Perspective on: The future of fusion

May 13, 2011 By Kitta MacPherson
Caption: PPPL scientist Charles Skinner works on the National Spherical Torus Experiment, the lab's main experimental facility.

Stewart Prager, a well-known plasma physicist and fusion scientist with a distinguished career and a record of discovery at the University of Wisconsin, arrived in January 2009 as director of PPPL, the United States’ leading magnetic fusion facility. Fusion energy, which is fueled by hot gases of charged particles known as plasma, has the potential to become a safe, clean and abundant energy source for the future. For nearly 60 years, Princeton has been a world leader in research on magnetic fusion energy due to efforts by scientists and engineers at PPPL. In 1994, an experimental device built at the lab, known as the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR), yielded an unprecedented 10.7 million watts of fusion power. As head of the lab, Prager is directing fundamental inquiries to establish the knowledge base for fusion energy, to understand how plasmas behave and to apply this understanding to a wide range of applications. The facility is managed by Princeton University and funded by the DOE’s Office of Science.

What new initiatives have you been focusing on since assuming the leadership at PPPL?
 
PPPL scientists regularly generate intriguing new ideas. We have made great progress toward a major enhancement of our major experimental facility – the National Spherical Torus Experiment or NSTX. We have funding for an upgrade that will yield an order-of-magnitude improvement in its physics capabilities – a doubling of the plasma current, doubling of the heating power, and quintupling of the plasma duration. This will expand the physics parameter space, advancing all the NSTX missions. We expect to complete the upgrade in three to four years, so the upgrade will guarantee the scientific vitality of NSTX for at least a decade into the future.

Before the upgrade starts, we will be running experiments on NSTX starting in July and running eight months where researchers will study how heat escapes as hot magnetized plasma, and what materials are best for handling intense plasma powers.

We have also moved forward with new studies of a liquid boundary for a plasma, in contrast with the more common solid boundary, with expanded operation of our exploratory Lithium Tokamak Experiment (LTX), and have enjoyed very promising interactions with materials and surface scientists in the engineering school.

PPPL has led a two-year national planning effort to define a program to apply the most powerful computers to model the whole, complex fusion plasma system. We have plans for expanded work in plasma astrophysics, and have led a national study to define opportunities in this field. Looking into the fusion future, we have completed a conceptual study of a fusion pilot plant as a possible next step for the U.S. fusion program, investigating various designs and the strategic implications of such a step. At PPPL we are generating many new ideas and initiatives, even in this difficult budgetary climate.

Fusion scientists, like you, have been working to produce fusion reactions for many decades. Why is it so hard to create fusion energy?

In a nuclear fusion reaction, two atomic nuclei fuse and release energy. In a fusion reactor, the core will contain the plasma producing this energy. It’s a difficult process because it requires making a hot gas that is 10 times hotter than the core of the sun -- 100 hundred million degrees -- and confining that for long periods of time in a controllable way. Plasmas exhibit complex behavior that is difficult to understand. The engineering challenge is also huge, because you have to surround this hundred million degree plasma by a material structure. We often say that fusion is maybe the most or one of the most difficult science and engineering challenges ever undertaken.
 
Also, researchers had to create an entirely new area of science to work through this problem. It’s as if you said, “Let’s go cure cancer,” but the field of microbiology did not exist. You’d first have to go and establish this field of science. So that’s what began in the very late 1950s, establishing this field of plasma physics, with the goals of understanding how plasmas behave and learning how to control plasmas.
 
Why should the U.S. maintain its funding of the fusion program?
 
The first reason is U.S. competitiveness, both the specific competitiveness in fusion and the general competitiveness in science and technology. Whoever controls the energy sector, whoever innovates with the science, is going to be economically dominant. Fusion is a perfect case study of where we can be either retaining our competitiveness or we can give it up. If the latter, we will be importing fusion reactors.
 
Second, in fusion, our contributions are needed. The U.S. has a workforce for fusion that is second to none. In other countries, they have outbuilt us and they may have better hardware. But, since the U.S. has been at this for quite a while and has operated world-class facilities, we have a broad and deep workforce of fusion physicists and engineers. That’s a fabulous workforce that takes time to nurture. Also, producing fusion energy is a complex, multi-faceted problem and others are not doing everything. We have ideas for facilities here in the U.S. that are needed in the world fusion program.
 
You can ask the question, if the U.S. just disappears from fusion will the rest of the world get there? I think so, but I don’t think they’ll get there as rapidly as they would if the U.S. contributed. And time is important in this problem.
 
Why is it that fusion is not always mentioned in discussions on alternative energy?
 
Fusion is not going to be affecting the electrical grid in 10 years, and most discussions focus on the very-near term. However, underfunding fusion becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that keeps it always in the long term. Twenty years ago, we proposed building a small burning plasma experiment. It wasn’t built. If it had been, we could have shown by now how a burning plasma works, and not be waiting for results on ITER in the 2020s. Fifteen years ago we proposed building a long pulse superconducting tokamak, which can be operated for long periods of time to investigate the science of controlling plasmas. We would have had that data by now instead of waiting to see the results on such experiments now starting up in Asia.
 
Have there been practical benefits from fusion research so far?
 
There are huge practical benefits and untapped potential benefits, as well. The plasma science learned from fusion has enormous application. We all know about plasma TVs, but plasmas are used to make computer chips, to develop more efficient lighting, to burn up wastes, to treat medical wounds, and to power rockets through plasma thrusters, to name but a few. Spinoffs from fusion technology include new techniques to detect nuclear materials and electromagnetic launchers for aircraft on carriers. Plasma science learned from fusion is now being used to enhance our understanding of the cosmos. Most of the visible universe, after all, is plasma. Plasma physics underlies some of the major questions in astrophysics.
 
Is commercially viable fusion energy truly achievable?
 
If you look where we are now, the progress is really quite remarkable. If a physicist who started the field went to sleep for 40 years and came back today, he or she would be amazed. We routinely produce plasmas that are hundreds of millions of degrees in temperature. We’ve learned how to control them in very fine ways so we can manipulate them with remarkable finesse. We’re not yet done but we can actually produce and tweak how a hundred million degree plasma behaves. We have come so far that we can approximate conditions of a fusion reactor in a laboratory. We’ve come so far that the world collectively is going ahead and building ITER (an international experiment designed to demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy planned to go online in 2019), which will produce 500 million watts of fusion power. We’ve come so far that we can see the endpoint.
 
So it’s reasonable to believe that fusion reactors will someday exist?
 
That question has been largely answered with some degree of confidence. It’s really a matter of deciding whether we really want to commit the resources to the remaining development that needs to be done. We have a clear choice before us: The United States can either design and build fusion energy plants or we can buy them from Asia or Europe.
 
In terms of scope and ambition, how does the lab compare to what it was in the 1980s and 1990s when the TFTR experiments were in full swing?

The laboratory today is equally as vital as it has ever been. But it’s smaller. The laboratory’s reduction in size has paralleled the evolution of the fusion program in the United States at large. Fifteen years ago and before, the United States was probably the world leader in fusion research. It was a well-funded program. Princeton headed a truly world-leading experiment in TFTR. It had this peak where it demonstrated the production of ten million watts of power as an experiment. After that, in the mid-90s, the fusion budget in the U.S. fell when Congress was reducing budgets severely. Since then, the U.S. fusion budget has been stable, but about one-third of the size of its former program. At the same time, other countries in the world have had fusion programs surge in size because they have recognized the power of fusion. Princeton once had a fusion facility that was second to none in terms of its capabilities and it produced a huge milestone for fusion of generating ten million watts of power, showing that fusion power is real. But today the facilities we have anywhere in the United States are not as up to date as facilities elsewhere. The U.S. and PPPL are still a leader in fusion but we’re not “the” leader in fusion. At PPPL today, we do world-class research and we are looking at a spectrum of ideas that are key to the future of fusion, no question about it. But other countries are also leading because of their present and planned investments. We greatly need to collaborate with other nations with more powerful experiments. This will allow us to maintain our expertise and knowledge. It also will enable us to preserve the option for this nation to build fusion reactors in the future.
 
What kind of fusion research programs are being pursued in other countries?
 
There has been a surge of interest in Asia. South Korea has blasted onto the fusion scene and recently begun operating a new experiment. This type of new experiment was designed to be built at PPPL, but it was cancelled by the Department of Energy because of lack of funds. Korean researchers picked up the idea and built it. They also are now discussing moving forward to a demonstration fusion power plant.

Exactly the same can be said about China. Chinese researchers also have built a similar kind of new experiment and recently begun operations. The Chinese fusion program is growing in leaps and bounds. The same can be said for the European Union. Parts of it have always been strongly supportive of fusion research. Germany is constructing a new facility. And, of course, the E.U. is hosting ITER (which is being built in France.) The Indian government is increasing its fusion program; it is presently constructing a new facility similar in type to the Chinese and Korean facilities but not quite as powerful. The Japanese government also is refurbishing the country’s large tokamak to such an extent that it is also going to be a new, major facility. So those countries are really outbuilding the United States in fusion.
 
All of these new experiments are superconducting, which means they operate with superconducting magnets. Superconducting magnets are probably essential for a fusion reactor. They’re advantageous because they consume no power to run them. Once you turn them on, they run without dissipating any energy. You need to enter the superconducting era if you want to do fusion research. None of the experiments in the U.S. operate with superconducting coils. All of the recently built and major new experiments being constructed abroad do and will operate with superconducting coils. So it’s a kind of an indicator of how they are marching more directly to fusion energy than we are.
 
What’s your explanation for the difference in outlook between the U.S. where investment in fusion has flattened, and countries like China and South Korea where investment in fusion is booming?
 
There are several things happening. Some of those countries feel the energy resource threat much more deeply than we do in the United States. In the U.S., we still have some natural resources -- oil and coal. Other countries import a larger sector of their energy, and to them, producing a clean energy source is felt in a much more jugular way. They take it much more seriously. For them, creating fusion energy is a way out of their energy problem. In Asia, particularly, in China and in South Korea, leaders recognize generally that research in science and energy is key to their economic and national security futures. They are ramping up in their science and energy sectors.
 
Fusion research has been described as a science without borders. Are  collaborations with other countries a component of PPPL’s program?
 
We have very strong collaboration programs with other countries. Other nations solicit the collaboration in PPPL because we have such deep expertise. And, conversely, we want to make use of the new facilities abroad.
 
We have many research partnerships. PPPL is a partner with Oak Ridge and Savannah River national laboratories in the U.S. collaboration on ITER construction. We have collaborations with essentially all the new facilities I mentioned previously. We have collaborations with the new tokamaks in South Korea and China. We have collaborations with a new fusion experiment in Japan, a superconducting stellarator. We have a collaboration that’s growing with a new experiment that’s being built in Germany. Germany has had a long-standing laboratory, the Institute of Plasma Physics, but they built a new branch of it in the former East Germany in a town called Greifswald. They are constructing a billion dollar class stellarator there right now.
 
What’s the difference between ITER and Princeton’s big current experiment, the National Spherical Torus Experiment or NSTX?
 
ITER will be the biggest fusion experiment ever built and will be the size of a commercial reactor.  NSTX is smaller. ITER will operate with fusion fuel and will produce what is called a burning plasma, meaning it will be self sustaining. NSTX is more compact – smaller and rounder. When you make this variation in the geometry, the opportunities are so rich that there are many reasons to do this. The NSTX design is a leading candidate for the next major step in fusion research in the United States – the establishment of a facility that operates with fusion fuel, producing large fluxes of neutrons (products of the fusion reaction) to develop and test the material components that surround the plasma.
 
ITER and NSTX are in the family of fusion devices called tokamaks. They are doughnut shaped, tori. But NSTX has a small hole in the center of the doughnut and it’s smaller and rounder on the outside. So it has the advantage of compactness. It also turns out, by getting smaller, the magnetic field in the plasma is shaped in way where you can get to high values of plasma pressure compared to the magnetic pressure that is confining the plasma. One figure of merit for a fusion system is how high the plasma pressure is. That is, how hot and dense it is compared with the strength of magnetic field, or the magnetic pressure that you used to confine the plasma. The higher the plasma pressure, the more fusion power you will get. The lower the magnetic pressure, the less expensive the reactor. NSTX operates with a high value of this ratio -- high plasma pressure and low magnetic pressure.
 
Why do experiments on the NSTX?
 
When you make this variation in the geometry, the opportunities are so rich that there are many reasons to do this. But perhaps the most prominent reason at the present time is that the NSTX design is a candidate for the next major step in fusion research in the United States. That next envisioned major step for fusion in the United States is to build a facility that operates with fusion fuel, a deuterium-tritium facility. It will produce fusion power, do it completely steadily and in so doing generate large amounts of neutrons. Designers will be able to test the integrated science and engineering of a fusion reactor. In the U.S., this next-stage project is sometimes called a fusion nuclear science facility because it will begin to address the nuclear science associated with fusion, that is, the interaction of the neutrons produced in the fusion reaction with the surrounding material structure. This may be the penultimate step prior to a full-blown fusion power plant. The NSTX design is a potentially attractive design for this next step because it is compact, generates an intense flux of neutrons (due to its small surface area), and may be less expensive. NSTX is also a wonderful facility to develop the science and solution to the plasma-material interface. The high heat flux emanating from NSTX affords testing of materials that must survive exposure to the hot plasma. NSTX is also developing novel solutions, such as liquid boundaries and new ways to magnetically channel the heat exhaust to the boundary. NSTX researchers are also engaged in the broad range of physics issues essential for ITER and fusion in general, including plasma stability and turbulence.
 
What are some of the other fusion experiments at PPPL?

In fusion, we have several experiments aimed at novel approaches to some of the most thorny problems. Indeed, even NSTX is novel in its geometry in that it is different from the mainline tokamak.
 
One of the main challenges of fusion is finding the best way to surround a hundred million degree plasma with a material structure. So the main line approach to that is to surround it with a solid material, tungsten, which has been quite successful in present fusion experiments. However, there are many questions concerning its survivability in a fusion reactor. At PPPL, we are developing an alternative approach. We surround the plasma not by a solid but actually by a liquid, a liquid “wall.” This is an alternative approach to the plasma materials problem. If a solid gets bombarded by some particles streaming out of a hot plasma, it can break, it can sputter, it can erode. Liquids, however, don’t break. Liquids are automatically self-healing. So if we surround the plasma with a liquid, it could possibly erase a significant amount of the materials problems for fusion research. And if the liquid is flowing, the liquid can take the heat of the plasma. One particular liquid, liquid lithium, has a possibly remarkable effect on the plasma. Particles that hit it get absorbed very well, so when you surround a plasma by liquid lithium, it is like a sponge. Particles don’t come back. They get stuck. Why is that good? If you have a standard material, cold particles from the material get ejected into the plasma due to sputtering. That cools down the plasma edge, can make the plasma more turbulent, the plasma can cool further, and the fusion reaction rate is diminished. A liquid lithium wall doesn’t do that. The plasma stays hot. Plasma physicists predict that with the boundary condition of lithium, the plasma should be less turbulent. So liquid lithium is in the vision of plasma engineers because it is a material that won’t break, and in the vision of theoretical physicists because it improves the properties of the plasma. So this is a major research thrust at PPPL.
 
We also operate an exploratory magnetic configuration in which the plasma is confined by a donut with no hole in the center. Sometimes called a compact torus, it is an elongated ball of plasma confined by a relatively weak magnetic field. In a very early stage of development, this approach is quite different from the tokamak – much more compact with higher plasma pressure (relative to magnetic pressure).
 
We are working on developing new variations of the magnetic configuration for fusion. We have produced 21st century magnetic field designs that could not have been designed without the use of modern computers. We can now evolve designs for modern fusion reactors that are really remarkable – highly three-dimensional magnetic shapes, almost non-intuitive, that are optimized according to a variety of physics guidelines. These designs produce magnet shapes that are perfected for fusion, if they are buildable. They are candidates for future experiments at PPPL.
 
What is fusion?
 
Fusion is the energy source of the sun and all the stars. In a nuclear fusion reaction two atomic nuclei fuse and hen produce other particles. In so doing a tiny amount of mass is converted to energy of motion in the products. With billions and billions of such reactions occurring in a gas – a hot plasma – substantial heat can be produced. In a fusion reactor, the core will be a hot plasma that produces heat from fusion. The heat is then converted to electricity by conventional means. The image of producing a star on earth captures the goal well. 
 
What is plasma physics?
 
Plasma physics is the study of how this complex state of matter, plasma, behaves. One can put that in the context of physics, more generally, even science more generally. Historically, the direction of physics has been to study smaller and smaller bits of matter. In the 19th century, it was understood that the air in the room was made up of molecules. Molecules are made of atoms, and atoms are made of protons, electrons and neutrons. And physicists kept trying to understand the smallest bits of matter and the forces between them. And then they understood that nuclei are made up of quarks. So this lineage has proceeded from atomic physics to nuclear physics to particle physics and beyond, in a way. The reductionist approach to nature has been the dominant direction of physics and it makes sense. But it’s also been realized in recent decades that not everything can be understood by looking at the smallest bits of nature. There are properties that emerge as systems become more complex. This is the science of complex systems. It’s the direction opposite to the reductionist approach. They are not in competition. The most complex system that we know, a living organism, might be understood in some way by knowing what nuclei are made of. But practically speaking it cannot. Plasma behavior is determined by billions of particles interacting simultaneously with each other. This produces a fascinating array of phenomena. Our goal is to discover basic principles that describe these phenomena. In the 19th century, the powerful concept of entropy production was discovered to describe the relatively simpler case of a gas of neutral particles in equilibrium. Unraveling the behavior of the plasma state is teaching us how to produce fusion energy, understand the plasma universe, and make computer chips.
 
Congress has been debating budgets for months with much talk of cuts to research, including the budget of the DOE’s Office of Science, which funds the American fusion program. What is your view on proposed reductions to research budgets?
 
Cutting research and development in science, engineering and energy research is counterproductive to our economic health. Yes, one has to control spending. But one has to do it to make us more economically competitive, not less. If times are tight economically and one erodes our science and energy research infrastructure, it will make us more poor, not more prosperous. As is said: to lighten the load in an airplane in flight, you don’t throw the engine overboard.
 
What is your position on cuts specific to the fusion research budget?
 
Fusion is almost a special case. The U.S. investment used to be about three times what it is today. So the fusion program is already pretty lean. We are trying to stay at the world forefront despite our resources. Significant further cuts would knock the U.S. off the world stage in fusion and consign us to third world status in fusion.
 
What are your priorities and vision for PPPL?
 
The vision for the lab is that it be at the world forefront of fusion research, in basic plasma physics, and in many applications of plasma science. We aim to aggressively enhance the knowledge base to deliver fusion to the world as quickly as possible. We also wish to expand our activities across the broad frontier of plasma science and technology.
 
Within fusion, we wish the lab to continue its leading role in planning the next step in fusion research in the U.S. PPPL should play a key scientific role in such a fusion nuclear facility, wherever it is constructed. We wish to develop new solutions for fusion that require major facilities at PPPL. We want to use our talents to fill the need to solve the remaining problems, such as how to control the plasma and how to surround the plasma with the proper material. There is an enormous need for new ideas. That’s where we can thrive.
 
Can you discuss the lab’s working relationship with Princeton University?
 
One of the terrific aspects of PPPL is that it is part of Princeton University. We host the plasma physics graduate program through the Department of Astrophysical Sciences, with 35 graduate students working at the lab. We have scientific links and collaborations with many parts of the university. Scientists at PPPL are working with material scientists on campus to find the best substances to contain plasmas during fusion reactions. PPPL physicists are collaborating with theoretical astrophysicists on campus to solve problems from the how solar flares work and why matter accretes so rapidly onto black holes. And PPPL is wonderfully managed by the University.
 
Why did you pick plasma physics as your area of research?
 
Two reasons – fascinating physics and potentially momentous application. While a graduate student in the 1970s, it appeared to me that we were running out of energy. Now we have the added issue of global climate change. As time goes on, the need for fusion only becomes greater. People often think that fusion scientists are frustrated every day because fusion is not yet available on the commercial power grid. But the physics and engineering of this problem are captivating. When we discover something in the lab, it is just a pleasure to learn it. And it’s useful because of all the spinoffs to science and technology. It’s gratifying the way that art is gratifying. The only frustration is that our progress toward fusion could be more rapid if called for.

Explore further: Cold Atom Laboratory creates atomic dance

Source: Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

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User comments : 76

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epsi00
3.9 / 5 (16) May 13, 2011
Maybe the US should divert the money being wasted in wars against poor countries to make them even poorer to fund research in fusion and many other fields. Imagine all that money being burned by missiles racing to hit civilians targets in Libya at a rate of $100k a missile ( if not much more ) being diverted to fund fusion, stem cell research...
Modernmystic
2.4 / 5 (23) May 13, 2011
Maybe the US should divert the money being wasted in wars against poor countries to make them even poorer to fund research in fusion and many other fields.


If ignorant, bassackward, murderous, woman beating, bigoted, religious fanatics hadn't blown up buildings with commercial airliners I guess we could start to consider other options...

Since they DID, and continue to profess that they WILL at every opportunity we have to prioritize.

As far as Libya goes I agree, we don't need to be there. Now how about we talk about fusion power and not de-rail the entire thread.
Royale
5 / 5 (4) May 13, 2011
Personally I enjoyed the whole article. I'm just sad that we won't actually be seeing a 'Mr. Fusion' by 2015.
gunslingor1
3.7 / 5 (20) May 13, 2011
great article, we want fusion now!!!

hadn't blown up buildings with commercial airliners I guess we could start to consider other options...

-Silly response, None of the wars we are currently fighting had anything to do with 911. Back to physics, fuck politics.
El_Nose
2.9 / 5 (7) May 13, 2011
We aren't IN libya -- we went over there for a weekend with a ship that was already there and kept a guy from killing thousands of people at a whim -- then we basically left for the UN to get some troops in there and the African coalition to put pressure on the guy to be reasonable...

We are ending our wars...

But a bigger issue -- the science foundation has a new strict wording in its funding contracts that governemt funded science cannot collaborate with China anymore... where will this leave us in 15 yrs???
Modernmystic
1.4 / 5 (19) May 13, 2011
great article, we want fusion now!!!

hadn't blown up buildings with commercial airliners I guess we could start to consider other options...

-Silly response, None of the wars we are currently fighting had anything to do with 911. Back to physics, fuck politics.


Yeah Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11

*rolls eyes*

As far as Iraq goes, well I agree it had little to do with al Qaeda but to say it had nothing to do with 9/11 is idiotic. Without 9/11 they'd have never got the initial public support to invade...period. You can't kick a bull in the nuts and expect no response, or worse yet cry about it when he stomps a mud-hole in your a$$.
epsi00
2.8 / 5 (13) May 13, 2011
If ignorant, bassackward, murderous, woman beating, bigoted, religious fanatics hadn't blown up buildings with commercial airliners I guess we could start to consider other options...


please remind me what Vietnam did to the US to justify the savage war against it. And of course you found wmd in Iraq.

We are ending our wars...


Really?
ClevorTrever
4.3 / 5 (4) May 13, 2011
One thing that has always amazed me about fusion reactors is that we run them at ten times the temperature of the core of the sun.

What is it about the current approach or the conditions inside a tokamak that make this necessary? Is it the lack of time dilation and spacial contraction that you would see at the heart of a star's gravity well? Is it the result of the geometry of the tokamak? I'm normally one to give opinions rather than ask for them, but I've just never got over the discrepancy in temperatures and pressures in a fusion reactor (and they don't work for billions of years at a time) and stars (which do).
Royale
4.9 / 5 (7) May 13, 2011
Trever,
I always thought of it like this... Since there's no way to achieve the pressure on Earth we need to jack up the temperature so that the particles in the plasma actually fuse and don't just repel each other like they want to. Don't get me wrong I'm basing this on acquired knowledge not looking it up so it may not be exactly correct. Just thought I'd weigh in here.
Modernmystic
1.4 / 5 (19) May 13, 2011
please remind me what Vietnam did to the US to justify the savage war against it.


Yeah communists are such fluffy harmless bunnies, we should have let the reds have your s****y little country too...

And of course you found wmd in Iraq.


http://en.wikiped...s_attack

We didn't have to find them to know he had them did we? Because he gave them to Syria or Iran before the war this means what exactly...?

Besides he could have avoided that war by letting inspectors in, he didn't.

I'm not trying to justify the invasion, I don't think it was warranted either. Neither am I going to let you revisionist anti-American prigs to tell one side of the story and pretend there is no other side.

I have a question for you Mr. foreign policy expert. What would YOU have done after 9/11? Apologized to the Middle East that we don't beat our women as a matter of course and promise to start right away if they promise not to attack us again?
ClevorTrever
not rated yet May 13, 2011
Royale,

Many thanks - I wonder, as pressure and temperature are so closely linked, if maybe it is to do with increasing the probability of an energetic collision, in which case you'd be right. Maybe, though, if time dilation and spacial contraction are factors they need to be accounted for to take into account the relatively brief and less intimate contact in a tokamak compared with a star, where nuclei have more time, relatively, to interact and are closer together. Thank you for answering.
TabulaMentis
1.3 / 5 (9) May 13, 2011
The machine pictured above looks like it is having sex. I really do believe man and machine are beginning to merge. Anyway, at this rate the US is going to be left in the dust.
Temple
5 / 5 (1) May 13, 2011
Trever
I'm not sure if this is what you're saying, but time dilation effects are only relative to different frames of reference, they don't affect local physics.

To a particle in the middle of a mass-hole (heh) like the centre of the Sun, where space and time dilation is measurably greater than that of ours here on Earth, space and time is identical to what they would be elsewhere. Local physics is unaffected by the space and time dilation. Things like temperature and pressure of course are significantly different, those certainly do affect local physics.
Burnerjack
1.6 / 5 (7) May 13, 2011
TabulaMentis, Seems like everytime we develop something with commercial relevance, whether by treasonous bartering or just disregard for intillectual property, others such as the Chinese end up with the fruit of our efforts at a fraction of the cost. Maybe we should let them develop it and lease or just steal it same as them. Besides, Like gunpowder, true historic achievements cannot be kept secret for very long, especially in the "information age".
Squandering hard earned tax money simply for national pride is just silly.

For the record, IMHO, Morernmystic is right. Taking it to them makes it harder for them to take it to us.
TabulaMentis
1.5 / 5 (6) May 13, 2011
@Burnerjack:
Do not get me started with spying. The US should keep the Libyian funds and use it to pay for the war. With all the interest in fusion, it will probably become commercially available by 2040. Another missed opportunity. You just might be correct that we need to stop inventing and start saving. There are ways of preventing others from capitalizing by means of theft, but the US will not do for some reason. It probably has to do with borrowing money and corruption. See the interesting free book in PDF format titled "Denationalization of Money"

http://mises.org/...tion.pdf
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.4 / 5 (10) May 13, 2011
@pepsi
please remind me what Vietnam did to the US to justify the savage war against it. And of course you found wmd in Iraq.
You are woefully misinformed about sociopolitical motivations. Southeast asia was in the throes of ancient religionist cultures which mandated the kind of pop growth which made instability, war, and revolution Inevitable. After ww2 the french, the US, china, and russia instigated a series of Campaigns which slowly destroyed these cultures.

Today vietnam iis a stable productive nation-state thanks to the concerted efforts of these Players. Since 1976 over 26M abortions have been performed in VN, and many more never born due to effective family planning. Cultures which were destroyed would have prevented this.

We did indeed find and destroy WMDs in Iraq; twice. Their military was the 4th largest in the world and capable of regional destruction. We killed it. We are also in the Process of destroying WMD cultures so pop control may ensue similar to VN.
epsi00
1.8 / 5 (5) May 13, 2011
@Burnerjack:

True, in the past ( and probably right now ) the chinese have stolen intellectual property from just about everyone. However, they did not steal the manufacturing plants from the US and Europe. You ( and Europe ) gave it to them on a platter. So don't blame the chinese for that. Of course not many Americans raised their voice when manufacturing jobs were being shipped away to china. Now, it's your turn, the intellectuals...and no one will raise their voice.

http://en.wikiped...E2%80%A6
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (6) May 13, 2011
Chinese end up with the fruit of our efforts at a fraction of the cost.
That is because it is GIVEN to them. Competition spurs development. The soviets were given nuclear weapons manufacturing and delivery tech for the same reasons.

By the by, heres the link to johnstons archive abortion statistics.
http://www.johnst...310.html
Population growth- the major Reason why things happen, one way or Another, in this world.
Maybe the US should divert the money being wasted in wars against poor countries to make them even poorer
Maybe we should wait until their pops swell and theyre invading the west? (Too late- they already are)
http://www.voanew...904.html
http://www.telegr...ent.html
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.2 / 5 (5) May 13, 2011
However, they did not steal the manufacturing plants from the US and Europe. You ( and Europe ) gave it to them on a platter.
The spread of western culture directly benefits the world. It provides healthy competition, reduces pop growth, eliminates real instability and enables the accelerated development of vital technologies.

Capitalism cannot survive without new markets. Until it envelops the world we are stuck with it. Once it wins however, and western culture along with it, it can be dismantled here on earth and we can start to enjoy a much more rational and far less wasteful socialist society.
ClevorTrever
not rated yet May 13, 2011
Temple,

Thanks - I am aware of the importance of different frames of reference and I always think of the different layers of stars as being different frames. So as you move out from the centre of a star to its surface you move through different frames of reference and it is the relative differences between these frames that is important in defining the parts of a star where fusion can take place. I'm happy to be shown to be wrong and even happier to be shown to the right place!
Nephrops110
not rated yet May 13, 2011
Can anyone provide references to spacial contraction and time dilation within the the sun please. I can sort of get spacial contraction but I really don't get the time dilation.
_nigmatic10
3.7 / 5 (3) May 13, 2011


If ignorant, bassackward, murderous, woman beating, bigoted, religious fanatics hadn't blown up buildings with commercial airliners I guess we could start to consider other options...


Imagine had we never gone in and trained them to begin with...
rbrtwjohnson
3 / 5 (1) May 13, 2011
I hope fusion scientists will someday learn that better way to harness fusion energy is by using electrostatic acceleration instead of magnetic compression. Electrostatic fusion machines will produce much more energy with less money than behemoths like ITER and NIF. http://www.crossf...iew.html
Bigblumpkin36
5 / 5 (2) May 13, 2011
i like boobs
TabulaMentis
4.2 / 5 (5) May 13, 2011
i like boobs
Ooh, then check these out.
http://green-livi...r-plants
Moebius
3.8 / 5 (5) May 14, 2011
Maybe the US should divert the money being wasted in wars against poor countries to make them even poorer to fund research in fusion and many other fields.


If ignorant, bassackward, murderous, woman beating, bigoted, religious fanatics hadn't blown up buildings with commercial airliners I guess we could start to consider other options...

Since they DID, and continue to profess that they WILL at every opportunity we have to prioritize.

As far as Libya goes I agree, we don't need to be there. Now how about we talk about fusion power and not de-rail the entire thread.


The need to act was there for Afghanistan, we should have been out years ago though. Iraq was and is a complete waste and has been since the first Bush. We have wasted much capital on wars. The need does not justify any means, especially unsuccessful and misguided ones.
StandingBear
3 / 5 (2) May 14, 2011
First, the 'poor countries' could not or would not control international criminals within their borders; and those filibusters promptly attacked us from their 'sanctuary' just like we refused to go after the Viet-Cong and NVA in Laos effectively. Second, it is our litigousness that handed our manufacturing to China with a short stop in Mexican Maquiladoras since shut down by Los Zetas' warlords who now govern those states in Mexico. Product liability lawsuits drove our monopolists to seek havens where they could not be sued. If one did not know who manufactured what then who does one 'sue'. Look at your cheap imported tools! Do you know who made them? Can you get a spare part? The real movement to China started under the economically enslaved republikans' 'free' trade laws. All strike settlements and give backs did was to accelerate the process by handing more moving capital to the monopolists on a plate. The monopolists are stateless and care nothing for us. We are fools!
ubavontuba
2.1 / 5 (9) May 14, 2011
Fusion Confusion
by Ubavontuba:

Fusion confusion, infusion and more
Funding required, greenbacks for sure
Hydrogen heated with lasers that cook
Energy forever, if they get it to work

Consumption presumption, gumption and more
Heat from a source, like from the sun's core
"It's coming soon." they assert once again
Here I am wondering, just when is then?

Polywell, Pinch, Tokamak and more
Fusion alternatives they wish to explore
Billions of dollars spent on a whim
"Hurry!" I say, my bulbs grow dim

Conflagration fiction, confliction and more
It passes from fact to myth then to lore
"Unlimited energy." I hear them yet say
Just burn the money, it'll cost less that way...
StandingBear
1 / 5 (3) May 14, 2011
The gist of the article being that the focus of progress in fusion is ours only temporarily is true. The momentum however is inexorably shifting to other countries like China who are not troubled by 'demonstrators' or 'skeptics' or 'popular opinion'. All can be shot with impunity like Basher Assad with his Syrians and Mooamr Kadaffy with his Libyans. The Chinese are hard working and idealistic and are not troubled by wimpout arguments like nuke waste disposal red herring that has stymied our nuke industry into third world status with our nation soon to foolishly follow as a reward for listening to those luddite traitors. The Chinese will simply do a command decision using democratic centralism and ruthlessly apply it. All internal opposition will be liquidated as a class, and external opposition intimidated by the Great Wall of Steel of the Chinese military. Soon they will have, maybe, a fusion primary booster......and dare the world to stop them. They will control space!
Pyle
1 / 5 (1) May 14, 2011
Discover had an article on fusion in January worth a look at.
discovermagazine.com/2010/oct/07-dark-horse-fusion-lab-might-win-race
Crush it in a can!

Anyway, uba, you are in quite the mood this evening. Name calling, this wonderful piece of pessimism. What's next? Dirty limericks?
ubavontuba
1.9 / 5 (9) May 14, 2011
Discover had an article on fusion in January worth a look at.
Essentially, little fusion bombs!

Anyway, uba, you are in quite the mood this evening. Name calling, this wonderful piece of pessimism.
Yeah, well ...I have my doubts that practicable fusion can ever be achieved on less than solar scales. Essentially, I think the fusion physicists are ...overreaching (to be kind).

Steady-state fusion has essentially been ruled out. All they have left to work with are little "pops" (small scale fusion explosions). Even if they can achieve them reliably and get high energy yields, harnessing that energy in a practicable way is an engineering feat they've hardly begun to tackle (to say the least). It'd be orders of magnitude worse than trying to run your car on pure nitroglycerin.

What's next? Dirty limericks?
LOL! "There once was a plasma physicist from Nantucket..."
SemiNerd
5 / 5 (4) May 14, 2011
One thing that has always amazed me about fusion reactors is that we run them at ten times the temperature of the core of the sun.

What is it about the current approach or the conditions inside a tokamak that make this necessary? Is it the lack of time dilation and spacial contraction that you would see at the heart of a star's gravity well? Is it the result of the geometry of the tokamak? I'm normally one to give opinions rather than ask for them, but I've just never got over the discrepancy in temperatures and pressures in a fusion reactor (and they don't work for billions of years at a time) and stars (which do).

The sun uses different fuels than a fusion reactor does. The reactions also take far longer to complete. That is basically why we use D2 and T2 instead of H2, and why the temps are so much hotter. Also the pressure is minuscule compared to the suns interior.
Ethelred
5 / 5 (4) May 15, 2011
, if maybe it is to do with increasing the probability of an energetic collision,
Yes. Fusion in the experiments is a different type than in the Sun.

The Sun is a hydrogen-hydrogen fusion and it is a VERY low probability event, we don't have the mass and time available to deal with such low probability events. The tokomaks will use deuterium-tritium fusion which IS still hydrogen-hydrogen but it has three neutrons and only two protons involved and not four, count it FOUR, individual protons either all colliding at once or in a two stage sequence.

Ethelred
Ethelred
5 / 5 (6) May 15, 2011
Uva
Just burn the money, it'll cost less that way...
No. A few gigabucks, even in one dollar bills, don't really produce very many ergs. The rest was at least entertaining though WAY too pessimistic. The payoff is worth the risk even at a few 10s of billions a year for the next century. As long as the money is spent in the US and not somewhere else.

There once was a Jack on a hill
Who thought of a little blue pill
he said with a grin
as he reached for the tin
To hell with fusion where's Jill

Ethelred
yogurtforthesoul
not rated yet May 15, 2011
Anybody have a contact link for Charles Skinner. If I wished to invest money for example. No I won't deal with you and if you bring it up = reported, here and elsewhere.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (2) May 15, 2011
As long as the money is spent in the US and not somewhere else.
If Congress keeps on spending money, then the US will be bankrupt within twelve years. One of the last things the US will be spending on for the next fifty years if it does go bankrupt will be on experimental fusion reactors.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (1) May 15, 2011
The payoff is worth the risk even at a few 10s of billions a year for the next century.
In the year 1900 a time capsule was buried for one hundred years. In the year 2000 the time capsule was opened. In the time capsule was a question: "Did you invent that wonderful flying machine?"
orgon
not rated yet May 15, 2011
Cold fusion of hydrogen on nickel is feasible, because the attractive force of electrons compensates the repulsive force of protons.

http://www.lenr-c...xces.pdf
ubavontuba
2.5 / 5 (8) May 15, 2011
@Ethelred:

No. A few gigabucks, even in one dollar bills, don't really produce very many ergs.
Technically, more ergs than have ever been practically produced by fusion reactors.

The rest was at least entertaining though WAY too pessimistic.
What? I can't have a little fun without everyone crushing my buzz?

I'd like to see practicable fusion just as much as anyone. But after analyzing how they're trying to accomplish it, I just don't see a way through that makes sense. But that's just a personal opinion. I sincerely hope I'm wrong.

The payoff is worth the risk even at a few 10s of billions a year for the next century.
But what if there is no "pot 'o gold" at the end of this rainbow?

As long as the money is spent in the US and not somewhere else.
Yes. At least that minimizes losses (as the money will percolate through the economy and cycle back through the Treasury).

There once was a Jack on a hill...
LOL!

Pyle
4.2 / 5 (5) May 15, 2011
But what if there is no "pot 'o gold" at the end of this rainbow?

I am of the more optimistic sort. Just like the "space race" I have a feeling we will learn enough trying to fuse hydrogen that it will make it worthwhile without the "pot 'o gold".

Gold star to the dirty old man Eth!!! Limerists unite!

Fusion bombs are quite scary
Tokamaks seem ordinary
My money's on the man
Trying to do it in a can
While we wait I'll be busy with Mary
Egleton
1.5 / 5 (2) May 16, 2011
Whoever controls the supply of energy controls the world.
ITER and other behemoths concentrate political power and are poison to a democracy and freedom.

Greece has taken Rossi's nickel converter and is running with it.
http://coldfusion...ernment/

What excuses are we going to come up with to bomb Greece into rubble?
wwqq
5 / 5 (3) May 16, 2011
One thing that has always amazed me about fusion reactors is that we run them at ten times the temperature of the core of the sun.

What is it about the current approach or the conditions inside a tokamak that make this necessary?


It's the triple product of confinement time, density and temperature that makes this necessary.

In a tokamak density is nearly a vacuum, confinement time is not too great. To make this work you need a very attractive fuel(D-T; maybe D-D eventually) and high temperature.

The sun is primarily burning a much worse fuel(p-p), but it manages to do so because it has a ridiculous confinement time, a very high density but rather poor temperature. The power density of the sun is much less than the power density of a heap of compost; that's how ridiculously good the sun is at confinement.
Ethelred
5 / 5 (5) May 16, 2011
But what if there is no "pot 'o gold" at the end of this rainbow?
What if there is but no one looks? Just like the people that don't want science to look at anything that shows the Earth is more than 6000 years old.

You can't learn by NOT doing.

Ethelred
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (1) May 16, 2011


If ignorant, bassackward, murderous, woman beating, bigoted, religious fanatics hadn't blown up buildings with commercial airliners I guess we could start to consider other options...
Imagine had we never gone in and trained them to begin with...

Gone in and trained them? To do what? Fire stinger missiles and kick out the Soviet Union? What does training them to fire stinger missiles have to do with 9/11? Or do you think they'd have been harmless camel herders after the fall of the Soviet Union and minded their own business? The Soviets made the Mujahideen...we didn't. All we did was give them missiles and helped finance them because we figured that people with thousands of nuclear weapons who hated us hell bent on expansion in Asia were more of a threat than the Afghan's....

JIMBO
4 / 5 (1) May 16, 2011
He's right about The History: 1/2 A Century of physics expts., probably an accrued Hundred-Billion$$$ spent. Yet nothing practical to show for it, except techno-hype. Perhaps we could talk about `Inesco's' failure (Bob Guccione & Ed Teller, or that of `EmC2', Bob Buzzard's company, efforts directed Not at physics expts., but practical plug-into-the-power grid engineering. As small private fusion companies explore the practical side, they are akin to the `homeless', & exist on bread crumbs, whereas the Large govnt. projects in the US & France wallow in Giga-bucks, yet are unable to produce anything you or I can run our toasters off of.
I say its time to pull their plug, & invest the tech & manpower into something with a near-term practical return, not a pipedream. Something requiring Manhattan-Project level engineering, & not physics:
http://large.stan...lowsky2/
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (2) May 16, 2011
But what if there is no "pot 'o gold" at the end of this rainbow?
What if there is but no one looks? Just like the people that don't want science to look at anything that shows the Earth is more than 6000 years old.

You can't learn by NOT doing.
But we HAVE been looking ...and looking ...and looking ...and looking...

When do you stop beating your head against a wall?

As was pointed out by wwqq, the sun works because of its ability to confine the fusion reaction. We simply don't have a similar capabilty to sustain confinement. Without that, it's like a fish gasping for air on a dock. The required efficiency simply isn't there.

But like I've said, I hope I'm wrong. And, nothing would make me happier than for someone to make me appear the fool on this issue.

Modernmystic
2.7 / 5 (3) May 16, 2011
We simply don't have a similar capabilty to sustain confinement.


Don't be silly, of course we do, it's called magnetism and we do confine the reaction. We simply have to get better at it...

Why are we talking about this?

Pyle
3.7 / 5 (3) May 16, 2011
Why are we talking about this?

MM: Did you look at the article you're posting under?
Modernmystic
2.3 / 5 (3) May 16, 2011
Why are we talking about this?

MM: Did you look at the article you're posting under?


I'm wondering how you expect me to respond to that. Were you actually trying to be helpful or being a smart ass?
Pyle
4.2 / 5 (5) May 16, 2011
MM: A smart ass. Of course!
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (3) May 16, 2011
Well then I guess I feel like talking about whether or not we can confine extremely high temperature plasma is kinda stupid...

That help any?
Pyle
3.7 / 5 (3) May 16, 2011
Nope. It was much funnier to me if you hadn't responded. Unless of course you had incorporated your response into Limerick form.

Regarding confining plasma, I agree with you. This would be one of those ancillary benefits of proceeding towards the possibly non-existent "pot o' gold".
Modernmystic
3 / 5 (2) May 16, 2011
Well damn it I missed my funny chance today.

I'm just no damned good at internet humor...but then again you already know this as it's painfully obvious :P
wwqq
not rated yet May 16, 2011
Whoever controls the supply of energy controls the world.
ITER and other behemoths concentrate political power and are poison to a democracy and freedom.

Greece has taken Rossi's nickel converter and is running with it.


In order for it to work there must be a major, glaring, unrecognized flaw in long since settled science. Cranks are a dime a dozen; major scientific breakthroughs are few and far inbetween.

What excuses are we going to come up with to bomb Greece into rubble?


When this quietly goes away(because it doesn't work) all the cranks are going to claim it was because he was bribed, black-mailed or otherwise silenced; it's always the same excuses from cranks, you're never going to admit that it just does not work no matter what happens.
wwqq
not rated yet May 16, 2011
But we HAVE been looking ...and looking ...and looking ...and looking...


And the fusion triple product of tokamaks has increased faster than Moore's law decade... after decade ... after decade ... after decade...

When do you stop beating your head against a wall?


Have to start before you can stop. Beating your head against a wall implies a lack of progress.

As was pointed out by wwqq, the sun works because of its ability to confine the fusion reaction.


The important parameter is the triple product of confinement, temperature and pressure and the choice of fuel. Deuterium-tritium is ~10^26 times easier to burn than protons(the primary process in the sun). You can have extremely short confinement times if you have enormous pressure and high temperature, like in a thermonuclear bomb. Tokamaks have really low density but the best confinement time achieved is a little over a second, eons compared to a nuclear weapons and a blink of an eye compared to the sun.
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (2) May 16, 2011
Regarding confining plasma, I agree with you. This would be one of those ancillary benefits of proceeding towards the possibly non-existent "pot o' gold".
The problem with magnetic confinement is it takes a tremendous amount of energy - negating potential gains.

"In 1997 JET produced a peak of 16.1 MW fusion power, with fusion power of over 10 MW sustained for over 0.5 sec."

"Each JET pulse uses ~700MW of electricity (used to directly heat the plasma and also to provide the magnetic fields required to keep the plasma confined)."

http://www.jet.ef...out-jet/

Foolish1
5 / 5 (1) May 16, 2011
One of the most informative articles I've seen on physorg in quite some time. Kudos to the author.
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (2) May 16, 2011
You can have extremely short confinement times if you have enormous pressure and high temperature, like in a thermonuclear bomb.
Right. The little "pops" I referred to above. Basically, they're trying to scale "thermonuclear bombs" to a usable size.

The problem is the power used to achieve these runaway fusion reactions is far greater than the power output. And when you factor in the energy used that's not directly related to the reactions (infrastructure) the ratio gets even worse.

Utilitarian Q values (Q = ~15, or higher) have never been achieved. We only say we've approached Q = 1 by discounting (ignoring) large amounts of the energy consumed.

More and more it looks like physicists have been lured into a convoluted "overunity" scheme.

Modernmystic
1 / 5 (1) May 16, 2011
uba, I'm sympathetic. I view renewables in much the same way you view this I think. Here's the difference.

There's nothing theoretically prohibitive about getting more out of a fusion reation than you have to put in. Especially with materials science advancing as quickly as it is. This is an ENGINEERING problem, not a theoretical problem

The problem with renewables is that there IS a limit on your maximum energy production with them, not so with fusion. That's why it's worth the money in my opinion.
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (2) May 16, 2011
There's nothing theoretically prohibitive about getting more out of a fusion reation than you have to put in.
Actually, there is. You have to compress the plasma to ignite it. This takes a tremendous amount of energy. The more control over the reaction you require, the more energy it takes. It's a never ending spiral.

Especially with materials science advancing as quickly as it is. This is an ENGINEERING problem, not a theoretical problem.
There is no known material that can withstand a fusion reaction. That's the problem. You can't use materials to confine it. So, we use energy sucking inertial (laser) or magnetic confinement schemes - which generally negate energy gains. Again, a seemingly never ending spiral.

The problem with renewables is that there IS a limit on your maximum energy production with them, not so with fusion. That's why it's worth the money in my opinion.
I disagree on both counts.

More...
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (3) May 16, 2011
Technically, renewables can meet all our current demands. We just have to be willing to step up to the cost. Instead, we're spending billions of dollars on a boondoggle that has never shown any practicable promise.

And the hypothetical limit to renewables would be a Dyson Sphere. Essentially (for all practical purposes), the potential for renewables is unlimited.
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (2) May 17, 2011
Just one more thing:

ITER is trying to circumvent the magnetic field energy problem by using extremely cold superconducting electromagnets to compress the plasma. The cool thing about this (pun!) is once powered up, superconducting electromagnets can sustain a magnetic field without needing to continuously add current. But the problem is in the power needed to sustain the cold temperatures.

Cooling must be sustained continuously ...in between fusion shots, when the plant is idled for maintenance, whatever. And when you need to take the magnets off line, there's a long process required to warm them up, and then cool them back down again.

IF (BIG if) high temperature, high current capacity superconductors are ever perfected, then we might really have a good shot at making this work. Therefore (IMO), I'd recommend concentrating our efforts there.

See? I'm not against it, per se, I just think we need to allocate our resources more efficiently.

hush1
1 / 5 (1) May 17, 2011
"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed, and third, it is accepted as self-evident."
- Arthur Schopenhauer

You're right, Arthur. I guess you read the commentary too.
Whether war and peace, hot or cold fusion and numberless other stray and focused thoughts here.

You piss me off, Arthur. Wipe the smugness off your face.
Wannabe know-it-all.

Just in time to get this off, along with my old strait jacket,(which I torn to shreds), and is replace, with a new one. :)
Ethelred
3 / 5 (2) May 17, 2011
That quote has always bothered me. It is simply false for one thing and the Cranks quote it as if could prove them right.

Yes, it is false. Darwin was NOT ridiculed or violently opposed in general. The books sold well, a large percentage of scientists embraced it immediately and there was far more ridicule directed at the religious opponents than the other way around.

And its TOTAL bullshit in regard to Newton. And barely applicable to Einstein either. Yet the Cranks around here act as it somehow made their crap into truth.

Ethelred
wwqq
not rated yet May 17, 2011
The problem is the power used to achieve these runaway fusion reactions is far greater than the power output.


That was a rather ambiguous response.

If you're talking about tokamaks; there are many problems but this is not one of them. You can just make the reactor bigger until the Q value approaches any arbitrarily high value. But monstrous 10 GW reactors are undesirable and impractical; that's the hard problem, but we are making progress in fits and starts.

If you're refering to nuclear weapons; no, the tsar bomba device was ~97% fusion and ~3% fission. The only reason thermonuclear devices tend to be >50% fission is that the fusion neutrons can fission depleted uranium, so it's cheap and easy to just use depleted uranium in the tamper and casing to almost double the yield(it also increases the amount of fallout many-fold, but neither the US or USSR cared too much about this).
wwqq
5 / 5 (1) May 17, 2011
That quote has always bothered me. It is simply false for one thing and the Cranks quote it as if could prove them right.


They laughed at galileo; but they also laughed at Bozo the clown. The cranks imagine themselves as the former, but to everyone else they appear more like the latter.
Dave_Price
5 / 5 (1) May 17, 2011
MacPherson's claim that we're going to buy tokamaks from Asia and Europe is ridiculous. Even the most advanced conceptual designs have plant power density an order of magnitude or more behind fission LWRs. No one is going to pay 10x the cost of existing tech even if fossil fuels are gone -- and we have thousands of years of fissionables.

What's really sad is that we're wasting tens of billions on tokamaks that are great science projects but a dead end commercially, while other promising fusion technologies (Polywells, FRCs, dense plasma focus, the General Fusion piston-driven concept, etc.) make do on scraps.
hush1
not rated yet May 17, 2011
As sad as all this is, even Cranks are exposed to the same odds as the rest of us. So eventually, even Cranks will touch upon the self evident by chance. The rest of us, when touching upon the self evident, handle the self evident in a manner that doesn't brother us.
Needamission
not rated yet May 17, 2011
Terrible thread. But I live in hope that optimism will prevail over stupidity. I speak only of so many of the comments in this thread - the article was excellent - however flawed it may be (no qualifications to judge).

Good luck to all those who want to KNOW!
Jim
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (2) May 17, 2011
That was a rather ambiguous response.
How is it ambiguous? Didn't you see the specific reference on the power output to input at JET?

If you're talking about tokamaks; there are many problems but this is not one of them. You can just make the reactor bigger until the Q value approaches any arbitrarily high value.
I'll disagree with this. There is a supposed economy of scale, but we've been building 'em bigger and bigger for decades and the results haven't exactly been spectacular. Worse, we finagle the results to fool ourselves into thinking we've made significant progress. For instance, the JET reactor's "highest Q rating ever" of .65, isn't very impressive when you consider that Q values only compare the energy used to sustain heating, versus fusion reaction output. If you include ALL the energy used, it becomes pathetic.
hush1
1 / 5 (1) Jun 19, 2011
Too late...

http://nextbigfut...low.html

Me first! Me first!
Me first what?
Retraction of skepticism! Oh dear, I was in such good company!
'Cold Fusion' has to be a misnomer. What is it really?
orgon
1 / 5 (1) Jun 19, 2011
The cold fusion of hydrogen at nickel will made all this research obsolete. This cold fusion was revealed by S. Foccardi before twenty years, but it was essentially ignored with mainstream physics. Now NASA is reevaluating this approach, because this energy source could be used for powering of interstellar space travels.

http://pesn.com/2...A_Chief/

With compare to "hot fusion" the "cold fusion" doesn't produce free neutrons (which will induce radioactivity in metallic parts of apparatus), it runs at much lower temperature and it could be miniaturized easily to the tabletop scale device. In addition, it produces rare "waste" metal, i.e. the highly valued copper.

These properties are making all existing "hot fusion" technologies obsolete crap and they should be abandoned ASAP. The deployed money should be invested into research of cold fusion instead.
orgon
1 / 5 (1) Jun 19, 2011
The "hot fusion" proceeds with notoriously known difficulty, because you have 1) strip hydrogen atom of all electrons 2) compress or collide the remaining protons to the distance enabling their mutual fusion. This is very difficult due the strong repulsive forces of protons (which is the reason of so called the Coulombic barrier of fusion reaction).

Cold fusion solves this problem in elegant way and it skips the first step. It uses the attractive force of electrons around atom nuclei to lower the repulsive force of protons inside of atom nuclei. These electrons are attracting the protons and they're masking the Coulombic barrier. As the result, the fusion of protons can occur even at room or slightly elevated temperature.

Simple, and elegant too.
orgon
1 / 5 (1) Jun 19, 2011
'Cold Fusion' has to be a misnomer. What is it really?
The general principle is still the fusion, i.e. the analogy of merging of pair small mercury droplets into larger one. If you would play with it, you can recognize easily, it's quite difficult to merge very tiny droplets, because they're repulsing obstinately due their strong surface tension. A much easier approach is to merge small droplet with some substantially larger one. And this is basically what happens during cold fusion of hydrogen at nickel. The resulting surface/volume ratio is still smaller than at the case of original nuclei, which is why we're observing the evolution of heat.

The beauty of Foccardi's fusion is in its simplicity. By the description of original experiments everyone can attempt to replicate it in his kitchen. The nickel plated surface is enough. IMO the main reason in usage of nanopowders is just the better utilization of nickel surface, the reaction with hydrogen occurs at wide range of materials
orgon
1 / 5 (1) Jun 19, 2011
Why should the U.S. maintain its funding of the fusion program?
Paradoxically, the finding of cold fusion poses a big competition for all physicists, who are dealing with hot fusion in their large and expensive research bases. What's worse, I even don't consider the hot fusion approach effective in its present state because of so-called the Lawson's criterions. These criterions not only require the merging of atom nuclei droplets with their mutual collision, but they're requiring to do it slowly, too. The usage of hot temperatures apparently violates the second requirement, because the hotter the atom nuclei are, the the lower is the time, for which they're remain in their mutual contact.

Therefore a much more viable approach for me is the collider arrangement, where the dense jet of protons is compressed with passing through hole represented with focused quadruple or octuple magnetic field. A similar approach is used for keeping of antimatter particles at place.
orgon
1 / 5 (1) Jun 19, 2011
I see, downvoted with Deesky - as usually...

http://www.physor...activity