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New hope for ultimate clean energy: fusion power viable again

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posted on Apr, 12 2010 @ 11:11 PM

That is the great hope raised by researchers who believe they have found a radical new path to the ultimate goal of solving the world's energy crisis through nuclear fusion power, as detailed in a paper published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

The international team of researchers - led by Emeritus Professor Heinrich Hora, of the University of New South Wales Department of Theoretical Physics -has shown through computational studies that a special fuel ignited by brief but powerful pulses of energy from new high-energy lasers may be the key to a success that has long eluded physicists.

The intense laser beam would be used to ignite a fuel made of light hydrogen and boron-11. The resulting ignition would be largely free of radioactive emissions and would release more than enough energy to generate electricity.

The amount of radiation released would be even less than that emitted by current power stations that burn coal, which contains trace amounts of uranium. In another plus, the fuel source is plentiful and readily accessible and the waste product of ignition would be clean helium gas.

Excellent. We have a new high power ignition source aswell as fuel with low radiation output.

"This has the potential to be the best route to fusion energy," says Steve Haan, an expert in nuclear fusion at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, in a news report in the Royal Chemical Society's Highlights in Chemical Technology.

There are people here that will tell you that if it's done in the mainstream it's a sham but keep in mind some of the greatest technological achievments in history have been made at Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

Hora says the proposed new process overcomes previous objections to hydrogen-boron11 fuel because it would not have to be compressed and therefore need much less energy than previously thought to start the ignition.

"It was a surprise when we used hydrogen-boron instead of deuterium-tritium," says Hora. "It was not 100,000 times more difficult to ignite, as it would be under the usual compression process. It would be only 10 times more difficult, using the latest generation of lasers."

As it happens, a unique new laser capable of producing the required amount of ignition energy is in its early stages of testing in the US at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Breaking the megajoule laser limit was key to this developement.

It’s not the first time we’ve heard these words, but US scientists say they’ve achieved a breakthrough that brings us “one step closer” to finally achieving the ultimate of clean and endless power: nuclear fusion.

That breakthrough came yesterday, when researchers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) fired a record-breaking shot of laser energy onto a tiny target containing two different isotopes of hydrogen fuel. That historic, one-megajoule-plus blast lasted just a few billionths of a second but, at its peak, delivered 500 times more power than the entire US uses in any single moment.

It also fired out about 30 times more energy than any other group of lasers in the world has before.

“Breaking the megajoule barrier brings us one step closer to fusion ignition at the National Ignition Facility, and shows the universe of opportunities made possible by one of the largest scientific and engineering challenges of our time,” said Thomas D’Agostino, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration

We have the technology, we can rebuild, We can make it bigger, faster, stronger

Here's a little more from a different source

This new process is clean, highly efficient and most important of all, simple. The output of the new reactor is electricity with its by-product being the same helium gas used to make voices squeaky and party balloons float, so there's no toxic radioactive waste to dispose of.

Initial calculations also show that this new type of fusion generation could produce clean electricity at similar levels but far more cheaply than oil or coal.

Because the reactor also operates using relatively simple engineering principles (especially compared to the current crop of fusion reactors), commercialising it is likely to involve significantly shorter time-frames than other fusion technologies.

Although technology is still however very experimental and has yet to be fully proven, a feasibility study into this new fusion process has been kicked off, and if it is found to be viable, it could become commercially available in as little as a decade, here's hoping.

We must solve the energy crisis quickly if we are to avoid a tragic ending to our technological age. There are more than just fusion as viable possibilities, but nearly none are as promising as fusion. It may be one of the most difficult scientific and engineering feats man has ever taken on but it is imparative.

The future will need power on magnitudes never before seen by man. There is a very finite amount of time left to find a solution to this problem. I hope for all of us that something pans out of this.

[edit on 12-4-2010 by constantwonder]

posted on Apr, 12 2010 @ 11:39 PM
Problem with any laser technology that's not barcode scanners or cheap, small laser pointers, dvd drives or anything mass produced, is that it's damn expensive. A chinese 2W, red green blue full colour white light diode laser system is about 7-8k USD with 2 class IIIb and one class IV laser inside (real lasers not some re-labled junk). The pulsed power requirements for fusion make class IV (0.5W and up) lasers I deal with, look like laser pointers and puts costs well out of reach for general public. I don't see this fusion tech going far using lasers as primary ignition. Minituarisation becomes tricky - a football field plus sized NIF building is not easily portable.

I believe there are much better clean energy solutions out there, Tesla looks to have had it sorted over a hundred years ago. Energy is all around us, we can't feel all stored energy, can't smell it, can't taste it, can't really touch it or interact with it - just like electricty, however they still discovered it all those years ago. Instead much of science today seems to go down the most difficult and time consuming path to extract energy, often using fuel or some sort of consumable that is not primarily air or water and costs money.

Remember, the only public transportation technology we have is 100 years old; wheels, wings, magnets and electrical or fossil fuel engines.

posted on Apr, 12 2010 @ 11:52 PM
reply to post by GhostR1der

It's not supposed to be portable or priced for the individual. It's a kind of power plant like nuclear or coal, not a home appliance.

posted on Apr, 12 2010 @ 11:59 PM
reply to post by OnceReturned

Which means they can meter it is and continue to rob us. Until there is an energy device that can be distributed like a laptop or home computer there will never be energy independence for the little guy which is where it needs to be to free us from the energy cartels.

posted on Apr, 13 2010 @ 05:11 AM
Agreed. The 'big boys' will continue to invest billions into large scale technologies that will never be used to free the masses from energy dependence (and hence poverty, hunger and relative slavery).

It is up to us, the little guys, to invest the tens or hundreds of thousands into 'basement energy machine' development, and then share our discoveries with a true spirit of generosity, rather than jealously guarding secrets and attempting to make a financial killing by following the bogus patent/production route.

IMO, it is the small scale, portable, home energy device that will be the greatest single contribution to humankind and also the most significant technological breakthrough in our history.

I'm up for this, if anyone else out there shares this opinion, and would like to help, please contribute to the threads in my sig.

posted on Apr, 13 2010 @ 06:17 AM
Large scale commercial electricity sources overall generate electricity far more cheaply, effectively, and efficiently than 'basement energy machines' (i.e. solar panels) in the vast majority of situations and thus they have contributed much more to decreasing poverty than 'basement energy machines'. I am not talking about oil - because it is seldom used for electricity production, but rather the virtues of sources such as geothermal, hydro, nuclear fission and the future virtues of nuclear fusion. I don't like having to pay electricity bills either, but I have yet to find any alternative that is more economical, therefore using energy bills as a negative of nuclear fusion is entirely invalid. Good luck in your pursuit of free energy.

[edit on 13/4/2010 by C0bzz]

posted on Apr, 13 2010 @ 06:33 AM
They must have had this in the back room at Los Alamos for at least 50 years.

I remember reading about a similar technology in Popular science back in the 60's. The lasers are made of unobtainium and will have to be manufactured with an auto destruct mechanism to prevent terrorists from reverse engineering the technology. Such a technology has more value now that world oil production is past its peak, but it makes you wonder what happened to the original developers?

posted on Apr, 13 2010 @ 06:48 AM
Give it another 50 years and they might get a fusion power plant to work.
They have only been at it for 50 years now.

This will do nothing for getting us off oil or as a new power source that we need now.

Our only hope is conventional nuclear power plants to hold us over till fusion power becomes a reality if ever.

posted on Apr, 13 2010 @ 07:43 AM

Originally posted by C0bzz
Good luck in your pursuit of free energy.

Thanks, we will need all the luck we can get, as well as plenty of open-minded and generous individuals with brains and balls to match

posted on Apr, 13 2010 @ 10:51 AM

Originally posted by hawkiye
reply to post by OnceReturned

Which means they can meter it is and continue to rob us. Until there is an energy device that can be distributed like a laptop or home computer there will never be energy independence for the little guy which is where it needs to be to free us from the energy cartels.

Do you have any idea how powerful a small fusion reactor would be? If it were allowed out into the public domain, it would be a terrorist's dream. Even a single one would cause extreme damage if it were detonated/overloaded. Never mind the thought of purchasing enough to fill up a van/truck/lorry full of them.

Even switching to something less powerful. Say a next generation electric battery/generator. It will still need to be recharged. The primary means would be via an outlet in your home that still requires you to be connected to the national grid. You could use solar & wind to do it. However if your going down that route, then you don't need to wait for anything, since it can be done right now & allow you to stay off the grid.

In future, a potential cheap way is to use hydrogen. There are 2 methods for 'extracting' it. 1) Either from natural gas. To get the gas, you will still need to stay connected to the grid & pay for it. 2) From water. If everybody started doing this, then the energy companies would simply expand into the water industry or the government would take control. In either case, you would be charged for every drop of water you use.

If Fusion doesn't come about, then space based solar power stations will be built. They'll beam the power down to a receiving station back on Earth & it will be filtered through to the masses. At best, you'll pay the same as now. At worst, it will be more because of the high initial setup costs as well as the fact that it will be hammered by dust, micrometeoroids etc. Not to mention all the crap we have left floating around. So they'll need to keep a kitty in hand to make repairs/replacements to the station + panels every now & again.

There is never ever going to be a free magic box now or in future that's going to give you free energy. If I revealed the plans right now for everyone how to do it. Only a small fraction of the population would have the technical skills to construct it. These people would jump upon my work & start building them as cheap as possible, then selling them to the masses for a good profit. Others would 'tweak' bits & claim it's far superior ins ome way or another & slap premium price on it. Which the 'gullible' will fall for.

There is too much money to be made in the energy industry & thanks to human nature, one way or another that you will always be paying over the odds for your energy!

posted on Apr, 13 2010 @ 11:16 PM

Do you have any idea how powerful a small fusion reactor would be? If it were allowed out into the public domain, it would be a terrorist's dream. Even a single one would cause extreme damage if it were detonated/overloaded. Never mind the thought of purchasing enough to fill up a van/truck/lorry full of them.

The condition required for a fusion reactor is very small, and when this margin is exceeded then the fusion reaction stops. Detonating one would not make a larger explosion than Hydrogen. Furthermore, a small fusion reactor is about as likely as a public domain fission reactor.

Furthermore, the reason that electricity is not free is because infrastructure, maintenance, and operations are not free, they don't pop out of thin air, people need to work for them. Demanding for free electricity is like saying I should work for you for free. It's absurd, and is nothing more than an idealogical dream pushed by those who don't know better. Also, there is a massive difference between price gouging and simply making a profit. Why does wishing to make a profit make one greedy?

[edit on 13/4/2010 by C0bzz]

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