited fresh water" comment. That can only mean desalination (a cheap pump for your well doesn't mean unlimited water, since aquifers can and do get exhausted.) Shipping water into the Sahara from the Mediterranean Sea and Persion Gulf could be awesome, but that could be done with orbital solar power, for instance.

Er, I think I missed the part of the discussion where people had actually built an orbital solar power plant. If you're going to talk about constructing unfathomably large amounts of infrastructure to support desalination plants, why not go for a Dyson sphere?

The relative lack of infrastructure of the fusion plant (aside from fuel needs) is, in my mind, a key advantage. If I need enough power for a village, I drive a truck into the village and turn on the generator. If I need enough power for a small town, I and nine friends drive ten trucks into the town and turn on the generators. If I need enough power for all of Algeria, I start with one truck, or maybe ten, and build from there.

And the cheap pump for the village well will certainly provide them with all the water they need in the short term while we're building the university-sized desalination plant and orbital mind control lasers power grid. I can also put a desalination plant at every coastal village and provide them with water locally and save on shipping costs (shipping water is expensive, and using pipelines puts us back at the infrastructure problem).

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

You're correct, I shouldn't have subbed one perpetual near-future power source for another. Conventional solar farms or fission-based nuclear power then.

(Also, my point isn't that fusion can't provide those things or isn't a good way to provide those things, or wouldn't be orders of magnitude cheaper than conventional alternatives. Just that I was objecting to the way the original article present them as things that would somehow be magically unlocked by having the ability to generate electricity from fusion.)


Ross Byers wrote:
You're correct, I shouldn't have subbed one perpetual near-future power source for another. Conventional solar farms or fission-based nuclear power then.

Same infrastructure issues, only less obviously so. Until I can slide a flatbed truck under a fission plant and move it to Al Gibberish, on the coast of Morocco, it will probably be cheaper and easier to use a fusion plant next to a $50k reverse osmosis filtering system (that I can buy off the rack) than to wait for the University of Desalination to be built.


Ross Byers wrote:


(Also, my point isn't that fusion can't provide those things or isn't a good way to provide those things, or wouldn't be orders of magnitude cheaper than conventional alternatives. Just that I was objecting to the way the original article present them as things that would somehow be magically unlocked by having the ability to generate electricity from fusion.)

But I think it's fair to say that they would be magically unlocked by a truck-scale power plant. I don't think it's necessarily the fusion that would be magic (although I don't see how you'd get the necessary power density out of genetically engineered hamsters), but the idea of running the whole damn village off something parked in Abd'Allah's garage.


Orfamay Quest wrote:
Ross Byers wrote:


(Also, my point isn't that fusion can't provide those things or isn't a good way to provide those things, or wouldn't be orders of magnitude cheaper than conventional alternatives. Just that I was objecting to the way the original article present them as things that would somehow be magically unlocked by having the ability to generate electricity from fusion.)
But I think it's fair to say that they would be magically unlocked by a truck-scale power plant. I don't think it's necessarily the fusion that would be magic (although I don't see how you'd get the necessary power density out of genetically engineered hamsters), but the idea of running the whole damn village off something parked in Abd'Allah's garage.

Actually looking into power generation, I'm finding 100mw generators that appear to be roughly the same size. I think the bigger thing here is actually the fuel distribution network. Comes preloaded with a year of fuel is a big deal compared to trying to constantly ship in coal or oil.


Caineach wrote:


(Also, my point isn't that fusion can't provide th I think the bigger thing here is actually the fuel distribution network. Comes preloaded with a year of fuel is a big deal compared to trying to constantly ship in coal or oil.

And year 2 arrives by bicycle instead of by train.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Hey, another one! This one from the University of Washington.

They're using a spheromak design instead of Lockheed's two-torus bottle., and are aiming for an industrial gigawatt facility instead of a more portable 100 MW reactor. But they also claim to be producing fusion power at a net gain: their math says a gigawatt facility would spend 73 MW on maintaining containment.


GregH wrote:
Caineach wrote:
A much better article on it
Its behind a paywall...

Weird, there is no paywall for me.

I will put this my file next to the cold fusion articles.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

Cold fusion hasn't really been demonstrated to be a thing that happens.

Hot fusion has. Hydrogen bombs work. Test reactors work. The sun clearly works. The trick has so far been doing so at
1) A useful scale (proving your 1 kW reactor doesn't explode doesn't help you actually power a city)

and 2) at a net energy profit (because if you spend more energy containing/triggering the reaction than you can extract, all you have is a really expensive way to produce helium).

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