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View Diary: Laser Fusion Energy Breakthrough - Breakeven Point Exceeded in Hydrogen Target (232 comments)

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  •  It Was Reported 20 Years Away In my Dad's (15+ / 0-)

    1940's physics text.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 12:59:34 PM PST

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    •  Heh, it's still 20 years away, right? (21+ / 0-)

      Sometimes after a long wait the time finally comes that a dream becomes reality. We'll see.

      “Industry does everything they can and gets away with it almost all the time, whether it’s the coal industry, not the subject of this hearing, or water or whatever. They will cut corners, and they will get away with it. " Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D, WVa

      by FishOutofWater on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 01:03:08 PM PST

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      •  Try 50 years away. Maybe. (5+ / 0-)

        The energy released was in the range of 1% of the total energy put into the system. Only about 1% of the energy the whole system used was put into that 2mm bead.  It produced a bit more than that.  (If they'd released twice the energy they got into the target bead, they'd be saying so.)

        We've got one nice fusion power source already -- the sun.  Maybe it's just as well we're 93 million miles away from it.  

        We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

        by david78209 on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 03:00:26 PM PST

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        •  Not even 1%. (11+ / 0-)

          'Break even' was redefined a bit. The amount of energy produced was ~16kJ, which was a bit higher than the energy of the fuel that participated in the reactions which was ~10kJ.

          But the complete energy budget looks something like this:

          400MJ of electrical energy in the capacitor banks create
          ~4 MJ of laser energy in the IR wavelength, converted to
          ~2 MJ of laser energy in the UV wavelength, which strikes the gold capsule shell to make
          ~1.5 MJ of X-rays which are focused onto the fuel pellet which absorbs about
          ~200kJ of X-ray energy.

          Much of this absorbed energy is ablated away, so only the amount that is left in the hot plasma undergoing fusion is counted...that's the 10kJ.

          So, while it's technically 'breakeven' from a physics point of view, from a systems point of view, you're several orders of magnitude away.

          •  When I think of improvement in computer speed (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Jon Sitzman, david78209

            a couple orders of magnitude doesn't seem as difficult to achieve as you make it sound. Excellent comment, thanks for the estimated energy budget, but this is still a big step forward, IMO. Remember, this result is represents an order of magnitude improvement.

            Clearly, this massive and inefficient laser system will never be a practical source of anything but good high-paying jobs, but this is still a major research achievement.

            “Industry does everything they can and gets away with it almost all the time, whether it’s the coal industry, not the subject of this hearing, or water or whatever. They will cut corners, and they will get away with it. " Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D, WVa

            by FishOutofWater on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 07:51:28 AM PST

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      •  Fow, any dangerous 'side effects' of using fusion? (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lujane, RiveroftheWest, caul, Jon Sitzman

        I know nothing about this, yet am heartened if it can get us off the carbon polluters.  However does it have any risks in use itself or is it too early to say?  How could it be used?

        Thanks,

        ST

        "The corporate state’s repression, now on the brink of totalitarianism, would with the help of Christie, his corporate backers ... become a full-blown corporate fascism.' http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_trouble_with_chris_christie_20140112

        by SeaTurtle on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 03:02:29 PM PST

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        •  I see reason for concern (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lujane, wader, AoT

          Limitless energy brings major consequences.  New problems about just how much of the endless energy do we use.  What are the consequences in a world in which the energy is totally free, and you have the technology to exploit it?  

          Streichholzschächtelchen

          by otto on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 03:08:41 PM PST

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          •  You are going to be concerned about limitless (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JosephK74, chuckvw, DarthMeow504

            cheap energy?  What else worries you? A cure for cancer?

            •  Some concerns are: (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dzog, otto

              Energy leads to heat.  Yes we may stop putting carbon into the atmosphere, but that doesn't necessarily mean all those engines running on that unlimited energy wouldn't still create a lot of heat that would still wind up increasing the heat budget in the atmosphere.  

              Depending upon how the energy is created, it will still need power transmission to all the various other locations that don't have generators.  Will generators take massive amounts of resources, including space?  Or will generators be able to fit in a house or even in a car?

              What will I do with my solar panels that I just had installed with a 20 year lease?  If power suddenly drops to nothing, I've got 20 years at a fixed cost to pay off what are now worthless.

              I don't know that any of these are worth being worried about, but I am throwing them out there.

              •  Sorry to say (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Keninoakland, ColoTim

                I'd rather your solar panels be worthless if it meant cheap energy for millions to billions of others. The good of the many over the good of the few.

                http://callatimeout.blogspot.com/

                by DAISHI on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 10:18:10 PM PST

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              •  Might be too simplistic of an argument (4+ / 0-)

                Just because they can build a new reactor that will not require an expensive fuel source, does not mean it will be free.

                You still have to build the thing and in that regard, it is no different than a nuclear reactor. The time and cost and operational processes will vary, but they are still all there. There are probably countless factors with this technology that will have to be worked out along the way.

                Plus, it would still be a centralized power unit, so transmission lines will factor in the cost (and the loss of power across them.) In other words, ain't nothing free.

                And, turning this solution into a safe, reliable power source that can be sold and marketed is probably a few decades away. Assuming we even get to that point.

                In 20 years, I can only imagine the advances with newer solar panels, wind turbines and battery storage as the decentralized power solution.

                I think your solar panels are safe for the next 20 years from fusion technology. However, 20 years from now, there will be much better solar panels that might give you reason to not renew the lease.

                •  Yup, even if the fuel were 'free' (0+ / 0-)

                  the capital costs of the power plant would likely be pretty large. You have to pay off these costs (+ interest) over the lifetime of the plant, so fusion energy will still cost money.

                  There have been several design studies that try and determine a fusion COE (cost of electricity), which ends up being competitive in today's environment, but without an actual reactor on the grid, it's hard to tell how credible these estimates are.

            •  I certainly can't ignore the fact (0+ / 0-)

              I think that part of our problem now is that we didn't bother to dwell on the negative consequences of fossil fuels.  

              So, any time human kind decides that they are going to exploit a wonderful new technology, I think it's prudent to consider the negative consequences.  

              Streichholzschächtelchen

              by otto on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 06:17:52 AM PST

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            •  Asdf (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              susanWAstate

              What do you think limitless cheap energy is going to do for overpopulation?

              anyone born after the McDLT has no business stomping around acting punk rock

              by chopper on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 06:58:29 AM PST

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              •  If we're still stuck on Earth, bad things (0+ / 0-)

                If the cheap energy allows us to expand to space, it may not be okay. The bigger question I have lately is whether we Humans are worthy of survival and expansion.

                We're ALL better off when we're ALL better off!

                by susanWAstate on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 09:34:26 AM PST

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          •  It Would Balance Out (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rarely comments, otto

            The cost to build a fusion power plant would be astronomical and has to be paid for in dollars per kilowatt hour the same as a very expensive fission plant.  Of course the fuel cost would be lower and the tonnage of long term radioactive waste much less (if I remember correctly - it's been a while since I lived near the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab)

            Free and unlimited is a big stretch.

          •  "So cheap you won't need a meter" (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mkor7, ColoTim, otto

            Gee, where have we heard that one before?

        •  Nuclear fusion is supposed to be much safer than (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Lujane, SeaTurtle, caul

          nuclear fusion which is what we're using today in power plants.

        •  Depends on the fuel (3+ / 0-)

          Proton Boron11 is the Holy Grail, 99% of the energy released are alpha particles which can be directly converted into DC electricity.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/...

          Fuels like Deuterium, Tritium release massive quantities of neutrons.

          Fuels like P-B11, Helium & Lithium are considered aneutronic fusion fuels and are far more desirable.

          .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

          by Roger Fox on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 03:32:16 PM PST

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          •  If you can ignite them... (0+ / 0-)

            The energetics aren't nearly so nice.

          •  Proton-Boron11 (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            chopper

            can't produce net power in conventional fusion reactions. The energy lost through radiated power is higher than that generated by the fusion reactions.

            You need to have a plasma in a non-thermal equilibrium state for this to be possibly a net-energy producer, which we don't know how to do yet.

            Also, the cross-section for the reaction is much, much smaller and occurs at much higher temperatures.

            If fusion is 20 years away, then P-B11 fusion is 200.

        •  Neutron activation products are radioactive (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ignacio Magaloni

          See Roger Fox's comment about neutron production of different fuels. The half lives of the major activation products are short enough to be manageable, much more so than waste from fission.

          “Industry does everything they can and gets away with it almost all the time, whether it’s the coal industry, not the subject of this hearing, or water or whatever. They will cut corners, and they will get away with it. " Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D, WVa

          by FishOutofWater on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 04:38:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Good News & Bad News... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ignacio Magaloni, Mokurai, chopper

          The Good News is that these things can't go into runaway; the active mass is small and hot, any leak simple quenches the whole thing (magnetic confinement) or simply stops when the laser shot is done (inertial confinement).

          The Bad News is that per watt of power produced, fusion creates a lot more neutrons than fission. Neutrons make other things radioactive, so they're generally 'to be avoided'.

          The not-so-bad news is that the fusion reactor doesn't start with heavier elements, so the half-lives of the radionuclides made are quite short compared to fission products.

          The other not-so-bad news is that it may someday be possible to create low-neutron flux fusion from 'aneutronic processes', but those are all an order of magnitude more difficult than the D-T, D-D, and H-H (hydrogen/deuterium/tritium) processes, and will take a great deal more work to yield ignition and breakeven.

        •  The effects of DT fusion are not risks (0+ / 0-)

          they are facts.  Prof. Walter Gekelman of UCLA and a proponent of nuclear fusion,  when asked about the problem of nuclear waste created by DT fusion, confided to me that any successful fusion reactor would eventually become so radioactive that it would have to be abandoned and encased in concrete like the Chernobyl fission reactor has been.  DT fusion is NOT a long term solution for clean power, even if it can be made to provide more power than it would take to operate it.  There are other possibilities than deuterium - tritium fusion so maybe serious work should be done on them.  Hydrogen - Boron fusion is being persued by some.  See: http://www.rationalskepticism.org/...

          •  ...what I really need to know is how... (0+ / 0-)

            ...long would it take before a fusion reactor was a problem. The safe part about them is they won't explode and can't have a nuclear meltdown ala Fukishima. The amount of energy that can be created from the Deuterium found in a single glass of water equals the amount of energy in 16 glasses of gasoline.

            Isn't DT fusion definitely a step in the right direction in terms of getting energy and not spoiling the climate? Getting any energy will produce a pollution of some sort. Every single living thing creates pollution simply by living. Hell, we all off gas CO2 with every breath...

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            Ignorance is bliss only for the ignorant. The rest of us must suffer the consequences. -7.38; -3.44

            by paradise50 on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 11:25:24 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Fusion power is the energy source of the future! (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Magic Menk, ColoTim, caul, citizen dan

        And always will be.

        Republican threats amount to destroying the present if we don't allow them to destroy the future too. -MinistryOfTruth, 1/1/2013

        by sleipner on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 05:16:09 PM PST

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    •  It's a moving target (8+ / 0-)

      Back when I was in high school I went to the National Science Fair International after winning 1st place in my regional science fair. That year it was held in Albuquerque NM and we toured Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories.

      Sandia had a major fusion energy project going and we were given a fairly lengthy presentation during our visit. And, I distinctly remember them saying that "break even" was about 20 years away.

      That was nearly 50 years ago.

      My invisible imaginary friend is the "true" creator

      by Mr Robert on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 01:51:32 PM PST

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    •  The 1st magnetic torus dates to 1946 (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, FishOutofWater

      .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 03:27:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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