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Fusion Research Coverage

Hemos posted more than 15 years ago | from the cheap-clean-limitless dept.

Science 136

ABCNews is featuring some interesting coverage about the different fusion research going on around the country. The article itself talks about the shutdown of the Tokamak, and the differences between it and some of the new developments. One of the best points is talking about the pittance of money that is being put into the research, versus the known benefits of making advances in this.

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136 comments

matter/antimatter not a source, just a battery (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934673)

In any reasonable short term (like a handful of centuries) all matter/anit-matter is good for is to store energy we get from somewhere else. We cant just harvest antimatter (until the far future depending on how black holes pan out). Fusion on the other hand is the harvesting of energy by reducing the energy levels of particular atomic structures. Hence, fusion is the only viable energy 'source' between the two in my definition of short term.

Do any of you fellow nerds. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934674)

PPPL rules. I almost ran over some dear while trying to break down the security gates one night. seriously.

Serious Fusion Research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934675)

Those who wish to learn about serious research
going into Nuclear Fusion around the world (not
just in the USA) may wish to look at the web
site for the premiere refereed journal in the
field, the Nuclear Fusion Journal, at:

http://epub.iaea.or.at/fusion/ [iaea.or.at]

Note especially the World Survey.


Nor is matter/antimatter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934676)

Dude, even Americans know what a centimeter is. They're on every damn ruler for crying out loud.
It's weight and volume that we (at least I) have problems with.

Free Energy Myth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934678)

1/3 of your electric bill is the cost of fuel- the rest is infrastructure.

Cold fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934679)

The only reason that Cold Fusion is not understood is lack of funding. There have been experiments that have produced lots of energy but controlling the reaction is the problem. Just like the fusion reactors. Saying the earth was the center of the universe was acceptable several hundred years ago. Now we know this to be untrue.

In time providing narrow minded short sighted egotistical arrogant poseurs do not kill us all first, we may learn that it is easy we just did not know how exactly. Learning computers seems hard to the average person, until you know how to do it. Then it seems really easy.

First, burn the universities - that is where you will find arrogant conformists who are afraid to think for themselves.

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934680)

An example of Anti-matter
Positron: a positive electron.

Man knows how to make anti-matter, we make it in super colliders like CEBAF. I read an artical a while back where a professor from MIT, I believe, was tring to build a collecter to hold anti-matter and allow him to transport it. There is a big super collider in europe that produces anti-matter and he wants to be able to bring it back to the states to study.

The problem is we produce very little anti-matter from the super colliders, it is a by-product of the reactions taking place.

For more information on stuff like this, brush up on your Quantum and High Energy Physics.

Cheez

Fusion is not the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934681)

I believe the we learned in physics that there is a DEFINATE limit on the power that solar panels can create.

I checked a Physics book and it claimed that at most, the sun sends ~1.3 kW to the earth's atmosphere. This is now an upper limit, as the majority of the energy is absorbed by the atmosphere, and then the solar array's inefficiency must also absorb some more energy. Even at 100% efficiency, it seems that ground based solar power is insufficient for large energy requirements, and space based arrays are very impractical now.

Respectfully,
Kevin Christie
kwchri@maila.wm.edu

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934682)

Creating a single gram of antihydrogen with present technology would take several years and cost trillions of dollars... Not very feasible at all.

Fusion is not the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934683)

I think that covering 10% of the surface of the United States with solar pannels would have some disasterous environmental effects.

If the sunlight is going to the pannels, the plants aren't getting any sunlight. Much of the pannels could be placed in areas which are already Urban, which is where you need the most power.

What about the possibility of this changing the climate? If the sunlight is generating power instead of heating the earth, would it change the temperature slightly? How about wind patterns?

How about disposal of burned out solar cells?

I don't know much about the topic, but it seems like that large of a project is going to have a significant effect on it's environment.

Past breakeven point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934685)

I read two - three years ago that they had achieved the same amount of energy coming out of the reactor as put in. Then about a month later, they doubled it. :)

It looks like sustaining the burn is the real trick.


John Waalkes
jwaalkes@edge.net

De-Nerdification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934688)

I agree, I did a Y2K project at a nuke plant and you have no idea how dangerous that crap is until you're actually working in one of those environments. The waste is safe for the moment, trust me here, no one could make off with that waste material or damage the plant without a battalion of tanks.

People yell at me and laugh for that one project. How can I support the use of radioactive material?

I just say, "You're the ones who are using the electricity! Reduce your electrical usage and your arguments become a little bit stronger than a wet paper bag."

By the way, most of the people who work at the fission plants sound exactly like the utopians that are pimping fusion. Word for word their arguments sound the same.

De-Nerdification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934689)

hahahahahohohohehehehehehehehehheahahahehehaeheah

*ahem*

Thanks, that was a most pleasant read :)

egopowered@hotmail.com

Why no fusion funding? Not marketable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934690)

Why the diminished fusion funding, you ask? The primary reason is the lack of a marketable path to fusion energy. Tokamak technology, while pushing ever closer to break-even fusion devices simultaneously moved towards larger and more expensive machines. If a device as large and costly as the International Tokamak is what would be needed for fusion power, then economics would force people to look elsewhere for their energy needs.

Present day tokamak research led ultimately to the international tokamak (ITER), a design which, while ambitious, was fundamentally flawed in a number of ways. For instance, the physics of energy confinement in modern tokamaks was not as well understood at the time that ITER was on the drawing board as it is now. Consequently, ITER is not capable of implementing many of the more modern techniques of controlling turbulent transport in tokamaks (innovations such as reverse shear discharges and the so-called "H-mode," e.g). In addition, significant physics and engineering problems were not solved (and still aren't solved) at the time ITER was proposed. These include how one gracefully and reliably ends a discharge without provoking a major disruption (something which would probably burn a hole in the side of the machine), and how one handles the wall loading problems (i.e. designing walls to handle the extreme heat and neutron flux).

One may well argue "It's a science experiment. Scientists and engineers will innovate and improvise, and they will overcome these difficulties." This is true, but the machine was billed from the start as a prototype fusion reactor (i.e. an engineering venture) and not a science experiment. Even if we were able to solve these problems, devices built on the scale of ITER will probably still never be economically competitive when you compare them in terms of dollars / kilowatt hour with present-day power plants. This country won't spend 10 billion dollars on a science experiment, as we discovered with the Superconducting Supercollider. Few countries will. (Japan being a notable exception).

I see this diminished funding as ultimately being good for the fusion program over the long term, much like pruning a tree. Commercial fusion does not necessarily have to involve building such massive machines as the International Tokamak if we just think hard enough about the problem to come up with a more creative way to solve problems than "just build it bigger." As TFTR's dying gasps showed us, a great deal of physics remains in these devices that we don't yet understand, even after five decades of chasing the grail. It's not inconceivable that a less expensive, less technically formidable path exists.

-C

ps. Cold fusion is a chimera: a fine example of junk science advanced by press release rather than peer review.

Fusion is not the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934691)

"Think about what your suggesting for the moment. An area the size of 1/1000 the area of the united states. That may not seem like a lot, but it is."

Ever flown over Kansas? Not really that much space.

"On top of existing infrastructure would prove impossible to maintain. Think about how long it takes roofers to get onto a roof or cable remair..."

Well, we have stairs to the roof, as do most of your larger buildings. No big deal. And it's not like these things break all the time.

"...men to get to cables. So that is out of the question."

Don't confuse good service with the cable company. :)

"The second is open areas. 1/1000 the size of the united states. From an ecological standpoint it would be a disaster. If you wanted to sacrifice that..."

Why? don't we already have buildings with roofs? It's not like it's going to make the situation any worse.

"...much area then you could do it for a lot less with hydroelectic dams (falling water is also free)."

But hydroelectric has it's own problems too. Not much of a salmon industry in Washington state anymore. I wonder why...

My old company, Morrison-Knudsen, is getting paid to *dismantle* a large dam in Washington because it's preventing the salmon from spawning.

Twin forks in Colorado never got built because of ecological concerns (that and Nebraskans can't drink their own water -nitrates in the ground water).

And just down the road, the Duck River dam in Columbia, Tennessee is complete and as dry as a popcorn fart. Something to do with Snail Darters...

"Even if you didn't worry about surface area, then you would have to look at material costs. Solar panels are made up of silicon. I personally can't even imagine producing 1000 mi^2 of solar panels."

That's an interesting thought. I wonder, in square miles, how much silicon wafer has been made. Anybody know?

As for raw materials, you do know what the earth is made of, don't you? And it's cheap as, well, dirt. :P

Oh, did you consider using the solar collectors to heat water? :) Can you say lo-tech?

"Roads are made in a bulk process and don't even come close to covering 1000 mi^2 in the us."

Really? let's see, take a four lane interstate highway. Figure that the width for all four lanes is ~100'. So every 52.8 miles would represent one square mile of concrete.

And how many *tens of thousands* of miles of interstate does the US have? (never mind state hiways, city streets, & suburbia).

As an aside, the paint strips in the lanes are ~15' long. Don't believe it? get out in traffic and measure it (we did :)

So are you *sure* about that? :P

"Add into that quality control and you would have a process that makes fusion power look like peanuts."

I don't think we are into the sub-micron scale for solar collectors. Not unless you want one that runs at 500Mhz :P Not nearly the same thing.

BTW, there's a new technology that's being worked on that gets *much* more power (solar panels are horribly inefficient). I don't think that it uses silicon at all. Haven't heard much about it of late.


John Waalkes
jwaalkes@edge.net

Cold fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934692)

It's not that it puts out less heat, it's that it takes less energy to start the reaction. Normal fusion takes a great deal of energy to get the conditions up to a high enough temperature tha the nuclei can be forced together.. cold fusion is supposed to be fusion where you shove them together at much lower temperatures.

tokamak contamination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934693)

Deuterium and tritium are both hydrogen.

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934694)

As rediculous as it sounds, I believe that the range of perception just beyond our senses is entirely composed of antimatter.

Cold fusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934695)

Contaminated with what?

The answer is wind power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934696)

The answer is wind power. No research isneeded -- just spend some mulah and build windmills.

The wind power "potential" over the US alone is supposed to be enough to power the whole world *twice*. There's also an enormous potential for windmills mounted on poles in the ocean which some countries are starting to try out.

Why no fusion funding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934698)

There is funding, just not as much. NSTX is going the save the DOE a fortune.

fusion would be great, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934699)

Yeah, for both hot fusion and the various fuel cell approaches, there are definite environmental benefits, and probably efficiency benefits as well. But I think there are negative economic & probably political forces holding it back.

I'd *love* to have a 3000-5000W/Hr fuel cell system, be it funked to run from Natural Gas from the pipeline system (down here in San Diego the same co. does both, SDG&E), and take my house off of the grid.

Too bad it's still OK to have massive governmental tax subsidies and breaks for the Petro companies, yet it was "socialistic" or whatever that caused Reagan to drop the alternative energy tax credit right after he was elected.

I guess too many people make money off of the petro companies. It's hard to see how investors will make long term money from people not being hooked into and dependent on current energy delivery systems...

Would a workable hot fusion plant fix the fresh water problem for arid areas? Possibly. Build a 1000 MW fusion plant to run a desalination plant (but what effects on the local sea will the brine discharge have...)...

Hmm... if San Diego did that, and built a pipeline to Las Vegas...

Fusion is not the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934700)

We've already got a huge f-ing fusion reactor a mere 93 million miles away. Instead of trying to build our own, we ought to be focusing on harnessing the output of the Sun more efficiently.

The only conceivably justifiable use for fusion reactors is space travel - and matter/antimatter reactions would be much more efficient. Building an entire industrial civilization around fusion power would be disastrous - once you use up all your deuterium, where do you go from there?

tokamak contamination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934701)

With neutrons ??? I thought there were no neutrons in hydrogen itself (though there are neutrons in helium, true). Does that mean that the fuel used in tokamaks is not hydrogen, but deuterium ? (sorry for that naïve question, but I have really no background in the subject - that's why I ask questions, in fact).

Kill two birds... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934702)

And what happens to all of this energy we create?

Melts more ice :P


John Waalkes
jwaalkes@edge.net

NSTX is gonna rock ! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934703)

See: pppl.gov [pppl.gov]


Doh! /.ed already!

tokamak contamination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934704)

deuterium is still hydrogen, after all. and even if they're not using deuterium you can get the random neutron from a electron and a proton fusing. it happens in the sun it can happen here, with enough heat anyway

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934705)

A point often missed about fusion and other exotic mechanisms of releasing power (the aforementioned matter-antimatter reaction) is you have to convert the power to something useful. In the case of matter antimatter with say electron-positrons (heavier mass particles only makes this problem worse) the energy is released in the form of gamma ray photons which are difficult to convert efficiently into electrical power ... don't stand near the reactor

Similarly in the typical fusion reactions involving deuterium and tritium, the energy is released in the form of fast neutrons. Sure you can stop them and use the heat to run a turbine, but this is somewhat inelegant and the heavy neutron flux causes a myriad of problems - difficult to capture all the flux, deterioration of the chamber, activation of the materials in the reactor (don't stand near the reactor) ... These make this kind of fusion difficult to implement economically. Nobody wants to have to replace their tokamak / spheromak / ... chamber every two years because of neutron flux.

Some fusion reactions (such as proton boron fusion) release the energy in the form of charged particles which can be converted efficiently into electrical power via MHD conversion (much more efficiently than the standard thermal cycle), but these reactions require even higher temperatures ...

Of course I could be wrong ...

Fusion is not the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934706)

Oops! Forgot to add that all these energy quantities should be PER METER^2! So that should be 1.3kW / m^2. So the amount of energy per unit area of solar panel is not very favorable to such a large scale project as previously proposed. I apologize for the confusion.

Respectfully,
Kevin Christie
kwchri@maila.wm.edu

Polar Melting is Irrelevant!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934707)

God, this annoys me... the problem with global warming is not that the ice caps will melt. Compared to the total volume of the world's oceans, the ice caps are negligible, and it would take a large temperature change even to melt a part of the total. The real problem is what happens to water (or just about anything else) when it gets warmer -- it expands (ok, this isn't true for water within a few degrees of freezing, but that's mostly irrelevant). So if the oceans raise in temperature just a few degrees on average, then all that water will expand a little. Not much, but that's a _lot_ of water, and massive flooding etc. results.

Of course, it doesn't really matter to your comment, but hey, a pet peeve is a pet peeve.

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934709)

Not necessarily. There could be "quantum" black holes right here in this solar system. They would mass only a few thousand - million tonnes, and be only a few millimeters wide. Sure they'd have insane surface gravity, but a few hundred meters away and you wouldn't even notice 'em, that inverse square law is a bitch eh?

Fusion is not the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934710)

I'd settle for a quantum black hole. 100% efficient.

And no land fills :P


John Waalkes
jwaalkes@edge.net

De-Nerdification (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 15 years ago | (#1934711)

[disclaimer: I make no pretense of this rant being intellectually perfect, a targeted reply, correct in tone or form, or well organized. As always my fellow inconsiderate egomaniacs, feel free to nitpick every damn thing i say to get your bitty rocks off. If you care to learn more about the world of technically and economically sound environmentalism that doesn't give a shit about whales, check out some Amory Lovins books [yes he's a hero of mine] for starters, or the Rocky Mountain Institute, or hybrid automobiles, or energy efficiency... lazy? start at rmi.org and go from there... it's not the end all be all, but it might pique someone's interest. Think I'm a tool who doesn't know jack? Probably right. Read up on my pet subject and prove me wrong. cheers! :) ]

Although this is a complete throwaway statement I can safely say most of the /. population is terminally stuck in Star Trek land and may sadly never return...

Not to be ripping on anyone or their religious beliefs, but production nuclear fusion is a solution in search of a problem. Fusion research PER SE is froody fun and a worthwhile pursuit, but PLEASE... Nuclear fusion is no panacea except for the gullible and some congressional districts; painfully, the solution to the energy crisis has been known since the dawn of logic.

Ready for this STUNNING revelation? That's right, dear g33ks, the ENERGY CRISIS HAS BEEN SOLVED!

READY? PREPARED FOR ASTONISHMENT!?



IT DOES NOT EXIST.

Bump dum DAH!


There is no inevitable crisis. There is no inevitable looming energy disaster. There is no magic bullet necessary. The monster solar panel plan is unnecessary. Fusion energy is unnecessary. Fission is unnecessary.

The painful fact that too many people just don't get or care to get is that MORE is not BETTER.

If we were truly interested in minimizing the envirionmental impact involved in energy production, slowing down the rate of growth in energy demand, LEVELING IT OFF OR DROPPING IT, bolstering the resiliance of our energy supply chain, and reducing our electrical reliance on the vagaries of world economics and politics, we can

!!!

A) Reduce the amount of energy (in whatever form, but especially electrical) that we require.

and

B) Create lower-impact delivery, production, and maintenance methods of producing electricity.


It is beyond me why the words "energy conservation" cannot produce anything but thoughts of Jimmy Carter, his goddamn sweater, and tinny rice burner cars... I will never understand why intellectually on the ball people are so dismissive of attempts to implement a saner way of producing and delivering energy.

There are NO technical barriers whatso*EVER* to leveling off and stopping the growth of electrical and energy usage inside America. We crap out more heat in one hour of daily living than other people use in electrical form in a week.

There are only economic, political, and legal reasons why energy efficiency and decentralized production is so hobbled.

The emotional reasons why efficiency and cleaner production aren't implemented come sadly from the same fantasy worlds we all love to spend time in, namely Star Trek and its world of limitless [insert pussy-out sci-fi scriptwriting device here] energy from [insert technobabble here].

Who needs fusion reactors for space travel? NASA just showed that a solar array and a can of gas get the job done just as well.

Who needs fusion reactors for terrestrial energy needs? Chumps who are more comfortable hack-and-slashing their way through a problem instead of side-stepping it. A far easier solution that doesn't involve billions of dollars of R&D is to simply modify manufacturing processes, transportation processes, and building structures to use less energy and use it more effectively.

[kneejerk] But that means living in caves and clotheslines and being a socialist and blah blah blah! Damn commie, we've tried that already! [/kneejerk]

Shut up. History says B.S. Read up on some books by the wonderful Amory Lovins and learn about technological crusades that don't involve source code licenses while still mattering to the Fate of Humanity.

There is an extraordinary amount of wasted energy in the developed world that is just being pissed away faster and faster. With the complicity of the U.$. Government, virulent unchecked pseudo-capitalism, and the energy industries, we piss away maybe up to 75% more energy than the laws of engineering and physics and common sense say we should.

Example: Want to light a building? Hmm, okay. We can go with Lighting Scheme 1, LOTS OF FLOURESCENT IN ROWS. It'll cost us X and will cost us Y over its lifetime.

Or we could use LOTS OF FLOURESCENT IN ROWS with proper layout, higher quality bulbs, troffers that redirect lighting to actual humans, and more natural lighting incorporated. It'll cost us 1.1X and will cost us 0.6Y over its lifetime.


Rinse, Lather, Repeat. Legislate, innovate, educate, euclidate. THINK. IMPROVE. IMPLEMENT.


When you're done you're in a world that doesn't require fanboy jerkoff fantasies like antimatter reactors (yes i know, ye of understanding) and produces less strain on the environmental systems while providing less reliance on monolithic, inaccessable corporate entities that may not make the best technological or economic/ethical decisions in the public interest.

Wait a minute, did I say monolithic, inaccessable corporate entities that may not make the best technological or economic/ethical decisions in the public interest?? Gee, sounds like another one of those corporate windmills that this community loves to tilt at... Maybe there are technological/social issues outside of our collective bubble that we could focus on and that actually matter more than bickering over what widget set is currently in vogue... Hmm. Maybe not.


There is only one Correct way out of our energy bind, and it doesn't involve deuterium in the least.

Cheers, sentients...

valpohl@hotmail.com

zero-point energy (0)

PHroD (1018) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934712)

its KINDA been proven...would be cool if it was practical and extractable by modern meathods. Pulling energy from space-time...tres slick :) In 3001 Clarck observed that ~ one cup size volume of spacetime had enuff energy to boil all the oceans on the earth...or something like that...powwwerrrr

Dont Worry (0)

RattRigg (4253) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934713)

Al will fix it.

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (1)

Bill Currie (487) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934714)

Micro black holes don't live long (1s I believe), but they spontaniously form at a very high rate TMK. Hmmm... could still be usefull if harnessed.

Cold fusion (1)

gavinhall (33) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934715)

Posted by Roland95:

If fusion were cold, why would we want it? In all or vast technologies we only can harness heat. Even fission is used for the purpose of boiling water. So if by "cold" fusion we mean giving off less heat, then it's useless. I've always been confused by the term cold fusion, could someone please fill me in as to what it is?

Re-Nerdification (1)

Psion (2244) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934725)

Ummm, pardon me, but don't we already do this? Most office and industrial construction is done with an eye towards reducing energy demands for one very obvious reason: it saves the client money. So there's a real strong incentive there already without even considering feel-good tax incentives.

The problem isn't really one of conservation, we're doing that almost to practical limits. It's one of an expanding economy, and an expanding economy with all its new office buildings and industrial plants requires more power. That power has to come from somewhere.

A further point you've missed is that power plants that have been built to date aren't going to last forever. I know it's a damn shame, but those coal-fired plants are going to have to be replaced eventually. No new nuclear plants are even planned at the moment (and they're gonna get old and shut down too), so what's the option? A bigger coal plant? Natural gas? But...don't most geologists acknowledge that these so-called fossil fuels are in limited, non-renewable supply? They're gonna get pretty pricey before they run out, you know.

Nope, your rant against "Star Trek" mentalities aside, we need something better. Fusion looks good, zero-point field energy might have a future, and even improvements in fission reactors might see use if people could over-come their hysterical anti-nuke knee-jerks.

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (1)

InThane (2300) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934726)

Yes, but how do you get the antimatter in the first place? Pull it out of Bill Gates' brain?

Heating Systems (1)

Hilbert (2515) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934727)

One helluva toaster, eh.

Oh, but so much more too. I did an internship at PPPL last summer (where the NSTX is located) and took some classes. One of the classes was on the heating systems, and the professor noted that the microwave power was equivalent to some 10k household microwaves, or enough to "nuke a Holstein cow in about 10 seconds." I think this was referring to the TFTR; I am pretty sure they've increased the heating capacity for the NSTX.

Nuclear Fusion: advances in energy and reducing cooking time!

-----

Cold fusion (1)

/Wegge (2960) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934728)

ISTR that fusion will not make an end to nuclear waste. The reactor itself will be highly contaminated, so after the end of it's service life, there will still be a slight problem of finding a safe place for several hundreds (thousands?) tons of radioactive material.

Still, it's a good thing to get away with waste from the running production.

A reason for the lack of funding in fusion (1)

rotenberry (3487) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934729)

I am afraid that I must agree with this comment.

I was a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin in the late 70's. One day I had my Physics class taken on a tour of the tokamak facility, the same tour given to civic leaders, congressmen, etc. We were told that a commercial fusion reactor would be functioning by the year 2000. Absolutely. No doubt.

I was also surprised to learn (as another person noted above) just how much nuclear waste a fusion reactor can generate. It made me and, I hope, my students a bit skeptical of the fission => bad, fusion => good mythology. Note how the ABC article suggests that fission causes air pollution and global warming:
"...the fusion process can't cause a "meltdown" reaction and doesn't contribute to air pollution, acid rain or the greenhouse effect."

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934730)

Sorry, but the only black holes I've been able to find are in my dryer - I still don't know where the Other Sock goes. All the other black holes we know of are about a million lightyears away. Not terribly efficient. Maybe we can invite one over for lunch?

--

Solar fusion is the only source of power. (1)

Big Blue (7905) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934732)

For all the conservation and all the wonderful attempts at "alternative" energy sources, the bottom line we are completely dependent on fossil fuels. There is no aspect of our civilization that is not somehow connected to cheap sources of stored energy. The US was electrified in the 20s' and, along with the rest of the world, we've been consuming that stored energy at startling rates. Next time you have the chance to view a major city at night from above, think about the thousands of similar cities around the world - each with millions of individuals - all consuming that stored energy, all the time. With that realized, I cannot accept the proposition that our baseline power needs are going to be satisfied by the wind, solar, and geo power sources that, while triumphs of invention and ingenuity, are too few and far in-between for the bulk of our needs. Remember that ALL forms of energy have roots in solar fusion. There are no exceptions to this! Like the earth is a resistor in a circuit where the sun is the battery and interstellar space is the ground. If we are going to continue to survive en-mass beyond the point when the stored energy boom ends, there is no better option that putting a piece of the sun in a bottle. (Keep your eyes on bio-gassification too)

Do any of you fellow nerds. . . (1)

mcelrath (8027) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934736)

Do any of you fellow nerds live within a 10 minute drive of Princeton Plasma Physics Lab?

No, but I've got a reverse field pinch torus about 50 feet away. (Another type of fusion research device -- like a tokamak)

Cold fusion (1)

mcelrath (8027) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934737)

Enough of this cold fusion crap. There are very good physical reasons why cold fusion is IMPOSSIBLE . In order to fuse, you have to get nuclei close enough together so that they feel the strong force. The energy involved in getting them together is so high (~5 million K) that it CANNOT BE DONE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE! Sheesh.

High-temperature fusion has basically turned into a game of controlling turbulence. Nobody can contain the plasmas. As a physicist, I think the cutting of funding in the field is a good idea until the turbulence is better understood. There was a plan to build ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor). The thing was huge -- like 4 stories, and would have cost several billion. Needless to say it was cancelled. It might have contained the plasmas by brute force, but at ~billions per reactor, this is hardly an improvement over fission.

Here are some links for the curious:

Madison Symmetric Torus [wisc.edu]

A dynamo experiment [wisc.edu]

National Energy Science web site [fusionscience.org]

MEDUSA experiment (a low aspect ratio tokamak) [wisc.edu]

Pegasus Tokamak [wisc.edu]

The Stellarator [wisc.edu]

Energy research (1)

coreman (8656) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934738)

Sorry guys, you don't see the point. Nobody is funding it because they already have a weapon from the technology. The only projects that get funded are weapon systems or weapons support systems with very few exceptions. That's a major reason my my major was physics but my career is CS.

My favorite quote is:

Mechanical engineers build weapons, civil engineers build targets

fission vs fusion bombs (1)

coreman (8656) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934739)

Yep, I do know. Like I said, my training is nuclear physics but my career is CS. That was a choice based on morals.

A fission trigger will still pollute enough but the yield will be enhanced by fusion. They're both nukes as designed by the current arsenals.

As for my funding comment, the comment was in response to a US based observation. Since you called me on it, you obviously realized it was US based as well. I can only speak of the job market I'm in. I guess I didn't realize readers needed such specific context.

fusion would be great, but... (1)

parallax (8950) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934740)

What about other clean alternatives?

Hot fusion is a hard problem, and will probably stay that way for many years to come. It will change the world when it's economically feasible, but it will always be a big, expensive thing to build and maintain (keeping the sun in a jar is not cheap). Forget about the developing world sharing in the hot fusion boom (unless someone there gets a hold of a fusion bomb and threatens the energy rich nations of the world with a different kind of boom).

Cold fusion would be fantastic, because you could do that in your basement, filtering the heavy hydrogen out of your tap water. This would be an even bigger win, because the whole world could afford it. Of course, cold fusion seems even less likely than hot right now.

Short run we should focus on moving to cleaner burning fossil fuels like natural gas, and slightly longer run we should think about converting to a fuel-cell based hydrogen economy. There are big efficiency and environmental wins to be had, without trying to contain a solar furnace in a magnetic bottle.

Here Here! (1)

Cassius (9481) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934741)

Reducing demand is the only way to go.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a place for the reduction of demand in our modern economics. The growth of our economy seems hinged on getting more soccer moms to buy more chevy suburbans (4wd model, natch) and more raymond weil watches.

Nerds are part of the problem. They have voracious appetites for toys.

Which country? (1)

SparkyUK (10333) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934743)

The "we are the world" attitude that too many Americans seem to have is very short-sighted.

Please try to be better world citizens. If you means America, say "in America".

I don't know what population of the world actually lives in the USA but I'm willing to bet its a relatively small one.

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (1)

Cadre (11051) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934744)

Matter/Anti-matter reaction would be much more efficient with a much larger exponential energy output....

Alternate fusion research (1)

SeanCier (12804) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934749)

I was dissappointed that the article doesn't mention that there is also promising research into other methods of fusion; namely at least one method that doesn't require extremely high temperatures that neccessitate the huge, inefficient reactor in the first place. I can't recall where the research is being done, but there's at least one non-thermo approach that uses electrons concentrated in the center of a spherical chamber (they are continuously fired into the center in a way that's kind of the opposite of what happens inside a television); the electrons create a huge potential well and attract the (ionic) fuel, which then doesn't actually collide with the electrons but rather with other fuel particles also pulled into the center... at very high speeds. Doesn't require high temperatures to attain the neccessary particle speeds... those suckers have to ram into one another *hard*, but heating them up isn't the only way to do that. The original research was done in the sixties, I believe, but it never became efficient because there was no way to keep the concentration of electrons in the center without losing most of them. Thermonuclear (brute-force) methods took over in the seventies... but recently I hear research into this alternate method is starting up again, and looks quite promising! So, anybody have a link for this research?

-spc

Cold fusion (1)

SeanCier (12804) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934750)

This is *not* cold fusion, by any of the several definitions; this is *thermo*nuclear fusion. That is, getting atoms (well, nuclei) to collide by heating them up a lot. The whole 'cold fusion' fiasco ala Pons and Fleishman (sp?) has cooled down a lot (no pun intended), but it still isn't mainstream science. In fact, the continuing research into the effect they described is no longer even classified generally as fusion, and most don't see any possibility of large-scale energy production using that effect. However, there still *is* the possibility of real non-thermonuclear (ie, 'cold') fusion... see my other post.

-spc

Cold fusion (1)

Rayban (13436) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934751)

Well, it looks like cold fusion may actually be possible some day (but then again... it always does). Fusion will mean a great deal for a lot of people, namely:

- no more nasty smelly gas cars
- no more heating problems
- nuclear waste is gone (well, no more new stuff ;)

I can't wait for my Mr. Fusion device to arrive in the mail (see Back To The Future). Heh...

Cold fusion isn't (1)

DHartung (13689) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934752)

It's not hot, but it's not "fusion" either, at least not as I understand it. There continues to be disagreement -- deep disagreement -- about what actually occurs in so-called cold-fusion reactions, but while I'm convinced there is something there, I'm far from convinced that it's anything other than a poorly understood chemical reaction.

"Cold fusion" research is mainly conducted in physics labs off the beaten path -- the mainstream boys won't touch it. Until somebody can fully explain it and create consistently duplicatable experiments, it'll remain an oddity.

Cold fusion (1)

Fizgig (16368) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934753)

Hard Water!!!!

Fusion is not the answer (1)

Fizgig (16368) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934754)

Efficiencies of energy conversion, according to good old E=mc^2, IIRC:

Burning coal: ~0.0003%
Fission: 2%
Fusion: ~10%
Antimatter/matter: 100%

Too bad there isn't a whole lot of antimatter laying around. Well, actually, good thing.

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (1)

Fizgig (16368) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934755)

As I mentioned in another thread, yes, matter/antimatter is a full 100% on the E=mc^2 conversion, while Fusion is only about 10%. But the fuel for fusion is deuterium, which we got a whole lot of sitting in the ocean. Annihilation, on the other hand, requires antimatter, which is another story. Currently, an international group of physicists is using the largest single magnet ever made to see if there are in fact galaxies of antimatter out there. I was at a lecture by Sheldon Glashow (part of the pair that unified Weak and Electromagnetic forces) in which he claimed to have (with a colleague) proved that there aren't any galaxies of antimatter within a light-age-of-the-universe of us, or something like that. So all we're left with is the matter/antimatter pairs that spontaneously appear. An interesting application of that stuff is Hawking radiation. This is how you get energy out of a black hole. Let me try a really bad explanation: A matter/antimatter pair spontaneously forms at the event horizon of a black hole, creating an energy debt. The antimatter part gets sucked into the black hole and annihilates with part of the black hole, making it spin slower and have less mass and fulfilling the energy debt. Then we have a new antimatter particle that we can collide with our own non-black-hole-in matter particle, getting the energy from the black hole. Cool, huh? Yes, just like annihilation in general: really cool, but not likely to be of practical application for at least a century. Fusion, on the other hand . . .

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (1)

Fizgig (16368) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934756)

Oh well, what do you expect from an Econ major :)

Cold fusion (1)

EricWright (16803) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934757)

Brief lesson in physics:

Nuclei are composed of protons and (except in normal hydrogen) neutrons. That makes them positively charged. Positive charges repel each other. As the original poster said, you have to give the nuclei extremely large amounts of energy to get the nuclei close enough for the strong nuclear force to dominate.

A quick estimate ... nuclei are of the order 10^-15 m in size. The potential barrier between two protons at this separation is about 230 J. This energy is comparable to that of a a 16lb (7.3 kg) bowling ball moving at 26.3 ft/s (8 m/s). That's a lot of damn energy for two sub-atomic particles to have. The temperature required for this to take place is on the order of millions of Kelvin. I hardly call that COLD fusion.

I don't care how much damn funding you give them, you can't push two protons together at room temperature (300K or so).

And your analogy about the Earth being the center of the Universe isn't even relevant. That came from the idea that God made man in His image, and thus, we must be the favored of all His creations. Then, there were incomplete observations to "support" this theory.

Cold fusion is doomed by the fundamental laws of physics, which we have a much better grasp of that we did hundreds of years ago.

Neither Anonymous, nor a Coward... just a spam hater.

Fusion is not the answer (1)

EricWright (16803) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934758)

That's 1.3 kW *per square meter*, or in other words, that is the flux. Given 100% efficiency, a 1 m^2 solar panel would be able to power 13 100W light bulbs. Of course, we can talk about major appliances... ISTR my microwave oven requires about 6-700 W, that's a .5 m^2 panel.

Of course, there is the problem with overcast days... what do you do when you have a cold front stalled in your area, and are without any direct sunlight for a week? Your reserves are sorely taxed, if not completely depleted.

There are efficiency, storage, and distribution issues to consider, also. What about "power plants"? Would they install solar panels on your roof, then charge you for the energy they store? Or would it be a privately owned panel? In that case, what are you to do when yours goes offline? Expect some good natured neighbor to let you tap into his reserves?

I just don't see how solar power is feasible as a major source of energy.

Solar cells far from cost-effective (1)

Gerund (17746) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934759)

I recently read an article on the comparitive efficiency, regarding cost/output of various power sources. Fission scored higher than solar. (actually fission scores higher than everything, right now). This makes your suggestion a little confusing. Why should the US government spend millions on switching to a less efficient power source than their current one, only to have it superseded by fusion, which would probably be even more efficient than fission, and certainly much cleaner.

Furthermore, 6000 square miles is an immense space. It's actually about 2/3 of Maryland.

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (1)

Nurey (18591) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934760)

Seriously, it may sound funny, but there are tiny microscopic black holes around us.

Some day...

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (1)

Nurey (18591) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934761)

There's a theory that black holes are all around us and they contain antimatter. We just need to find these scarce black holes. There's another theory that they may be related to universal microwave radiation.

Generating Antimatter is easy. (1)

Cattywampus (19657) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934762)


If you can generate plasma (helium nuclei, and that's not that hard), you can generate antimatter. There's a nuclear reaction with a common element that, when exposed to alpha particles (the plasma) generates positrons. But then things get sticky...

First, the process also generates free neutrons, which are a pain in the butt to control.

Second, if a fuel pellet of the element were to be used, it is most likely that the positrons would react with the rest of the fuel pellet instead of becoming free to be electromagnetically regulated. That would result in chaos, an uncontrolled reaction.

Third, even if the other shortcomings were worked around, and this is the part that has perplexed me: What do you do with the free energy from the matter/antimatter fusion? A positron/electron pair fusion will basically generate a large gamma photon burst, as well as some free neutrinos and (I think) harmless other bits. But, gamma photons have such a high frequency and short wavelength that there's no good way to harness them.

If anybody's willing to solve those other bits, I'll go dig out one of my notebooks that has the formula for the reaction and things. ;}

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (1)

scheme (19778) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934763)

Actually there is antimatter around us naturally. Except it is very rare.

I would say that it would be extremely rare. Just one electron/positron collision would liberate enough energy to be noticed any detector around it.

Fusion is not the answer (1)

Stalke (20083) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934764)

Solar collectors are terribly inefficient and require a LOT of space even working at 100% efficiency. When you make something that big, then you have problems with keeping it together and maintenance on top of that. If you keep it on earth they you have the problem with cleaning them, finding room for them (imagine trying to power a city with solar collectors, you'd need an area the size of a city with solar collectors to power a city. Combined with the fact that that many solar collectors would cost a ton in materials (cost of assembly would be small due to mass production).

Next suggestion, put it in space. Sure, but they you have the problem with maintenace up there, microasteroids, and transmission problems.

Fusion has one big advantage over solar power. Its small and portable. Try using solar power under the sea. Impossible. Put a fusion reactor on the deck of the titanic with some tritium collectors and you have a self sustaining energy supply.

Fusion is not the answer (1)

Stalke (20083) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934765)

Think about what your suggesting for the moment. An area the size of 1/1000 the area of the united states. That may not seem like a lot, but it is.

First, I don't doubt your facts, actually I think that they are very conservative estimates but I'm argueing from a logistics point of view.

There are only two ways that I can see inwhich that large an area of solar panels can be setup, either on top of existing infrastructure (roofs, etc), or on open area.

On top of existing infrastructure would prove impossible to maintain. Think about how long it takes roofers to get onto a roof or cable remair men to get to cables. So that is out of the question.

The second is open areas. 1/1000 the size of the united states. From an ecological standpoint it would be a disaster. If you wanted to sacrifice that much area then you could do it for a lot less with hydroelectic dams (falling water is also free).

Even if you didn't worry about surface area, then you would have to look at material costs. Solar panels are made up of silicon. I personally can't even imagine producing 1000 mi^2 of solar panels. Roads are made in a bulk process and don't even come close to covering 1000 mi^2 in the us. Add into that quality control and you would have a process that makes fusion power look like peanuts. Its just not a feasible alternative.

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (1)

Stalke (20083) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934766)

Actually there is antimatter around us naturally. Except it is very rare.

Why no fusion funding? Not marketable. (1)

Stalke (20083) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934767)

ITER is really one of the last big projects left from the 80s that is still running. It was designed with the philosophy if we get a small reaction with a small reactor, we'll get a big reaction with a big reactor. And, as a result, they hope to get the efficiencies required for ignition. I totally agree though that it is the wrong philosophy. However, as you noted, the only country that seems to be the notable exception is japan, who is one of the major contributors to ITER.

For those of you who havn't heard of ITER, its really a massive reactor. In present day reactors it isn't common for to have to crouch when doing maintenance inside, however the ITER reactor is 3 stories tall inside! Its really an amazing feat when you consider the stresses that the walls of the tokamak are subjected to.

The answer is wind power (1)

zagmar (20261) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934768)

I've seen wind power attempted. Actually, being from Hawaii, I've seen a LOT of harebrained schemes. Like the one where you pump cold water from the bottom of the ocean and let it pour over turbines, or the wave power things or any number of weird projects. The fact is, there is plenty of energy if you know how to harness it. But as long as we keep buying fossil fuels, there is no incentive to research new power.

Nor is matter/antimatter (1)

Dan B. (20610) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934769)

I remember reading somewhere that zero state energy [nasa.gov] is by far the most powerful and portable, but like matter/antimatter, you just have to find out:

a) How do we get the stuff, and;
b) How do we harness the energy.

With Zero state energy, there is enough (theoretically) in one cubic centimetre (thats about a 1/16 of a cubic inch for you Americans living in the non-decimal world) to boil the worlds oceans.

Now that's powerful stuff!

Cold fusion (1)

physics-boy (24181) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934772)

Ummm, I'm not sure I would invest any money in anything that claims to be cold fusion. I won't say that it isn't possible, becuase thats always a stupid thing to say, but I don't think any physicists are trying to get "cold fusion" to work. This is merely an improvement in the design of old fusion technology. It still uses more energy to fire this thing up then it produces, so don't get to excited yet. But all improvement are a good thing.

But Sol is not the solution (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934774)

Hey, if it's so close, you drive over and bring back some juice.

Besides, sapping power from the Sun is terribly short sighted - what do you do when the sun goes out? That's just the kind of thinking that led to the Y2K problem!

No, the only real solution is for us to gather a portion of the population together to live in pods where we harvest thier bio-electric energy. I suggest we start with a certain campus in Redmond - we'd all be much safer if they were all in pods, living out thier lives developing and releasing W2K in an imaginary universe.

Fusion is not the answer (1)

corporateSlave (28902) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934775)

The average house today uses 100amp service (220 volts), and most NEW houses need a 200 amp (220 volt) service.

True, though I doubt houses use 100 amps 24 hours a day!

Most current and new houses, and appliances (yes, PCs are guzzlers, but Netwinders and Laptops aren't) are based on the assumption of cheap power. Off-grid solar houses of today use MUCH less power, which is obvious when you consider the solar panel cost of driving the typical energy-inefficient house of today.

Some solar installations are designed to supply high peak power through more batteries -- it's not unusual for a solar home to be able to power all typical shop tools, but maybe not all at once. Ideally one can use "the (solar) grid" to supply the high peak power demands.

I'm no expert so check it out: Home Power Magazine [homepower.com] , www.crest.org [crest.org] , Nation Renewable Energy Laboratory [nrel.gov] .

tokamak contamination (1)

TheDullBlade (28998) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934776)

Stuff gets radioactive if you bombard it with neutrons and other particles (i.e. fusion byproducts) for long enough.

Non-radioactive materials are generally just a neutron or two from being radioactive. When their nucleus gets hit with neutrons, they often absorb them and change into a radioactive isotope.

Eventually the thing glows in the dark.

Still, it's not even remotely comparable in general nastiness to the waste-products of fission. I'm not too worried about disposing of a few old reactors.

Same thing... (1)

RomulusNR (29439) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934777)

File this one under the "Sun, Genome, and Internet" thread. Same questions, same answers.

Regards,

Re-Nerdification (1)

scruffy (29773) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934778)

My understanding is that we are burning fossil fuels at a much higher rate (orders of magnitude) than they are being produced (which takes geologic time). At some point in the future, fossil fuels will become scarce. The only question is when. Unfortunately, no one has a good answer here.

Even if scarcity of fossil fuels doesn't happen until Y3K, the pollution caused by fossil fuels and political uncertainties (remember the OPEC embargo) imply that we should search for cleaner and more reliable alternatives. Fusion research (the hot kind) is exactly the kind of thing the government should sponsor. The end goal is too long-term and risky for corporations, but it has great potential if it can be made to work. The supply of deuterium and tritium [how come this word is not in my /usr/dict/words] is finite, but much, much larger than fossil fuels.

I think other alternatives should be investigated, too. It would be foolish not to.

Fusion, eh? Sounds Good. (1)

Wah (30840) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934779)

Fusion seems to be the much more sensical version of creating power, at least vs. fission. Let's see here "the radioactivity produced by a fusion reactor is 100,000 times less than in an equivalent fission reactor. " That sounds like a plus. Not to mention "Construction of NSTX was completed on budget and months ahead of schedule, Richardson noted." That happens a lot for gov. funded ops. And the best/funniest "That proved the reactor could create a plasma with its giant magnets and just one of its heating systems, which uses an electrical current, like a toaster or space heater." One helluva toaster, eh. And how 'bout the big 'space heater' in the sky (a.k.a. the Sun)? This guy should go on the road.
Anyway, clean energy you get from water, that doesn't go boom? Sounds worthwhile. Let's get Big Bill Gates to drop a billion or so on it. It fits with his ultimate plan (i.e. become GOD).
Microsoft Sun v1.6.6.5 (oh wait, copyright infringement, or a crazy merger{The Network is the computer, no, no, Windows is the computer,grrr,grrr})

ENOUGH!
(Did ya ever see the one where Burns blocks out the sun?)


useful/harmful (1)

Wah (30840) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934780)

could destroy the universe if harnessed?

I'm a nerd @ PPPL (1)

t-money (32075) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934781)

I am a graduate student, doing my thesis research at PPPL. If anyone is in the immediate area and is interested in seeing the tokamaks (and other plasma experiments) feel free to e-mail me and we can try to set up a tour....

I work on a much smaller experiment -- I came in to Princeton wanting to work on fusion, but I got really turned off by the politics involved...

Energy research (1)

Tekhir (32379) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934788)

Do you know how much damn a fusion bomb could do, a lot more than a nuke. And it would have low radiation meaning that the guy dropping could wait a few years and move on in.

Suspicious (1)

PhoneMonkey (32729) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934789)

Makes you wonder why there is so little interest in fusion research...

Elisabeth Shue (1)

area51 (33155) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934791)

Ya know...I only want to see more cold fusion if Elisabeth Shue is in it...cause....damn..she is fine!

Do any of you fellow nerds. . . (1)

SMN (33356) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934792)

Do any of you fellow nerds live within a 10 minute drive of Princeton Plasma Physics Lab? Not only can you go over and see it at lectures every now and then, but they give out free magnets and buttons with pretty pictures (and sometimes free food =)

Z-Pinch - Alternative to Tokamak (1)

rescdsk (34079) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934793)

I read in Scientific American a while ago about a Z-pinch - a device that uses laser/electron/whatever beams to implode a pellet of fuel. Here's the URL -- sorry to the webmaster of SciAmer
http://www.sciam.com/1998/0898is sue/0898yonas.html [sciam.com]

rescdsk

Fusion is not the answer (1)

MrCreosote (34188) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934794)

http://www.pv.unsw.edu.au/

Holders of world record in solar cell efficiency (~24%)
They are working with Germany and Japan to provide rooftop systems to multi-thousand homes. Each rooftop installation provides up to 4KW peak power into the local electricity grid. Peak electricity needs are the most expensive to cater for when considering normal power stations. Example - California experiences peak power needs on hot sunny days when people most use aircon. Solar power generates most power on hot sunny days.

Fusion is not the answer (1)

cats-paw (34890) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934795)

According to my math, the entire US can be powered
by a collection of solar cells (12% efficient) 55km on a side.

That's 34 mi on a side, or about 1000 mi^2

That's for the entire US ! which weighs in at about 6 million mi^2 (probably more)

That's .016% of the land area. My guess is that the top ten largest cities probably take up more area than that.

And yes I can back these numbers up with facts. It does assume they are lit 24 hrs/day. So multiply by 3 to put them on an 8 hour day. Are then goes up to .048% or about 3000mi^2

Then you've got oeverhead because you can't put them right next to each other and there are line losses. x2 = 6000mi^2 and we're still at .1% of land area.

Just think about how much cleaner the environment would be.

Oil companies BWAHAHAHAHA! (1)

Reflex (34932) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934796)

The money behinf the oil companies ( and the polotics) will influence the restriction of cold fusion due to the loss of business it would cause them if it ever gets "discovered"......cars that run on water? OPEC won't like that at all......

4Kw isn't enough (1)

CharlieG (34950) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934797)

True, though I doubt houses use 100 amps 24 hours a day!

I agree with that, however, I'd bet that most houses average more than 4Kw, so even with perfect storage, we'll have problems. We also only get those 4Kw when the sun is shining, which is well less than 12 hrs per day, and only on sunny days. Lets say your in the Northeast US, where it's cloudy one day out of 4, and you average 12 hrs (for easy math) of sun a day. That would mean that you get: 365days*0.75*12hrs*4Kw
or 13140Kwh per year of power from the cells (we'll assume 100% perfect storage) which leads to you having an AVERAGE of 1.5Kw available at all time. Anyone own a blow drier? That's it!

Off-grid solar houses of today use MUCH less power

Yep, they do, but most people aren't willing to live that lifestyle. They want their dishwashers, microwaves, large screen TVs, computers etc.

it's not unusual for a solar home to be able to power all typical shop tools, but maybe not all at once

I guess I have a Geek shop, my arc welder just won't cut it. Heck, I have enough problem ON grid (I also have a 12"lathe and 2 milling machines, plus woodworking stuff)



Fusion is not the answer (1)

CharlieG (34950) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934798)

4KW, Wow, or about 115 volts, 35 Amps. Not much, we need other sources. The average house today uses 100amp service (220 volts), and most NEW houses need a 200 amp (220 volt) service. In other words, solar isn't practical to use ALONE until is can deliver at least 20Kw to the home during peak hours, and deliver say, half that, full time. Lets face it, or little PCs with the monitor use 200-300 watts

Fusion may not be the answer, but it is a good lie (1)

moving target (34967) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934799)

true we have a limited supply of deuterium, only the amount we can filter out of the oceans. with 2/3 of the suface of the earth covered in it, we might be able to get a little.

BUT, i don't know about you but i don't have a surplus of anti-matter in my backyard. neither dilitium crystals, i like star trek as much as the next guy, but come back to reality

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (1)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934802)

True, but the process of a microscopic black hole "disappearing" is really a function of it radiating all of its mass away as energy (via Hawking radiation at the event horizon). This is a tremendously energetic process, and would be observable, if it were happening in our vicinity in the solar system. It's not, and has never been observed, AFAIK. This implies that these random microscopic black holes are either much rarer than that, or just don't exist anywhere near enough for us to observe them radiating massive amounts of energy and exploding to nothingness, or the theory of Hawking radiation is somehow wrong. I don't know which of these possibilities is the most likely. But I do know that Hawking radiation makes sense, and I don't know where the theory that these microscopic black holes should be present everywhere comes from (I accept that there may have been many of them everywhere early in the universe, but those would have LONG ago dissipated).

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (1)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934803)

Your explanation of Hawking radiation wasn't quite right, but I'm not gonna critique it since I don't remember enough of the details. But you don't get antimatter out, you get high energy radiation out (but only when the black hole radius is microscopic in dimension... for macroscopic black holes, Hawking radiation is neglible, and hence they are relatively stable).

Glashow is senile, I took a class from him (for a week) last semester before dropping it. He was brilliant, but he's past his prime.

Nevertheless, his conclusion is pretty commonsensical, and I'm sure it can be proved (as much as anything in astronomy/cosmology can be proved).

The point is, that antimatter can't really be found for free by any method I know of. It is moderately conceivable as a fuel for space travel, but would have to be produced, by using energy generated from other processes, i.e. fusion. Antimatter is just a more space efficient way to store this energy. We can't get the energy for free unless we have stuff sitting around with unusually high energy relative to what we convert it to.

Fusion is not the answer (1)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934804)

Roads in the US probably do cover on order of 1000 mi^2. That's not really all that much road, if you think about it. Just thinking about the island of Manhattan, it's about 15 miles long, and has about 10 avenues, each of which is probably 50 feet wide (roughly, if you include sidewalks). So that's 1.5 mi^2 right there, on one very small, albeit densely populated island. And if you think about it, I-95 is about 2000 miles + long, and about 50 feet wide, so that's about 20 mi^2 right there, or 2% of your 1000 mi^2 figure. Anyway, I agree with you that the cost and feasibility of such massive scale solar power is not currently economically feasible. If/when energy becomes more expensive and more $$$s go into solar power development, it might become cheap enough for everyone to have solar panels on their roof,etc. Even if it couldn't supply ALL our power, it could put a big dent in power consumption.

Matter/Anti-matter reaction (1)

Fnkmaster (89084) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934805)

Yes but you seem to miss the point. To operate these colliders, you have to put a lot of energy in. There is no known way to get antimatter for free. It is entropically unlikely that antimatter would form from matter (what you start out with before colliding), without putting more energy into the collision process than energy equivalent units of antimatter you obtain. You don't get energy for free this way. You just get a very compact, storable fuel that is 100% efficient in conversion to energy.

Kill two birds... (2)

V. (1057) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934806)

They want to use hydrogen from water as fuel.
Cool...maybe we can use up some of the
runoff from the melting polar ice caps. ;)

A reason for the lack of funding in fusion (2)

Jonathan (5011) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934807)

When researchers in a field make extravagant promises about breakthoughs that are about to happen "any day now" and decades go by without these breakthoughs actually coming to pass, scientific funding agencies are bound to come to the conclusion that the money would be better spent in more fruitful fields. Maybe now, with more background research, practical fusion energy really *is* just around the corner, but today's fusion researchers have to pay the price of the hype of their forerunners. Artificial intelligence is another field that is suffering from past overhype, and now in molecular biology, gene therapy may well be a future member of this club.

Returns on investment could be huge! (2)

Anonymous Shepherd (17338) | more than 15 years ago | (#1934808)

Though it may also be one of the riskiest gambles you take. However, I can't imagine a viable alternative off the top of my head...

Is there any corporation or research unit that wants funding? Perhaps a Slashdot collective, and if each user of all 200,000 of us sends 10 dollars, we could get some sort of share or ownership of the technologies involved =)

They really do need support in the US, however, for the critical nature of their research. More crucial and important the nuclear weapons or even social security...

Still waiting for the problems with the moderation system to fix themselves =)

AS
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