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Laser Fusion Passes Major Hurdle

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the twenty-years-out-and-always-will-be dept.

Power 354

chill writes "The National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has performed their first controlled fusion experiments using all 192 lasers. While still not ramped up to full power, the first experiments proved very fruitful. The lasers create a lot of plasma in the target container and researchers worried that the plasma would interfere with the ability of the target to absorb enough energy to ignite. These experiments show that not only does enough energy make it through, the plasma can be manipulated to increase the uniformity of compression. Ramping up of power is due to start in May." The project lead, Dr. Sigfried Glenzer, is "confident that with everything in place, ignition is on the horizon. He added, quite simply, 'It's going to happen this year.'"

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So... (2, Funny)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949246)

In 5 years I can have Mr. Fusion where I can put junk to power my flying car...
Sweet.

I just hope that fax machines don't come back into style and have multiple for every house.

Re:So... (5, Insightful)

Lord Byron Eee PC (1579911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949280)

Clean, safe, American-made, no foreign oil, low level of pollutants, and a reasonable amount of entropy (heat) released. Sounds like a winner to me.

Re:So... (4, Funny)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949320)

Just don't take it any faster than 85 miles an hour.

Unless you want to visit the '80's, the '50's, or the old west.

Re:So... (4, Insightful)

delinear (991444) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949720)

What's really scary, being a kid at the time the movies came out, is that pretty soon the "future" they visit in the second movie will be our past (we're only five years away)...

Re:So... (3, Informative)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949816)

Just don't take it any faster than 85 miles an hour.

Unless you want to visit the '80's, the '50's, or the old west.

It's actually 88 miles per hour.

Re:So... (3, Funny)

wwfarch (1451799) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949942)

Yeah but the speedometer has some inaccuracies so keep it below 85 to be safe.

Re:So... (2, Funny)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949982)

speedometer calibration is never perfect. (just ask a traffic court). He was allowing for some leeway.

Re:So... (5, Funny)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950080)

It was Doc Fucking Brown, not only was that speedometer perfect, it was digital.

Ah, it's digital. That explains it. (0, Troll)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950208)

And you believe that a digital readout contains no error, why???

Re:So... (1)

wwfarch (1451799) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949986)

This is only the Mr. Fusion. We still need the flux capacitor or this won't be a concern.

Re:So... (5, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949330)

However, just as with fission, it's likely nothing will be built without massive amounts of subsidy, and it will pay off only in a span of decades. Unless the public and officials are willing to think longterm, fusion is going to be delayed regardless of whether the technical hurdles are overcome.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30949450)

Why do I think the entire process will be patented or protected to stop anyone else doing it?

The technical hurdles will be nothing compared to the non-renewable energy industry attempt to block/exploit it.

Re:So... (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949926)

Don't you think that companies like BP and such will embrace this to make oil cheaper ? Oil is not just used for energy, there are other major uses :
1) plastics (and additives for everything else)
2) medicines
3) fertilizer

Using basically unlimited power, perhaps even Co2 + H2o => oil processes can become possible.

Re:So... (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950046)

Why would they want to make it cheaper.

It takes the same amount of money to pull it out of the ground, no matter how much they end up selling it for.

Re:So... (5, Insightful)

ElSupreme (1217088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949616)

What is wrong with a pay off in decades. This "profit now" attitude is going to kill America. You think the interstate system paid off sooner than decades? You think the interstate system was a failure?

Re:So... (4, Insightful)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949800)

You think the interstate system was a failure?
Well... given that the existence of the interstate infrastructure created the incentives that destroyed the locomotive as the main means of in-land shipping in America, and in other ways promoted the reliance on the automobile that's ended public transit in most areas and greatly exacerbated global warming... possibly yes. : p

But I think the parent's point was actually the same as yours -- cynicism about Everybody Else's willingness to do something that'll have a profit after the next quarterly earnings report.

Re:So... (2, Interesting)

PPalmgren (1009823) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950184)

No, it killed passenger trains. Rail is the preferred method of inland transportation in the container shipping industry, and is cheaper than trucking. As a matter of fact, the reason passenger trains are so expensive is because cargo shipped on rail is that beneficial to everyone involved that passenger trains can't compete with it.

Re:So... (2, Insightful)

delinear (991444) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949826)

There's nothing wrong with a pay off in decades other than it will effectively kill off the investment that's required now. The governments and heads of corporations don't want to feather someone else's nest, so they'll constantly make short term decisions. I really wish we could have political parties who looked to the future good of our countries instead of their short term political survival, but experience seems to indicate otherwise. They'll rarely decide to potentially gift their rivals 30 years in the future with incredibly cheap, clean fuel. It's part of the reason we don't have an abundance of nuclear reactors today (and also partly due to the green/Simpsons effects, oh and that explody thing that happened in Chernobyl). Hopefully the big fuel companies will be shifting more investment into these technologies if they want to avoid being redundant when oil is too expensive to obtain.

Re:So... (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950174)

Yes, the fuel/energy companies of today are used to long term payoffs. They will be the ones making these investments. Assuming there aren't liability potentials with Fusion (insurance liabilities are whats really hampering nuclear, and the feds inability to see into the future isn't helping). These companies will be investing. But don't expect them to invest until the science is proven either.

Re:So... (1)

dorre (1731288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949654)

This is definitely not just a monetary issue. It is a political and military issue as well.

Creating safe, sustainable energy production, without need of any kind of import of any kind (oil, gas, coal, biofuels) would make any country a LOT less dependent on others. This has been one of the Holy grails in politics the last 5 decades.

I find it VERY hard to believe that successful fusion technologies would have problems with finding funding for fullscale operation :) Especially in the US.

Re:So... (1)

uuddlrlrab (1617237) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949844)

Yeah, special interest groups wouldn't have any impact on this at all. Especially now that corporate contributions to political smear- I mean, opinion films has been lifted, I'm sure all the oil, natural gas, and coal groups will be glad to jump on it's back- I mean, aboard.

Re:So... (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950018)

and imagine what the military-industrial-complex will think once we no longer have oil as a reason for war.

So what (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949854)

However, just as with fission, it's likely nothing will be built without massive amounts of subsidy, and it will pay off only in a span of decades

I think you would actually find a coalition of both democrats and republicans that could be for fusion subsidies. And, the whole lot will get cheaper as the much smaller free electron lasers replace the laser design in NIF.

Re:So... (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949976)

Looks like a tabletop fusion wanabe. It is made of laser, that could teoreticaly fit a smaler volume, and pelets of deuterium, that is quite easy to gather from nature. It may quite well lead to fusion machines so easy to create that the governemnt couldn't hope to control. Of course, that is more than 20 years on the future :)

Anyway, does anybody know what are the results of deuterion fusion (is it He4 or it irradiates something)? And about the pelets composed of deuterium and tritium, I didn't know one could solidify tritium.

Re:So... (1)

rinoid (451982) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950078)

American's don't think long term. The corporatist culture of "get it down now, for as little expense possible" is like a plague on any notion of process and thought.

Witness the destruction of a perfectly good public transportation system in the 50s. Since the late 70s "oil crisis" cities, states, regions, and the country have been subsidizing massive public transportation initiatives. In fact, there's more stimulus spending for the New England states and rail just announced.


Right now a good portion of the country blame an administration only 12 months old for the entire deficit! Run up during 8 years after the country achieved a surplus. Give the guy a fucking break -- he inherited 2 wars and an imminent depression largely due to money sucking greed whores.

Re:So... (1)

cellurl (906920) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950116)

I am just grateful Obama isn't involved... (at least not in the news on this announcement...)

Fusion is alot cooler than our recently announced US Bullet-train-wannabee...

Free Speed limit database [wikispeedia.org]
jim

Re:So... (1)

plague911 (1292006) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950130)

The same goes for any power generation plant. They all take decades to pay off. Personally I think we should just take the nationalized energy approach due to the high up front costs. (Its either that or give away money so private companies can do it) but ya...

Re:So... (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949306)

You're fired.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30949378)

In 5 years I can have Mr. Fusion where I can put junk to power my flying car...
Sweet.

I just hope that fax machines don't come back into style and have multiple for every house.

Only if you can get the sharks with the laser beams on their heads into the tank.

Re:So... (0, Redundant)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949934)

Great scott! 192 lasers! We are going to need MORE SHARKS!

Has it been 20 years already? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30949316)

Where are the flying cars? Where is my copy of Du
SIGNAL DROPPED

Terminology ? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30949322)

What does "ignition" mean for the energy gain of this type of fusion? Is this going to be worthwhile enough to overcome the inherent difficulties of this approach? Right now, inertial confinement seems to be suited for one-off events but not for sustained power generation since the fuel pellet will need to be lined up nearly perfectly for the lasers to not just blow it apart. Is "ignition" going to produce enough energy to make all this setup worthwhile in anything but an experimental sense?

Re:Terminology ? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949490)

That's one of the things the experimental reactor is supposed to determine, no?

Re:Terminology ? (0)

ID000001 (753578) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949724)

This is really just a nuclear fusion simulator without actually using nuclear material. The "Producing Energy" part is more of an afterthought cause otherwise they couldn't generate enough support.

Re:Terminology ? (1)

Jojoba86 (1496883) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949882)

No, for fusion Deuterium and Tritium are used (heavy isotopes of Hydrogen). This is the only 'nuclear' material needed, and this is exactly what NIF will use.

Re:Terminology ? (5, Informative)

Jojoba86 (1496883) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949762)

Ignition means more fusion energy released than laser energy in. Yes, there are issues in scaling it up, but none that are known to be insurmountable. Already there have been experiments to look at target injection (a 2 GW power plant would be at the 5 - 10 Hz region), high rep-rate lasers (Mercury is an example of a high power, high rep-rate laser) and the lining up of the laser in this situation requires less precision than that of anti-missile systems that are around.

Also the Hohlraum approach is unlikely to be used in a power-plant, as it doesn't give the biggest energy gains, so this is basically a significant step towards projects such as HiPER [hiper-laser.org] . If NIF achieves success in ignition as is widely expected the money should be around for projects like HiPER.

Ignition = net positive energy (3, Informative)

dtolman (688781) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949828)

By definition, when they achieve ignition - there will be a self sustained, fusion reaction - the fusion reaction will sustain itself until its fuel is exhausted. More energy will be produced than was put in - a net positive in energy.

Of course there isn't any mechanism in NIF to collect the energy, but thats not really the point of the project...

Re:Ignition = net positive energy (2, Informative)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950054)

More energy will be _released_ than was put in - a net positive in energy.

your don't produce energy. you release it. just saying.

Re:Ignition = net positive energy (1)

dtolman (688781) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950152)

Yeah - I realized that after I hit submit. I miss "edit post" on Slashdot.

Re:Ignition = net positive energy (2, Interesting)

linuxpyro (680927) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950160)

Would this basically be like creating a tiny star?

Re:Terminology ? (1)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949834)

You know what's really funny - I was in junior high school, 8th grade to be exact, and living in Fremont, CA when we had a school field trip to ... you guessed it, Lawrence Livermore Labs.

That would have been around 1990 or thereabouts. And I'll be damned if they didn't give us a tour of a many-laser fuel pellet ignition fusion system that I thought was frigging cool at the time (I swear it was something like 40 or 60 pulsed lasers), though I recall wondering how they were ever going to get it to keep releasing energy in a way that could be sustained.

Apparently, that must have been the earlier version of the current system, which they apparently started work on in 1997 and just completed in 2009.

Just gives you a sense of the absolutely, horrendously glacial pace of fusion research. They have spent at *least* the last 19 years, and in all likelihood more like 30+ years, i.e. the entire career of many scientists and engineers, working on essentially the same technique, that nobody really knows how it would be used to create a sustained fusion reaction that produces net energy.

I find this incredibly sad. Aren't there any better, new ideas in fusion research to invest money and time into for experimental purposes?

Re:Terminology ? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950058)

I find this incredibly sad. Aren't there any better, new ideas in fusion research to invest money and time into for experimental purposes?

Lots of people are working on different methods. Turns out they all take a lot of time and development to actually get working.

What I find sad is that so many of us don't seem to have the patience for things that are honestly and truly difficult to work out and that could really take many years to figure out. 30 years isn't very long in the history of science. Things much simpler than practical fusion reactors took much longer to develop in the past. It's only because of how rapidly technology advances these days that we expect this to apply to everything, and that anything to which this doesn't apply is a waste of time.

And what's also sad is that I know this intellectually, but I really can't blame you for feeling the way you do because to an extent I feel the same way!

Re:Terminology ? (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950114)

there are lots of approaches, that one just happens to be very promising.
Now as for the time it's taken it's not like they haven't been getting anywhere it's just that there's the little problem that what they're trying to do is really really hard.

Re:Terminology ? (1)

SwedishPenguin (1035756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950180)

It's certainly not a new idea, but ITER (tokamak) is under construction in southern France. Of course, it won't be completed for some 10 years, and then the project is expected to run over 20 years after that. The plan is to sustain 500MW for up to 1000 seconds. Of course, they don't generate any electricity either, it's purely research.
I'm afraid we won't see any actual fusion power plants for quite a while barring something revolutionary.

Death Star? (0)

PmanAce (1679902) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949338)

...I imagined the Death Star with its three lasers combining to become a super laser. I guess this is not the same lol, I should stop watching the Flea Market Montgomery Mini Mall Rap while I read slashdot.

Re:Death Star? (1)

kiehlster (844523) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949436)

Ah, now I see what the scientist's rational was for building the Death Star. No, this isn't a doomsday device, this is just a way to create fusion energy on a macro scale. Don't mind the peons on those plants, this is science!

Re:Death Star? (2, Funny)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949764)

Just a minor point - the Death Star had more than three lasers. I think it was more like 12 or so. Just didn't want you to provoke the dark side of the force by underestimating the power of the 'Star.

Re:Death Star? (1)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950028)

Are we talking originally or special editions?

This is wonderful! (4, Funny)

fredrated (639554) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949348)

Now fusion energy is only 10 years away!

Re:This is wonderful! (1)

KarrdeSW (996917) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949484)

Now fusion energy is only 10 years away!

They'll probably delay it just to build up the hype... or some lizard will get into the lab during an experiment and come out as godzilla. Either or.

Re:This is wonderful! (4, Funny)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949632)

Ha. Unlike CERN, they had the insight to build this thing inside an building that isn't in France. That means it is 99.999% proof against a pidgeon dropping a baguette in it.

Re:This is wonderful! (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949744)

So I need 10,000 Bread-Borne Birds of Avian Anarchy... Wait, NO! My plan is revealed!

*Scurry*

Re:This is wonderful! (1)

Rhaban (987410) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949852)

I suppose french swallows could carry baguette slices to california, if encased in a coconut shell?

Re:This is wonderful! (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949738)

Now fusion energy is only 10 years away!

And will be for the next fifty years.

Re:This is wonderful! (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950162)

To be fair it used to be 15 years away (admitedly more than 10 years ago) so in 50 years it'll only be 2 or 3 years away.

Re:This is wonderful! (2, Funny)

Seth Kriticos (1227934) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949996)

I really pity the first person who gets fusion to work for energy:

"Hey Bob, fusion energy here."
"Yea Benny, I know, in ten years. I know that one.."
"No, here, just made it work. See: fusion here in my ignition facility. Energy output meter shows lot's of power. I made it!!"
"You actually realize that you effectively destroyed a years old meme in the Internet? FUCK YOU!"
"..."

Within a Year? Blasphemy! (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949350)

The project lead, Dr. Sigfried Glenzer, is "confident that with everything in place, ignition is on the horizon. He added, quite simply, 'It's going to happen this year.'

Huh. I had always thought that some international police force like "The International Fusion Gestapo" would be dispatched upon hearing this news and show up at your lab and start smashing mirrors and urinating on lasers until you revised your statement to be "15 to 20 years away" so that all their dues paying members would have time to reach tenure before you ruined the party.

I mean, there was no other logical explanation why so many seemingly brilliant scientists continually gave us incorrect estimates of achieving milestones in fusion research. Is this just being overly optimistic or was he carefully picking his words so that they will know if this method is viable (above break even energy production) or not within a year? And if so, where will he get his funding given the if not scenario?

Ignition not economical (2, Insightful)

pavon (30274) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949554)

The 15 to 20 years estimate is always for energy-positive, viable power plant. The one year date is just when this particular device will be fully operational. There are already many operational fusion devices that exist for research, and this adds another that may or may not give us a breakthrough.

Re:Ignition not economical (1)

Jojoba86 (1496883) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949842)

This is more than that, this is the first time controlled gain in a target will be achieved. As you say, you can already get fusion going without many problems, but getting more energy out than you put in is the hard bit, and that's why this is a significant step.

Re:Within a Year? Blasphemy! (2, Interesting)

gmueckl (950314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949558)

My interpretation is simply that they want to reach the density and temperature required to start fusion within the plasma. This only means that the fusion reaction is starting to happen. Only after that can one start to ask the interesting questions (can enough energy be extracted to have a net surplus? can the energy output be improved? is this economically viable?). So they aren't done for several years yet.

Re:Within a Year? Blasphemy! (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949614)

The more I read your comment, the less I can tell whether you're mocking a silly conspiracy or trying to create one. But either way, even with a successful ignition tomorrow, I'm sure it would still take 15 years or more to get electricity from it onto the grid. Even building a fission reactor with a proven design takes about that long in the US. But besides just working, fusion would have to produce more energy than it consumes, it has to be scaled up to a significant output, and then the price has to come way, way down... even as low as simply digging up and burning coal (unless we start accounting for the future costs of doing that which doesn't seem to be happening).

But don't get me wrong, I am amazed at this. And if (earth-bound) fusion becomes a workable energy source, I think it would have the biggest practical impact of any Big Science program, ever.

Re:Within a Year? Blasphemy! (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949648)

Note he is just saying they should start hydrogen burn this year. The 20 years thing is for economically viable fusion power plants- this research helps bring us closer to that but 20 years would still be optimistic. This announcement is like the LHC saying they'll be running the beam at full power by the end of the year (but without the bad track record for the equipment)- you seem to treat it similar to CERN saying they will find the Higgs by the end of the year. His prediction sounds reasonable enough to me.

Re:Within a Year? Blasphemy! (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949736)

What you are describing is Frank Herbert's: The Tactful Saboteur. [google.com] An excellent short story.

In Lieu of Red Tape

help! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30949352)

Cool story guys. I tweeted and poked it but most of all I digg it. Why isn't there a digg button?

That's about the coolest or hottest thing ever (2, Interesting)

xednieht (1117791) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949356)

Understand just enough to know that I don't understand enough, but this sounds fantastic.

Re:That's about the coolest or hottest thing ever (1)

AaxelB (1034884) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950144)

Understand just enough to know that I don't understand enough, but this sounds fantastic.

Agreed! Even more so because the picture in TFA clearly shows that they totally built Cerebro!

Except that instead of enhancing the telepathy of whomever's inside, it blows things up with lasers. I'd call that an improvement.

I can hear it now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30949364)

Boom?

Re:I can hear it now... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30949394)

No boom today, boom tomorrow.

Pocket Fusion for everyone,,, (1)

MindPrison (864299) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949392)

... something to think about the next time you brag to your friends about your 300mW pocket laser pointer popping balloons & burning wood.

Re:Pocket Fusion for everyone,,, (1)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949634)

I don't know about you, but i bring my 300 MW pocket laser pointer to pop baloons.

Re:Pocket Fusion for everyone,,, (3, Funny)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949758)

...your 300mW pocket laser pointer popping balloons & burning wood.

You're supposed to take it out of your pocket before using it.

Re:Pocket Fusion for everyone,,, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30950200)

Else you would have become burning man!

fusion has radioactive waste (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949428)

but its low powered and has quick half-lives. additionally, there are no geopolitical overtones concerning fuel sources: you just need sea water. no climate changing pollution/ city-choking smog for that matter. no peak oil this or that, no bubbles and spikes in supply or pricing

additionally, if everyone had electric cars, there would be no petrodollars funding saudi arabia, a backwards fundamentalist regime that funds wahhabi madrassas in places like pakistan, that give rise to all of these well-funded (from saudi "charities") militant assholes in the muslim world

no funding of gas bag chavez in venezuela, no funding of neoimperial russia and putin, no funding for nigerian graft and corruption...

it will take a long time, but if we can remove the reason for the world to have any vested interests in backwards regimes, propping them up and preserving them unnaturally, and we instead let these regimes instead rise and fall on their own intrinsic value in governing fair societies, then we will have taken a mighty step forward in terms of progress in this world

of course, it will be decades before we're all driving electric cars powered by fusion plants. but one can dream, cant' they?

Re:fusion has radioactive waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30949588)

of course, it will be decades before we're all driving electric cars powered by fusion plants. but one can dream, cant' they?

Too bad we don't treat fusion research with the same priority as the Manhattan Project during WW2.

But yes.. we can dream.

I can see it now... (1, Funny)

s0litaire (1205168) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949444)

1) May: ramping up power
2) June 1st: Flick the switch
3) ???
4) June 2nd: They are now the proud owners of a 2mile wide smoking crater...
5) Tourist industry profits...

Compared to the megajoule laser? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30949446)

So I guess this is the same megajoule laser, that I read about over at engadger [engadget.com] ?

According to tfa:

"We hit it with 669 kilojoules - 20 times more than any previous laser facility," Nif's Siegfried Glenzer told BBC News.

So, basically, if I am getting this straight

Really powerful laser => shoots really cold stuff => reaction causes x-rays to be created => x-rays cause stuff to get super hot => if you can get two things hot enough (i.e. hydrogen atoms), they fuse.

How interesting.

Re:Compared to the megajoule laser? (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950176)

For a gas/plasma Temperature is simply a statistical measure of the molecular kinetic energy that exists in a group of particles.

Like you may have learned in high school physics, opposites atrract and like particles repel each other.

In order to fuse two hydrogen atoms you have to make contact between two positively charged hydrogen ions, this means that you need enough energy to overcome the electromagnetic repulsion between those ions.

So yes, since temperature is a measure of the translational energy(also rotational, vibrational, etc.) of molecules, get it hot enough and there will be a small chance that the hydrogen ions will fuse. If the chance is high enough and the energy returned is greater than what is put into the reaction, then huzzah you have commercially viable fusion.

'It's going to happen this year.'" (0, Offtopic)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949454)

OK...let's see...then going by current trends, its manufacture should be offshored in 2012.

Yes, but is it REALLY working? (1)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949530)

OK, Fusion within 2010. Great.

The question now becomes: will this generate more energy than it takes? And can it sustain power generation?

And, let's admit everything works: what quantity of nuclear waste will such a machine produce? And of what type?

Don't give me the "it's fusion, so it's clean, duh" line: this machine is going to generate an enormous amount of energy and a lot of that will in the form of a "carefully controlled thermonuclear explosion" (BBC dixit) -- which means radiation, which also means neutrons. And neutrons are not really good for your health.

And will ITER be quickly refactored to take this into account? Will the EU combine HiPER (high-energy laser projects) and ITER? Will the USA share its latest discovery with its ITER partners?

Questions, questions, questions...

Re:Yes, but is it REALLY working? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30949784)

Questions, questions, questions...

All of which can be easily answered and debunked in seconds by Google and/or Wikipedia. If you were really curious, you'd spend your lunch break today doing some honest research, not spreading variations on the same tired anti-nuclear FUD we've seen for several decades.

Re:Yes, but is it REALLY working? (4, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949940)

And, let's admit everything works: what quantity of nuclear waste will such a machine produce? And of what type?

Don't give me the "it's fusion, so it's clean, duh" line: this machine is going to generate an enormous amount of energy and a lot of that will in the form of a "carefully controlled thermonuclear explosion" (BBC dixit) -- which means radiation, which also means neutrons. And neutrons are not really good for your health.

Later in TFA it says they'll eventually be fusing a fuel containing a mix deuterium and tritium. Deuterium-deuterium fusion yields tritium and a neutron, and deuterium-tritium fusion yields helium-4 and a neutron. So the byproducts are Helium-4 (not radioactive in the slightest) and neutrons.

High energy neutrons are very bad for you, yes, but that just means you won't be standing near the unshielded reaction chamber. It's not like you have to dump a big pile of poisonous neutrons somewhere. The neutrons will affect the containment itself, but the biggest problem there is just that it becomes brittle, not necessarily radioactive.

It is basically true that fusion is clean. The waste is minimal.

Re:Yes, but is it REALLY working? (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949992)

My understanding (and IANALaserologist) is that fusion only generates low level nuclear waste, the sort of stuff you get as a by product of various machines in hospitals and... relatively... safe to handle, so I guess the real question is about the quantity, whether it's within the bounds we already deal with or exceeds those by several order of magnitudes could be the key factor.

Re:Yes, but is it REALLY working? (1)

wrenchy (1732882) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950220)

The question now becomes: will this generate more energy than it takes? And can it sustain power generation?

Ignition is the condition whereby more energy is generated than was required in the first place. This is the goal NIF are aiming for and, by all accounts, will achieve in the next couple of years. The big problems come in trying to scale this up to a commercially viable power plant. Currently, the targets used in NIF cost ~$1000 each, and for a power plant ten are required every second.

And will ITER be quickly refactored to take this into account? Will the EU combine HiPER (high-energy laser projects) and ITER? Will the USA share its latest discovery with its ITER partners?

ITER and NIF/HiPER are two completely different ways of achieving fusion - magnetic confinement and inertial confinement fusion. There is no need to 'refactor' ITER in light of the NIF results, since for the most part these results don't impact on ITER. Potentially, we could use both methods to generate energy in the future but they are completely distinct projects.

And, let's admit everything works: what quantity of nuclear waste will such a machine produce? And of what type?

I'm not sure about NIF since I work in magnetic confinement fusion, but in ITER, the main radiactive product will be tritium, whose half-life is just 12 years. This means that within a century, all materials from ITER should be perfectly safe to recycle. Also, there is only ever a few grams of fuel in any fusion experiment, so if something goes wrong there can't be any huge explosions, This is one of the reasons for the often cited inherent safety of fusion power.

Brilliant! (2)

jaguth (1067484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949556)

Soon there will be enough energy to power my Dual SLI GeForce 9800 GX2!

192 lasers? Simultaneously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30949564)

Screw the technology. I wanna know who the fricken' shark trainer is!

Lasers? (4, Funny)

RealErmine (621439) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949596)

Why aren't they using an array of neural-network-controlled, articulated metal arms to control the fusion chamber?

Re:Lasers? (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950210)

Sharks were cheaper.

National Ignition Facility? (4, Funny)

lxs (131946) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949622)

Are you sure it's wise to ignite your nation?

I'm glad that there's plenty of water between me and the nation in question.

Re:National Ignition Facility? (4, Funny)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950212)

They didn't say which nation they'd be igniting. I'm looking at you, Cyprus.

As one doctor to another, freaking wonderful! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30949638)

The project lead, Dr. Sigfried Glenzer, is "confident that with everything in place, ignition is on the horizon. He added, quite simply, 'It's going to happen this year."

That's freaking wonderful news, Siggy! I have the sharks ready, just bring the freakin lasers and let's burn this joint! *evil pinky smile*

Bullshit until it's peer reviewed (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949666)

My house, Saturday night. Bring Your Own Bottle and Laser Pointer.

Not yet (2, Funny)

syrinx (106469) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949686)

Everyone knows fusion power doesn't become available until 2050, and microwave power comes first.

Re:Not yet (1)

oloron (1092167) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949794)

ya but if my sim-memory hasn't failed me, its what only 50k per reactor? sweeeeeet spot!

Please calm down... (2, Interesting)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949706)

I don't understand why this is even doing news. The temperatures that were reach are commonly reached inside tokamaks. Fusion itself has already been sustained in them for several seconds,a feat a laser confinement mechanism cannot do. Of course these reactions did use more energy than it created. Laser mechanisms have a longer way to go in order to be credible fusion power plants.

Re:Please calm down... (3, Interesting)

Jojoba86 (1496883) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950150)

Of course laser fusion can't provide a sustained burn for seconds, that's not how it works! Your car engine doesn't burn fuel in a sustained way, but it does a pretty good job of providing enough average power right?

The key point here it's a step towards getting gain in a fusion plasma. And hopefully in 2010. The earliest a tokamak is likely to achieve the same is 2020. The steps towards a powerplant are different for tokamaks and lasers, but high rep-rate lasers exist and projects like HiPER [hiper-laser.org] will look to address these issues.

Trying to source a quote (1)

adipocere (201135) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949750)

.. which said that it was never that fusion was 50 years away, but that it was 500 billion dollars away. The fifty years was just an estimate based on how much funding, brainpower, and so forth went into it. Let's face it, you can't just put a basket in a storage locker with a placard atop it reading FUSION, then come back in fifty years and expect to find something in the basket.

We have not spent the large amounts of money required to do the research. When we do, it's in fits and starts, buffeted by people with ecodread and slavered over by those in the DOD who lust for some new level of destruction. It's always been easy to just ... drill another well. Blow up another mountaintop for coal that they assure us will be clean, this time around.

Not twenty years out (1)

oloron (1092167) | more than 4 years ago | (#30949776)

c'mon read the fine(?) article, the guy says its going to happen this year, so at most that means about 5 years, not twenty, c'mon he didnt say first quarter next year did he? I could see 20yrs then

Fantastic Four (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30949796)

Is there any truth to that part in the Fantastic Four movie, where the human torch went so hot that he almost ignited the earth's atmosphere?

Any danger of this scenario happening with that laser fusion experiment?

That's alot of sardines... (1)

archer, the (887288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950040)

I wouldn't want to be the guy feeding the 192 sharks. I'd want to be paid an arm and a leg in advance. Literally.

So when, when? (0, Offtopic)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#30950118)

When will I be able to walk into Walmart and buy my very own light-saber, is what I want to know!

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