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Two-Laser Boron Fusion Lights the Way To Radiation-Free Energy

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the i-love-it-when-energy-doesn't-try-to-kill-me dept.

Power 140

ananyo writes "Fusion unleashes vast amounts of energy that might one day be used to power giant electrical grids. But the laboratory systems that seem most promising produce radiation in the form of fast-moving neutrons, and these present a health hazard that requires heavy shielding and even degrades the walls of the fusion reactor. Physicists have now produced fusion at an accelerated rate in the laboratory without generating harmful neutrons (abstract). A team led by Christine Labaune, research director of the CNRS Laboratory for the Use of Intense Lasers at the Ecole Polytechnique in Palaiseau, France, used a two-laser system to fuse protons and boron-11 nuclei. One laser created a short-lived plasma, or highly ionized gas of boron nuclei, by heating boron atoms; the other laser generated a beam of protons that smashed into the boron nuclei, releasing slow-moving helium particles but no neutrons. Previous laser experiments that generated boron fusion aimed the laser at a boron target to initiate the reaction. In the new experiment, the laser-generated proton beam produces a tenfold increase of boron fusion because protons and boron nuclei are instead collided together directly."

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Hooray for fusion! (5, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | about a year ago | (#45086441)

Hooray! Fusion power is now only 20 years in the future! The absence of fast neutrons really is a breakthrough, though: the less radioactive a reactor itself becomes over time, the easier the cleanup at the end of its life.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about a year ago | (#45086469)

This sounds cool, I wonder if this technique couldn't be applied to "clean up" radio active waste? And allow me to turn on the light in my bathroom?

Re: Hooray for fusion! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45086539)

No. It has nothing to do with heavy medium half-life isotopes.

Re: Hooray for fusion! (0)

Cryacin (657549) | about a year ago | (#45086667)

Eventually make it small enough, and you could mount it in a car, or better yet, a small battery.

Re: Hooray for fusion! (4, Funny)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | about a year ago | (#45087069)

No. It has nothing to do with heavy medium half-life isotopes.

They prefer to be called "somewhat big boned semi-long lived isotopes", you insensitive clod!

Re: Hooray for fusion! (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#45088357)

That particular experiment didn't, but the technique might be interesting for transmuting radioactive elements into stable elements or (second best) shorter lived radioisotopes.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (0)

lgw (121541) | about a year ago | (#45086643)

It's Boron! It has the cleaning power of a 20 mule team! [wikipedia.org] So, no, not really.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (2)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#45087511)

That's easy. Use filtration and centrifuges to separate out the short and long life products from the medium life products. Short half-life products are nasty, but you only have to store them for a few years, so no one cares. Long half-life products have too slow a decay rate to worry about, and some of them are useful as fuel. Whatever is left, just bombard it with more neutrons, or protons, whatever would be appropriate for transmuting it into something with a more convenient decay path.

The trouble is energy, and this kind of reprocessing takes a fuckton of it.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45086475)

Hooray! Fusion power is now only 20 years in the future!

They're planning to build the first reactor in Brazil. It's the country of the future, you know.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | about a year ago | (#45086495)

Fuck yeah it is, until the bugs show up.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (2)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | about a year ago | (#45087743)

That was Argentina. Poor Buenos Aires.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (5, Insightful)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#45086497)

As long as we don't run out of the other stuff [wikipedia.org] , anyway. The Earth's crust contains about 5x as much Boron as Uranium, but we already use quite a lot of it for other applications and are extracting it at almost seventy times the rate.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45086613)

Too bad we can't get fusion energy from morons instead, we would have unlimited energy...

Re:Hooray for fusion! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45086947)

Mankind would have been ended a lot time ago if morons can reach whatever super critical to start a reaction. :P

Re:Hooray for fusion! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45087293)

No but we get some confusion energy.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45087631)

Too bad we can't get fusion energy from morons instead, we would have unlimited energy...

No, pretty sure you're too lazy to do actual work.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (1)

AbRASiON (589899) | about a year ago | (#45088841)

Watchout the reddit lurkers might get angry and start replying to hassle you!

Re:Hooray for fusion! (3, Funny)

lgw (121541) | about a year ago | (#45086709)

I can just imagine the Mad Max-style wars of the future when Boron is scarce and armies of scientists with makeshift weapons battle: should the boron go to the fusion reactors, or to make Pyrex glassware? Two scientists enter, one scientist leaves (with borax).

Re:Hooray for fusion! (1)

bdwebb (985489) | about a year ago | (#45087477)

I think that if they are armies of scientists the weapons would be anything but makeshift. We're talking mechs powered by mini two-laser fusion reactors blasting each other with plasma rifles and missile volleys to weaken the energy shield around the Borax mine's defenses.

Fuck. Yes.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (3, Funny)

SuperKendall (25149) | about a year ago | (#45088425)

We're talking mechs powered by mini two-laser fusion reactors blasting each other with plasma rifles and missile volleys to weaken the energy shield around the Borax mine's defenses.

It ain't called Death Valley for nothing... now that's a forward thinking name.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (4, Informative)

Tim the Gecko (745081) | about a year ago | (#45086775)

The Earth's crust contains about 5x as much Boron as Uranium, but we already use quite a lot of it for other applications and are extracting it at almost seventy times the rate.

However, 80% of extracted Boron is B-11, whereas only 0.7% of naturally occurring Uranium is U-235.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (5, Informative)

AnotherBlackHat (265897) | about a year ago | (#45086953)

If I'm crunching the numbers correctly, 1 gram of Boron produces 25,000 kWh of electricity - assuming perfect capture, 100% boron-11 and no other loses. (Granted, all unrealistic assumptions, but it's a starting point.)

If we replaced all electric generation on the planet (about 20 trillion kWh / year) it would take 800 tonnes of boron per year.

Turkey has the largest known Boron deposits at over a million tonnes or 1,200 years worth. And there are several other countries with large (thousands of tonnes) deposits as well, and that's just the Boron we know about.

All really rough estimates, but I don't think will run out of Boron fuel any time soon.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (1)

carnaby_fudge (2789633) | about a year ago | (#45087077)

Then you have to ask for our progeny's progeny... how much boron is on the moon?

Re:Hooray for fusion! (4, Interesting)

bdwebb (985489) | about a year ago | (#45087637)

Another poster above you mentioned that 80% of extracted Boron is B-11 so ~1,000 years worth is more accurate if all the Boron in the Turkey mines were used for energy generation only...nevertheless, your post shows exactly why this technology is pretty enticing. B-11 is much, much easier to obtain than U-235 and, if the technology doesn't go the way of vapor, has the potential to change everything. Looking at this article [todayszaman.com] , it appears that your estimate may be a bit off, though, regarding Turkey's Boron reserves:

Although having 72 percent of the world's known boron reserves and being the biggest producer of boron in the world, Turkey has no monopoly on the global boron market. Total boron reserves in the world amount to as much as 4 billion tons. But the amount of boron minerals used as chemicals in industry is no more than 4 million tons a year. This means boron reserves, even when excluding Turkey's supply, are adequate to provide the world with enough boron minerals for almost 300 years.

Going a step further, it looks like Turkey's deposits account for at least 2.88 billion tons of the total 4 billion tons in reserves around the world...definitely enough to keep us running for a while. Considering that we're already using 4 million tons a year for other industry and accounting for future growth (let's throw a random number at it and say 150% for a total of 10 million tons a year), then adding the current power requirements of the world, we get 10.0008 million tons a year of usage. Even using those numbers (and the 80% extraction rate), we're at 319.97 years of boron resources left.

And shitballs...looking at Eti Maden's site [etimaden.gov.tr] , I just found the following that makes me wonder about my previous source:

In the world, Turkey, USA and Russia have the important boron mines. In terms of total reserve basis, Turkey has a share of %72.20, the other important country USA is %6.8.
Total world boron reserves on the basis of B2O3 content are 369 million tons proven. 807 million tones probable and possible, as a total of 1,176 million tons. With a share of %72.20, Turkey has a total boron reserves of 851 million tons on the basis of B2O3 content .

I don't know if the first article is believable or not so I'll just say that we have between 94.07 and 319.97 years of power and industry in Boron...which isn't amazing but it isn't bad either.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about a year ago | (#45087779)

I would hope after 1000 years that we would a) find an alternative fuel, and b) be sufficiently "off this rock" that we can get what we need.

Of course, significant "off this rock" activities are liable to accelerate energy consumption by orders of magnitude, so that's a dangerous bit of progress to hope for.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about a year ago | (#45087763)

And hooray for Helium generation!

Oh, aren't Helium nuclei also called Alpha particles?

Re:Hooray for fusion! (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#45088649)

Yep. There are five basic types of nuclear emission: proton emission (rare, but occurs in e.g. cobalt-53 decay), electron emission (also called beta minus decay, occurs when a proton becomes a neutron), positron emission (also called beta plus decay, occurs when a neutron becomes a proton), neutron emission (e.g. helium-5), and EM ray emission (such as gamma or X-ray emission; these are the result of much more high-powered events.)

However, several different kinds of more complex things can happen. During a nuclear chemistry event, essentially what happens is that all of the baryons in the nucleus have been jammed together by a violent impact, and through strong and weak nuclear force interactions, they stumble randomly onto a stable energy state. Sometimes the result of this is a relatively small decay, such as the generation of a lepton (beta decay), but with larger nuclei, multi-baryonic discharges, especially the rather stable alpha particle, get ejected.

In most nuclear chemistry scenarios, that's what actually gets generated, not a happy helium atom with two electrons. (And I think in this case it's actually alpha decay that's occurring, so there may not be any free electrons kicking around.) Alpha particles are very obnoxious to nearby matter because of their habit of stealing electrons—as one of the most electronegative elements on the periodic table, they're extremely good at pilfering them from other atoms. (Although you'd have to swallow [wikipedia.org] a lump of radioactive metal in order to actually hurt yourself significantly with alpha radiation, we do have to use shielding that absorbs the alpha particles in order to make them totally safe.)

To my knowledge, there's been no effort to generate helium on a commercial scale through alpha decay under controlled conditions. However, (almost) all naturally-occurring helium on Earth actually comes from alpha decay underground of heavy elements; we isolate it as a byproduct of gas pockets found during mining operations. Presumably as helium shortages become more serious we'll start investigating artificial means of generating it through nuclear chemistry, which will surely sound utterly perplexing (and squeaky) from a Renaissance-era alchemist's perspective.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45086641)

Not only that, but if you were to use something like free electron laser on a chip [slashdot.org] aimed at something like a copper target to generate your proton beam, you might be able to get the fusion reactor down to a size that would fit in a Tesla Roadster. Who wouldn't think it'd be cool to own the first fusion powered car in their neighborhood, which might only need to be refilled about once a year or so?

Of course it's still 20 years into the future.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45086713)

"Of course it's still 20 years into the future."
---
A wee bit longer then that I'd imagine.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45087409)

Aaaaaaaaand a-whoosh.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#45087403)

30 years in the future, you can buy a "Mr Fusion" to power your car. It runs on any organic waste, like old banana peels.

Re:Hooray for fusion! (1)

Trogre (513942) | about a year ago | (#45086865)

Yeah, this is great news. We could even capture the by-product and help alleviate the helium shortage!

Re:Hooray for fusion! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45086867)

I guess this is another thing Futurama was spot on about. How'd that jingle go again? "Nobody doesn't love Molten Boron~"

Re:Hooray for fusion! (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year ago | (#45087533)

I guess this is another thing Futurama was spot on about. How'd that jingle go again? "Nobody doesn't love Molten Boron~"

It goes like this [youtube.com] .

Er, wait, what? (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#45086501)

produced fusion at an accelerated rate in the laboratory without generating harmful neutrons

... Okay, sooo... less "harmful" neutrons... buuuut still a raging inferno trapped in a magnetic field that we're shooting with lasers. Which, I guess, isn't harmful. This must be a new definition of 'harmful' of which I was previously unaware.

[disclaimer: for those utterly lacking in a sense of humor, the above is not meant to be taken literally. If you reply with a 'that's not what they meant' comment, I will put up the internet bat signal and will send geeks armed with EMPs and death rays to your residence.]

Re:Er, wait, what? (5, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about a year ago | (#45086565)

Well, nuclear reactions that we can turn off like laser-initiated fusion are a lot nicer than the alternatives. The inside of your car engine is a raging inferno shot with electric sparks and compressed with inexorable steel cylinders. That doesn't keep you from going on a nice drive with your sweetie.

Re:Er, wait, what? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#45086943)

The inside of your car engine is a raging inferno shot with electric sparks and compressed with inexorable steel cylinders. That doesn't keep you from going on a nice drive with your sweetie.

Nice metaphor choices

Re:Er, wait, what? (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | about a year ago | (#45087369)

The inside of your car engine is a raging inferno shot with electric sparks...

I drive a Diesel, you insensitive clod!

(Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

Re:Er, wait, what? (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#45087415)

... then its even higher pressures involved, where the fuel explodes instead of burns.

Re:Er, wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45088493)

But it's not shot with electric sparks, which is very offensive.

Re:Er, wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45088003)

Diesel? Knowing you it's probably a wankel.

Re:Er, wait, what? (3, Funny)

OhANameWhatName (2688401) | about a year ago | (#45088883)

That doesn't keep you from going on a nice drive with your sweetie

To be fair, it's fairly difficult to drive one handed.

Re:Er, wait, what? (1)

dinfinity (2300094) | about a year ago | (#45086601)

for those utterly lacking in a sense of humor, the above is not meant to be taken literally

So.. Funny is what you were going for here?

*silence, followed by booing and heckling*

Re:Er, wait, what? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45086607)

We could have enough clean, free power to do literally anything we wanted just by using natural sources like solar or wind, but these guys still want to build huge exploding death traps. I'm guessing that the push for this so-called "clean nuclear" is just a way to get around the limits on nuclear bomb research. Every country says that they only want nuclear for power plants, but they just want more instruments of murder. These scientists are nothing more than dogs that belong to the warmongers. They've got blood on their hands and they will pay one day.

Re:Er, wait, what? (0)

0123456 (636235) | about a year ago | (#45086615)

We could have enough clean, free power to do literally anything we wanted just by using natural sources like solar or wind

Uh, no, you couldn't.

Re:Er, wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45086687)

"Too bad we can't get fusion energy from morons instead, we would have unlimited energy..."

"We could have enough clean, free power to do literally anything we wanted just by using natural sources like solar or wind"
^^ Exhibit A

Re:Er, wait, what? (1)

BigFootApe (264256) | about a year ago | (#45087075)

Please watch this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeGijutBSx0

Re:Er, wait, what? (1)

kwbauer (1677400) | about a year ago | (#45088825)

Just what I always wanted: put a sail or two on my truck to pull my boat to the lake.

small is beautiful (2)

harvey the nerd (582806) | about a year ago | (#45086509)

This experiment sounds like the first step in the practical small scale direction since Farnesworth's fusor was developed into a commercial neutron source for hospitals and oilwells.

Re:small is beautiful (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#45087421)

Didn't Wermstrom steal Farnsworth's idea?

Huh? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45086521)

A team led by Christine Labaune, research director of the CNRS Laboratory for the Use of Intense Lasers at the Ecole Polytechnique in Palaiseau, France, used a two-laser system to fuse protons and boron-11 nuclei. One laser created a short-lived plasma, or highly ionized gas of boron nuclei, by heating boron atoms; the other laser generated a beam of protons that smashed into the boron nuclei, releasing slow-moving helium particles but no neutrons. Previous laser experiments that generated boron fusion aimed the laser at a boron target to initiate the reaction. In the new experiment, the laser-generated proton beam produces a tenfold increase of boron fusion because protons and boron nuclei are instead collided together directly."

Huh?

Proton-Boron Fusion is what Bussard was working on (5, Interesting)

syukton (256348) | about a year ago | (#45086571)

Robert Bussard's fusion project at Energy Matter Conversion Corporation was aimed at investigating Proton-Boron fusion, because it is clean and produces no high-energy neutrons. I was really hoping this was a follow-on to that work. The device Bussard called a Polywell [wikipedia.org] actually shows some serious potential to revolutionize nuclear power globally. It even shows enough promise that the US Navy has been funding some small-scale experiments. It's unfortunate that Bussard died before he could see the potential of the Polywell realized, but it would be nice to see it succeed none the less.

Re:Proton-Boron Fusion is what Bussard was working (0)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year ago | (#45086621)

I thought collecting interstellar hydrogen atoms with giant magnetic scoops while accelerating to near lightspeed and using them in a fusion ramjet was what Bussard was working on...

Re:Proton-Boron Fusion is what Bussard was working (2)

mdielmann (514750) | about a year ago | (#45086797)

I thought collecting interstellar hydrogen atoms with giant magnetic scoops while accelerating to near lightspeed and using them in a fusion ramjet was what Bussard was working on...

The guy was profligate! He had at least two ideas over the span of his career!

[End sarcasm] I wish I didn't believe that was needed.

no "radiation"? (1, Informative)

fatphil (181876) | about a year ago | (#45086587)

OK, it it's generating energy, then that would be electromagnatic radiation, a la x-rays and gamma rays.

And as it's starting with no electrons ("fuse protons and boron-11 nuclei"), the "helium particles" will surely be alpha-radiation.

So is there anything that this reaction emits that *isn't* radiation?

Apart from publish-or-perish papers promising potential future miracles that will be used to extract more funding from the national science budget, that is?

Re:no "radiation"? (2)

mhotchin (791085) | about a year ago | (#45086755)

Almost certainly what the summary/title is trying to say is that the new technique does not make its surrounding radioactive, i.e. that once the fusion reaction stops, so does the radiation.

This is the popular / layman's idea of 'radiation' - an inimical influence that cannot be removed from its host material.

Re:no "radiation"? (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#45088011)

Almost certainly what the summary/title is trying to say is that the new technique does not make its surrounding radioactive

I agree, but it's worth mentioning that it's not that huge of a problem with the existing systems. If you've ever been to a tokamak, the inside is lined with copper. The neutrons do make the copper radioactive, but just a little bit, and it's back to normal copper in a few decades.

It's more of a maintenance downside than it is one of nuclear waste - if the copper gets too radioactive, it becomes harder to maintain the plasma.

Re:no "radiation"? (1)

toQDuj (806112) | about a year ago | (#45088391)

Don't you mean beryllium? That has the benefit that if a few beryllium atoms leave the surface and enter the plasma, you don't immediately collapse your plasma. Also, beryllium is one of the nastier materials to machine.

B.

New "traditional" energy source (2, Interesting)

boorack (1345877) | about a year ago | (#45086593)

There was something called "focus fusion" that utilized boron-hygrogen fusion but I'm not sure it did work out well. Regardless, I'm less and less confident if it makes sense. Solar cells and wind turbines are becoming cheaper every year and have passed nuclear energy cost (in $/kWh) some time ago (was it 2010? I don't remember...). Like computers, those devices are becoming cheap commodity and are on their way to take carbon in terms of dollars per kWh. In other worlds, renewables (along with smart grids and energy conservation techniques) are on their way to become new "traditional" energy sources. Bucky Fuller was right after all: nuclear energy (in all its forms) is only marginally better than fossil fuels, renewables take the play to whole new level. We've just missed it for some time because fossil was too cheap (to be frank - partly thanks to stealing fossil fuels from 3-rd world countries by western powers)

Having said that, it does not mean we shouldn't do any research in this area. Basic research is THE basis of achievements of our civilization but please call spades the spades. Don't think it will magically solve our energy problems but there is a chance it will become breakthrough in many ways we don't expect.

Re:New "traditional" energy source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45086769)

Bucky Fuller was right after all: nuclear energy (in all its forms) is only marginally better than fossil fuels

Citation?
I don't know how you define marginally, but I would describe nuclear energy as the energy source of the future. The only question is how far in the future.

Re:New "traditional" energy source (5, Insightful)

thesupraman (179040) | about a year ago | (#45087301)

You need a translation not a citation..

'After huge effort to drown nuclear energy in red tape, escalating build costs to many times their real cost - while at the same time
stopping any form on innovation in cleaner/safer/more efficient forms, we have finally achieved the point where its price/performance
does not wipe the floor with everything else'
And for bonus points throw in a little 'while of course ignoring the actual ecological and human damage of competing generation methods
as those are OBVIOUSLY clean, since they dont use evil nasty RADIATION (and where they do, we will ignore it)'

Make a little more sense now?

Re:New "traditional" energy source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45088725)

Dude. The red tape is cheap. Nuclear power is expensive, and always has been, even before the red tape existed. No energy company anywhere in the world can even build a nuclear plant without the massive subsidies their governments offer. And no one is reimbursing the US or UK governments for all the massive research and development on which they've already spent billions. Next to the *real* cost of storing spent fuel indefinitely, the red tape is a petty cost. Your being ridiculous if you think red tape is why nuclear power is cost prohibitive. The reason its cost prohibitive is because nuclear power isn't simple... its crazy complex, and it has special needs, such as expensively educated people to design, test, build and run the plants. Nuclear power is perfect for some applications where cost is not a factor, such as some military applications. But it has never been cheap. That was always propaganda from the days when some pinhead vastly overestimated the need for fuel for bombs.

Re:New "traditional" energy source (1, Insightful)

ChrisMaple (607946) | about a year ago | (#45086813)

Oil extraction is done by companies (not by governments except in the country of that government, sometimes) under the terms that the government of the area sets. That government has complete control of the terms and payment for the oil extraction, and frequently (Venezuela, most mideast countries) will seize the equipment once it's been established. Your leftist claptrap - "stealing fossil fuels from 3-rd world countries by western powers" - is almost to stupid to be understandable, once some thought is applied.

Re:New "traditional" energy source (3, Informative)

QuasiEvil (74356) | about a year ago | (#45086851)

I'll take fusion any day over "renewables" - fusion should be able to pack a few GWe into a few hundred or thousand acres of space. Renewables, because of their inherent low energy density, will force us either to conserve or use most of our available open land for energy production. The promise of fusion is really low cost energy without limits. Given that everything we do and everything we aspire to requires more and more energy, I'd much prefer a pure fusion-driven future where conserving energy was a quaint notion.

Also, which fossil fuels exactly have we stolen from third world countries? Most of our power generation in the US comes from coal, which we produce almost exclusively domestically. Most of our natural gas comes from Canada, which isn't exactly a third world country. The only thing we import in scads in oil, and I guarantee, those who control the oil aren't getting stolen from. They're being paid very well. The wealth may not be very evenly distributed in the destination country, but that's hardly because the West "stole it".

Re:New "traditional" energy source (2)

jbengt (874751) | about a year ago | (#45087087)

Most of our power generation in the US comes from coal . . .

Coal accounts for significantly less than half of current US electricity production - natural gas is a close second & closing.

Most of our natural gas comes from Canada. . .

Most of our natural gas comes from fracking in places like Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania.

The only thing we import in scads in oil, and I guarantee, those who control the oil aren't getting stolen from.

"Those who control the oil" being the operative words here. Historically, western powers have tried to control those in power in oil rich states. (right now, that's not working out so great in Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, etc.)

Re:New "traditional" energy source (2)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | about a year ago | (#45087519)

There's one area where renewables can win out, and the space they take up doesn't make any difference.
If a law were to be passed where every new house had to have, say, a 5kW photovoltaic system on the roof, it would take up zero additional space, would be cheaper to implement at the design stage of a new house and all new houses would be largely self-sufficient for power, with the ability to feed extra power into the grid.
As a bonus, on those really hot (and, coincidentally, sunny) days where everyone has their AC on, they are the kinds of days where a distributed power generation system like this will easily be able to cope with the additional load.

Re:New "traditional" energy source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45088761)

The only thing we import in scads in oil, and I guarantee, those who control the oil aren't getting stolen from. They're being paid very well. The wealth may not be very evenly distributed in the destination country, but that's hardly because the West "stole it".

Yea, everyone in very poor regions love it when you throw a ton of money at a small group of people who control all the land.

Re:New "traditional" energy source (1)

OhANameWhatName (2688401) | about a year ago | (#45088893)

Given that everything we do and everything we aspire to requires more and more energy

I aspire to using less and less energy, so should you.

Re:New "traditional" energy source (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#45087307)

If Wind, solar or geothermal could do it, we would be using it. Unfortunately they only make sense in unique areas. Also, production of all 3 cause great ecological damage. The amount of silver needed in solar panels is significant and silver mining is VERY toxic and produces a lot of CO2. Wind turbines are made from exotic alloys that, while not as bad as solar panels, again produce a lot of CO2 and toxins during mining. Both Wind and Solar would have a significant impact on the environment if they were used on a scale large enough to power a modern country. Lastly, geothermal has all the downsides of fracking and there are actual documented cases of geothermal plants causing earthquakes and having to be shut down.

MODERN nuclear power is extremely safe. Every failure we've had has been on 1st gen reactor designs and most have involved incredibly stupid mistakes by humans. There ARE melt-down proof reactor designs. There are even reactors that produce very little waste at all. The carbon footprint of uranium mining is smaller than all other forms of energy production other than fosil fuels (which then produce far more when you actually use them) So if your goal is less CO2, Nuclear power is the clear winner.

The current problem with 40 year old reactor designs and their waste is real, but we shouldn't get that problem confused with modern reactors which are entirely different. If we could move beyond nuclear to Fusion safely, that would be incredible and revolutionize the world. We could likely even reverse Global Warming if we so chose given how cheap energy could end up being.

Re:New "traditional" energy source (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45088767)

OK, I'm sold... nuclear power it is!! But before we go all out building new reactor designs all over the place, lets first retire all the older, unsafe reactors, and figure out what to do with the waste we have. Lets fix the real problems that nuclear power currently has left us with... THEN we'll do as you suggest. Also, lets make sure that in mining the fuel needed, and building the reactor, that we don't add any CO2 to our atmosphere. Also, heck... if its so great, why can't these things be built without the billions of dollars in subsidies from governments that ultimately comes from tax payers? Let's figure out how to have these things built and staffed and operated without massively subsidizing them, THEN we can do as you've suggested and start handing out the unicorns to energy consumers. Ok? Deal?

Re:New "traditional" energy source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45087627)

Focus fusion is an ongoing project, a rather recent one at that with enormous potential. Renewables are nice, but they are not the answer for a civilization that is trying to become more advanced. No one wants to conserve energy, we want to be able to use as much as possible and it cost nothing. Energy makes everything better you see. Is water scare in Africa, oh big deal build a bunch of desalination plants which require enormous amounts of power but it doesnt matter because we are using fusion. Want to make cars non polluting without coming up with magic batteries, fusion powered electrolysis plants eating seawater and shitting hydrogen. Inefficient; sure but who cares because we are using fusion. Fusion gets us to post scarcity (fission done right could have had us there 30 years ago). Renewables make the whole world a decaying shit hole, unless we cull 80% of the population. If you want to live in a decaying shit hole thats cool, there are a number to choose from right now. Leave the rest of us to actually advance the human race.

Isn't that fision? (2)

Mysund (60792) | about a year ago | (#45086675)

When Boron releases a helium nuclei, isnt it fision then?

Re:Isn't that fision? (3, Informative)

mhotchin (791085) | about a year ago | (#45086777)

Although similar in concept, that particular nuclear mechanism is always refered to as alpha particle decay. Fission is typically used when
a) a heavy nucleus
b) splits into two similar sized pieces, plus some detritus.

Re:Isn't that fision? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45086795)

depends on what you end up with. TFS just talks about boron + protons = ??? + helium.
ahh wiki to the rescue
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aneutronic_fusion [wikipedia.org]

looks like it is fusion because the added proton is merged in even though the boron is broken (fission)

Re:Isn't that fision? (3, Informative)

jbengt (874751) | about a year ago | (#45087219)

No. Boron first absorbs a proton (fusion) and becomes an unstable isotope of carbon, which then splits (fission) and gives off X-rays, gamma radiation, and alpha particles, and a few neutrons.

Re:Isn't that fision? (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | about a year ago | (#45088009)

No. Boron first absorbs a proton (fusion) and becomes an unstable isotope of carbon...

That can't be right, can it? B-11 + H-1 would be C-12, which I'm pretty sure is a rather stable isotope.

Re:Isn't that fision? (2)

russotto (537200) | about a year ago | (#45088273)

It's not a carbon-12 nucleus at ground state. However, it could decay to that by emitting a gamma (instead of breaking apart), or it could spit out a neutron (oops) and become a carbon-11, which then spits out a positron to give you boron-11 back.

At least we can make helium? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45086685)

So we can stop the "We're running out of helium!" posts (yelled in very high,squeaky voices to boot!)

Still have to solve the big problems (2)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about a year ago | (#45086691)

The lack of neutrons in this reactions is nice, but the protons and boron nuclei still need to overcome the Coulombe barrier. Generating practical fusion power still needs a combination of pressure, temperatures and containment times that have not yet been achieved in fusion machines. Accelerator base fusion works (for p-B, or hydrogen, but too many of the particles scatter rather than reacting so you can't reach break even.

This scheme sounds nice for R&D, but not at all clear that it can lead to break-even

Re:Still have to solve the big problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45087245)

to overcome the Coulombe barrier

Coulomb, and don't pronounce the 'b' when speaking...

it has wheel (1)

spongman (182339) | about a year ago | (#45086705)

where we're going we don't need roads.

Simpler than Tri-Alpha Energy's Method? (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about a year ago | (#45086723)

I am not a particle physicist, but do wonder if this dual laser Boron fusion method is likely to be a more simpler device than the one Tri-Alpha Energy has been working on for the last half dozen years?

Better get Mr. Fusion kickstart for Marty McFly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45086765)

They had better get a lot of research done soon if we are going to have Mr. Fusion in time for Marty on Oct 21, 2015!

Not one post...? (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year ago | (#45086895)

No one mentioned the obvious; sounds like another fusion success story. Or am I way off base here?

Fusion ramjet... (1)

Oil_Tan (854423) | about a year ago | (#45087011)

This could be used for the Hydrogen Fusion Ramjet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bussard_ramjet) minus the electromagnetic collector since the hydrogen will be readily available.

What does this fusion reactor look like? (1)

felixrising (1135205) | about a year ago | (#45087049)

Have you seen 'Star Trek - Into Darkness' yet? Yeah, it's almost exactly like the reactor in that..

Re:What does this fusion reactor look like? (1)

Lije Baley (88936) | about a year ago | (#45087105)

"Looney bin or brewery?"

Watch the movie Strange Brew sometime for better look at what powers the Enterprise now.

So, um (1)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about a year ago | (#45087101)

Since I am stupid, I need to ask: if you have no neutrons flying out of the center, what are you going to capture to get that thermal energy to boil water to spin a turbine? Helium nuclei? Isn't that a big problem?

Re:So, um (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45087719)

It's not a problem, it's an advantage.

You get a 3X +2 Helium nucleus (aka alpha) at 8.7 GeV. Since the particles are charged, you can convert their energy to a usable electrical current directly. (Think field windings of a generator, except there is no winding, just a moving charge.) Neutrons have the disadvantage of _requiring_ a thermalization process to capture their energy.

The disadvantage of the alpha is that it is _easily_ thermalized. You need to keep everything out of it's way until you can extract its energy. This implies super deep vacuum, or a super tiny machine so that the energy conversion device is within the slowing down length of the alpha. The slowing down length of an alpha in air is on the order of a centimeter, IIRC.

Of course, I'm assuming that direct conversion is superior to thermal conversion. If thermal conversion is superior, then just thermalize the alpha just like a neutron, in a big tub of water. Just make sure your tub is grounded to prevent charge buildup.

Everlasting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45087135)

So is this better than Half-Life 3?

Thats nice (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#45087427)

but does it produce more energy than the lasers provide?

...fusion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45087439)

um...

How is B(11p) + p --> 3He(4p) + 8.7 MeV considered "fusion" ? You're getting out lighter elements as end product.

Re:...fusion? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45087587)

IANAP, but I expect that it's a fission followed by a fusion.

Research director at CNRS (4, Informative)

manu0601 (2221348) | about a year ago | (#45087617)

For anyone that wonders: french research agency CNRS has thousands of small research teams, which are each commonly led by a research director. A CNRS research director is like a university professor, except he/she is not in charge of any teaching.

The balloon industry is saved! (1)

macraig (621737) | about a year ago | (#45087851)

Thank goodness that helium is the byproduct of this fusion process, because a world without balloons was just unthinkable!

what about the other low-cross section reactions (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45087905)

Sure p+B11 is aneutronic.. but there's other stuff in there like helium (as a reaction product). so when the protons hit the helium, they'll cause a different fusion reaction. Oh, and what about protons hitting the wall of the chamber. Or, how about the Boron 10 (about 20% of natural Boron). I'm sure they'd do some sort of isotope enrichment, but it's not going to be perfect.

For instance, Wikipedia tells us that there's a alpha + B11 reaction that produces Nitrogen14 + n + 157keV. Since the p+B11 is producing helium nuclei, aka alpha particles, it seems that this reaction will run.

And then, there's the OTHER p+B11 reaction product p+B11 = C11 + n. Oops, some more neutrons

And, of course, you get those protons from Hydrogen.. but there's gonna be some Deuterium mixed in, so you have the d+B11 reactions, not to mention the d+d reaction of classic hot fusion.

Sure, the cross section of those reactions might be small, but it's not zero. And when you're producing significant power, a side reaction with a 0.01% relative cross section is still going to be doing a lot of reactions. And those reactions will probably produce neutrons, or gamma rays, or other stuff.

Face it.. if you're generating gigawatts of anything, you're going to get byproducts. The question is, just how nasty are those byproducts.

quick question (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about a year ago | (#45087993)

Before they toot the "no radiation" horn too hard, how much radiation does an antimatter-matter reaction cause? I would think with pure hydrogen, it'd be none while heavier elements would blast off at least beta radiation.

Doesn't sound like fusion to me (1)

jralls (537436) | about a year ago | (#45088327)

So a proton plus B11 yields one or more s (aka He), and if it's one, the remaining nucleus would be Be, but that likes to be Be10 (which decays by a to B10). That requires a couple of extra neutrons, so seems unlikely. ISTM then that 3 s is more likely; can't get just 2, 'cause what's left is another. Sounds more like fission than fusion. Since the binding energy curve goes the wrong way at small atomic mass (less binding energy is required per unit mass for larger nuclei than for smaller ones), this seems unlikely to ever be a net energy producer.

Two-Laser Boron Fusion Lights the Way To Radiation (0)

Anantham (1891084) | about a year ago | (#45088397)

This is to provide information on Sunlight phenomenon believed so far to be due to fusion. The research papers published this year (2013) reports that 235-Uranium powers Sunlight. LATEST DISCOVERIES IN SOLAR PHYSICS IN 2013 1. M.A. Padmanabha Rao, Discovery of Sun’s Bharat Radiation emission causing Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) and UV dominant optical radiation, IOSR Journal of Applied Physics (IOSR-JAP), Volume 3, Issue 2 (Mar. – Apr. 2013), PP 56-60, DOI: 10.9790/4861-0325660 http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jap/papers/Vol3-issue2/H0325660.pdf [iosrjournals.org] 2. M.A. Padmanabha Rao, Discovery of Self-Sustained 235-U Fission Causing Sunlight by Padmanabha Rao Effect, IOSR Journal of Applied Physics (IOSR-JAP), Volume 4, Issue 2 (Jul. – Aug. 2013), PP 06-24, DOI: 10.9790/4861-0420624 http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jap/papers/Vol4-issue2/B0420624.pdf [iosrjournals.org] EXCERPTS OF THE PAPER: Sunlight phenomenon being one of the most complex phenomena in science evaded from previous researchers. Understanding the phenomenon needed advanced knowledge in the fields of nuclear physics, X-ray physics, and atomic spectroscopy. A surprise finding, optical emission detected from Rb XRF source in 1988 led to the discovery of a previously unknown atomic phenomenon causing Bharat radiation emission followed by optical emission from radioisotopes and XRF sources reported in 2010 [10]. The same phenomenon was found causing the Sunlight. However, it took nearly 25 years of research to reach the current level of understanding the Sunlight phenomenon reported here. BREAKTHROUGHS: (1) On the basis of fusion, many solar lines could not be identified previously and what causes these lines remained puzzling. Though 11 solar lines could be identified by other researchers, they became questionable. The significant breakthrough has come when it became possible now to identify as many as 153 lines on the basis of uranium fission taking place on Sun’s core surface. Surprisingly, the fission products released in Chernobyl reactor accident in 1986 also seem to be present in solar flares. (2) Explained what are Sun’s dark spots and their cause. (3) For the first time, it is shown what constitutes Dark Matter and showed existence of Dark Matter in Sun. (4) It is explained with unprecedented detail how Bharat Radiation from fission products (radioisotopes) causes Sunlight by an atomic phenomenon known as Padmanabha Rao Effect.
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