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A metallic case called a hohlraum holds the fuel capsule for NIF experiments. The hydrogen is frozen to a temperatures of 18 kelvins (-427 degrees Fahrenheit) so that a fusion reaction is more easily achieved. Photo by Eduard Dewald/LLNL
"A metallic case called a hohlraum holds the fuel capsule for NIF experiments. The hydrogen target is frozen to a temperature  of 18 kelvins (-427 degrees Fahrenheit) so that a fusion reaction is more easily achieved.
Photo by Eduard Dewald/LLNL
We are a big step closer to the impossible dream of producing useful energy from fusion of hydrogen to helium today. A massive array of laser beams at Lawrence Livermore Lab focused on a tiny target of frozen hydrogen compressed it and heated it to millions of degrees, generating fusion reactions that produced more energy than the focused laser beams deposited in the target. While this is far from the energy breakeven point for the whole system, because much energy is lost outside the target, it's a major step forward in understanding and controlling fusion power, the power of the sun. Fusion has been the carbon emissions free, virtually limitless green energy source, that has up to now never come close to breaking even. This is a major milestone in moving from science fiction towards possible development of fusion energy.

This experiment was about ten times more effective at producing self-heating by helium nuclei in the target than the previous best effort. The improvement was achieved by reducing the amount of energy in the first billionths of a second of the laser pulse so that instabilities wouldn't develop in the target causing it to break apart too soon. The results were in agreement with the numerical models of the experiment, giving the scientific and engineering team hope that they understand the processes well enough to step up to even higher energies in future experiments.

The enormous National Ignition Facility at Livermore is far larger than a practical power facility would be because it uses "vacuum tube technology" instead of modern solid state lasers. Livermore's chief scientist working on developing fusion power believes that solid state technology will greatly improve the efficiency of the laser system while greatly reducing its size. The huge vacuum technology system generates far too much waste heat to ever produce power practically. And it's very costly. Solid state systems are anticipated to produce far less waste heat, wasting far less energy, reducing the demands for cooling the laser system. Costs should come way down with solid state technology, so there's hope that this technology could eventually become cost effective at producing power.

The National Ignition Facility has the world's most powerful lasers.

NIF Laser Bay Seen from above, each of NIF's two identical laser bays has two clusters of 48 beamlines, one on either side of the utility spine running down the middle of the bay.
NIF Laser Bay
Seen from above, each of NIF's two identical laser bays has two clusters of 48 beamlines, one on either side of the utility spine running down the middle of the bay.
The energy of 192 laser beams is focused on a tiny target containing frozen hydrogen.
NIF Target A NIF target contains a polished capsule about two millimeters in diameter, filled with cryogenic (super-cooled) hydrogen fuel.
NIF Target
A NIF target contains a polished capsule about two millimeters in diameter, filled with cryogenic (super-cooled) hydrogen fuel.
Here's the first half of Livermore's press release on this story.
LIVERMORE, Calif. - Ignition -- the process of releasing fusion energy equal to or greater than the amount of energy used to confine the fuel -- has long been considered the "holy grail" of inertial confinement fusion science. A key step along the path to ignition is to have "fuel gains" greater than unity, where the energy generated through fusion reactions exceeds the amount of energy deposited into the fusion fuel.

Though ignition remains the ultimate goal, the milestone of achieving fuel gains greater than 1 has been reached for the first time ever on any facility. In a paper published in the Feb. 12 online issue of the journal Nature, scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) detail a series of experiments on the National Ignition Facility (NIF), which show an order of magnitude improvement in yield performance over past experiments.

"What's really exciting is that we are seeing a steadily increasing contribution to the yield coming from the boot-strapping process we call alpha-particle self-heating as we push the implosion a little harder each time," said lead author Omar Hurricane.

Boot-strapping results when alpha particles, helium nuclei produced in the deuterium-tritium (DT) fusion process, deposit their energy in the DT fuel, rather than escaping. The alpha particles further heat the fuel, increasing the rate of fusion reactions, thus producing more alpha particles. This feedback process is the mechanism that leads to ignition. As reported in Nature, the boot-strapping process has been demonstrated in a series of experiments in which the fusion yield has been systematically increased by more than a factor of 10 over previous approaches.

The experimental series was carefully designed to avoid breakup of the plastic shell that surrounds and confines the DT fuel as it is compressed. It was hypothesized that the breakup was the source of degraded fusion yields observed in previous experiments. By modifying the laser pulse used to compress the fuel, the instability that causes break-up was suppressed. The higher yields that were obtained affirmed the hypothesis, and demonstrated the onset of boot-strapping.

The experimental results have matched computer simulations much better than previous experiments, providing an important benchmark for the models used to predict the behavior of matter under conditions similar to those generated during a nuclear explosion, a primary goal for the NIF.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (199+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Publius2008, leftist vegetarian patriot, Moody Loner, antooo, MKinTN, this just in, Ashaman, profundo, johnel, political mutt, belinda ridgewood, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, a gilas girl, blueyedace2, buddabelly, oldcrow, Darwinian Detrius, blueoasis, bobinson, Mr Robert, Gethsemani Sam, Simul Iustus et Peccator, JJ In Illinois, weck, freerad, milkbone, jnhobbs, quill, Powered Grace, IndieGuy, GeorgeXVIII, eeff, Odysseus, GAS, mookins, RMForbes, bear83, FG, Skyye, blue aardvark, wu ming, radarlady, profh, Habitat Vic, Polly Syllabic, samanthab, TheMeansAreTheEnd, 1BQ, rapala, mungley, FarWestGirl, SeaTurtle, Timmethy, MarkInSanFran, Shockwave, Railfan, Lujane, wader, basquebob, lucid, maybeeso in michigan, hungrycoyote, Tinfoil Hat, Noodles, duhban, USHomeopath, gizmo59, magnetics, NYFM, WarrenS, willyr, rb137, HedwigKos, bythesea, TofG, Einsteinia, Orinoco, Alumbrados, elwior, mikeconwell, RiveroftheWest, Caittus, 2thanks, Josiah Bartlett, oceanview, CJB2012, lenzy1000, Eric Nelson, countwebb, Roger Fox, PeteZerria, Egalitare, Mage11an, Pakalolo, enhydra lutris, dRefractor, clinging to hope, Lencialoo, AoT, WhizKid331, Unit Zero, HeyMikey, envwq, bakeneko, oldpotsmuggler, Auburn Parks, mommyof3, mconvente, Ozymandius, unclejohn, eagleray, psnyder, shaggies2009, Gurnt, Stwriley, Ran3dy, eyesoars, pat bunny, notrouble, dewtx, Simplify, TheDuckManCometh, Mannie, WearyIdealist, Ignacio Magaloni, jcrit, Hammerhand, OldDragon, Kombema, AdamR510, JosephK74, tofumagoo, buckstop, jasan, KenBee, Jim R, chuckvw, NBBooks, blackjackal, JekyllnHyde, CalBearMom, DavidMS, tbirchard, LinSea, Paul Ferguson, Liberal Thinking, Tortmaster, stevenwag, LilithGardener, kerflooey, mkor7, Gottlieb, The Jester, DarthMeow504, ColoTim, pvasileff, Knucklehead, caul, CA ridebalanced, defluxion10, ericlewis0, doingbusinessas, awhitestl, RUNDOWN, dzog, mrkvica, Cofcos, EquityRoy, trivium, jayden, Ray Pensador, justme, DRo, Executive Odor, berko, myeye, sunny skies, sodalis, GDbot, BYw, bluesheep, spooks51, kharma, davehouck, citizen dan, LibrErica, concernedamerican, PeterHug, nanoboy, Jon Sitzman, GrannyRedBird, todamo13, ptressel, SphericalXS, davidincleveland, wilywascal, groupw, dconrad, helpImdrowning

    “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 12:48:43 PM PST

  •  I thought everyone gave up on fusion (18+ / 0-)

    long ago.  This was what they were teaching as the future of energy when I was young.

    "So listen, oh, Don't wait." Vampire Weekend.

    by Publius2008 on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 12:53:40 PM PST

  •  This is a big deal. (17+ / 0-)

    My limited understanding of the state of fusion research is that it's been an open question whether or not it was even feasible to get a fusion reaction that can sustain energy production.

    My understanding is that this answers that question, and the answer is "yes".

    Now it's just an engineering problem. And engineering problems get solved.

    This could get the fossil fuel boot off our necks. This is big.

    •  Solar is still my first hope (23+ / 0-)

      and wind my second, but this is big because it would be the end of fossil fuels for power generation if it could be engineered to be cost-effective.

      We desperately need to stop producing greenhouse gases.

      “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 01:06:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  well of course (8+ / 0-)

        so long as fossil fuels can externalize most of their costs and get fat subsidies, it doesn't really matter how cost effective other sources are.

        Still, this is a massive step forward.

      •  what radioactive wastes come out. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SeaTurtle, RiveroftheWest, caul

        if they hit tritium, it's got to be tossing neutrons
        and Alpha Particles.

        so say it's working, what do you get?

        •  Helium and water. (7+ / 0-)

          Hydrogen fusion is very clean; it doesn't release a bunch of neutrons like fission reactions do, so it won't generate wastes.  Done properly, you should only need some hydrogen and He3 to kick it off.

          The trick's containing the reaction, as well as getting it started.  We have some great uncontained hydrogen fusion bombs in our inventory.  Not so much a vessel that can hold what amounts to a miniature version of the Sun itself.

          •  thanks, AT, this is what I was wondering (0+ / 0-)

            any scenarios where this could blow up?  (I know nothing about this.)

            "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 03:08:09 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Hydrogen fusion is not exactly clean (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              SeaTurtle, RiveroftheWest, pat bunny, caul

              See my other comment.

              What we want to use is aneutronic fusion fuels like the Proton Boron11, helium or lithium fuels. These will yield the least radioactivity.

              Any fusion reaction using deuterium or tritium will produce a fast neutron and is therefore radioactive. Dr. Bussard's goal was to fuse boron-11 with protons; this is a fusion reaction which is aneutronic (does not produce neutrons).

              http://en.wikipedia.org/...

              .................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 03:48:58 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  tx (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                RiveroftheWest, Roger Fox

                "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 04:00:50 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  If neutrons are released, how hot is the reactor? (0+ / 0-)

                With fission reactors, one of the biggest sources of "nuclear waste" is the reactor itself.  Lots of materials made too hot to safely dispose of from being too close to lots of fission reactions.

                If we use a fusion process that does spit off neutrons, how hot is the reactor itself going to be after a decade or more of use?

                Quote of the week: "They call themselves bipartisan because they're able to buy members of both parties," (R. Eskow, Campaign for America's Future.)

                by mbayrob on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 11:44:16 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  Proton Boron 11. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            patbahn, RiveroftheWest

            I know of no one who is working on P-He3 fusion.

            Since Deuterium and Tritium are isotopes of hydrogen.....

            Lets just says that Deuterium fuel creates a neutron  for every 2 fusion reactions, so its very dirty.

            .................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 03:43:09 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  i figured it's cascading neutrons and Alpha Partic (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Roger Fox, RiveroftheWest

              the neutrons will light up a lot of stuff, and
              the alpha will interact with stuff.

              •  We want to use aneutronic fuels (0+ / 0-)

                like proton boron11 or Helium.

                Most other  (D-D, D-T, D-He3) fusion fuels create problems that we dont currently have answers for, like in materials research.

                Proton Boron 11 fuel has no such limitations, we just have to see if we can make it work and be cheap & practical.

                .................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 04:42:15 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  Indeed, along with turning our waste products into (4+ / 0-)

        biofuels and electricity too. We need to process our sewage, garbage and agricultural wastes anyway, we might as well use it to produce energy as well. We can be producing all the sustainable green energy we need locally if we can get the oil cartels off our backs.

        Really don't mind if you sit this one out. My words but a whisper -- your deafness a SHOUT. I may make you feel but I can't make you think..Jethro Tull

        by RMForbes on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 02:27:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Raise your eyes and hope (4+ / 0-)

        With the ability to generate enormous power in a small place, you can start pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere and separating out the O2.

        And if you like, make diamonds from the C.

        Purity is for primaries; in the general, our worst are better than their best.

        by blue aardvark on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 02:32:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  are you serious, ba?can we reclaim the atomosphere (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest

          to any significant extent?  Poor Oz should invest in this and try to close up that awful hole in their atmosphere.

          "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 03:09:45 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  We Could Already Do This (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest, mkor7, jes2

          We could already float huge solar platforms out in ocean dead zones, adorned with wave and wind generators. They could all put millions of square miles of sunlight to work cracking seawater and CO2.

          We as a civilization merely lack the priorities. Petrofuel overlords will do that to a species.

          "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

          by DocGonzo on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 03:22:00 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You'd kill thousands of birds that way. (0+ / 0-)

            http://callatimeout.blogspot.com/

            by DAISHI on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 10:21:44 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Low Density Solar (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              FishOutofWater

              No, the intensity would have to be only a few multiples of natural solar, but always on, to be worth doing. But not harmful to birds. Far out to sea there aren't many birds. Over scattered football field areas the energy collected would be high, the birds risk low.

              Meanwhile dropping the traditional energy infrastructure would also save a lot of bird lives, and many others.

              "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

              by DocGonzo on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 05:09:38 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  Wind may be doing better than you think (5+ / 0-)

        Google bought Makani Power, and is now developing their technology - http://www.makanipower.com/...

        Conventional wind works in around 15% of the country. Makani's wing will work in about 70% of the country and will sell electrical power at $0.03/kwh in their first commercial incarnation, mostly due to awesome capacity factors.

        •  kewl, e17.... question: once energy is generated (3+ / 0-)

          by wind, can it be stored?  Or is it just passed along the grid?

          Obviously I don't know anything here.

          "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 03:10:53 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, with Pumped hydro storage (4+ / 0-)

            they do this is Spain.
            http://newenergynews.blogspot.com/...

            An abandoned mine is NJ is the site planned for a closed loop pumped hydro storage plant, @ 2000 Mw. Currently the US has a little over 25 Gw of pumped hydro, problem is its powered by coal, so just switch them over to wind.......

            .................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 03:56:37 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  thanks again, Roger for answering my questions (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Roger Fox, RiveroftheWest

              appreciate it.

              "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 04:02:11 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Storage is a big issue (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RiveroftheWest

            Wind is stronger at night, when power demand is low. Battery technology remains primitive. There are some promising grid-scale projects, but nothing is commercial yet.

            •  huh... Spain has 900mw units (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              newpioneer

              http://newenergynews.blogspot.com/...

              And the US currently has 25 Gigawatts of pumped hydro storage............

              How is that not commercial scale? WTF?

              .................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 04:35:51 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Large Numbers, Baby! (0+ / 0-)

                25 gigawatts sounds like a lot. But the U.S. generates round about 4 Terawatts a year, which makes thsat pumped storage 0.6% of the total. It's about 1/11th of what we get from hydro, and about 1/6th of what we get from wind.

                I'd have to look further, but I think pumped storage is quite expensive and inefficient. You lose power pumping the water into the reservoirs, and there are losses reconverting it to electrons. If you want to do the knock-down, drag-out on this, I'll go get the numbers. I think I can find them reasonably quickly.

                Look, I'm a long-time proponent of wind turbines, but they do have two or three big issues. The bottom line is that there's no one magic bullet, and we've lot a lot of problems to solve before renewables (by which I mean wind and solar) can be truly major factors.

                •  US daily demand is what? 500 gigs... (0+ / 0-)

                  Who cares whats generated in a year.

                  And if you want to stick to annual figures, that 25 gigs, multiply it it by 365 days.

                  Since the LCOE for new wind starts at 3.3 cents per Kw.... that pumped hydro storage can easily be 9 cents and still compete with nuclear and solar, as well as new coal and some new nat gas which can be as high as 9 cents.

                  The fact of the matter is that our 25 gigs of pumped hydro is powered by coal, and new wind is cheaper than new coal.

                  I seriously doubt you'll find anyone claiming a LCOE for new hydro at more than 9 cents per KW.

                  BTW the study you might want is 2011 NREL paper.

                  .................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 05:36:21 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Time for Citations (0+ / 0-)

                    Unless I've missed something, you've claimed that stored hydro is responsible for 25 GWh of generation per day, which would be 9.125 TWh per year. That's more than twice the total U.S. electrical generation in a year.

                    So please either clarify your post or provide a link. Thanks. I'm all about the numbers. If I've gotten something wrong, I'll back down in a nanosecond, figuratively speaking of course.

                    •  IF you were familiar with the subject (0+ / 0-)

                      you wouldnt ask.

                      You said there are no commercial storage plants.

                      Called to the mat and now you want citations, how about you provide one....... single citation.... that there are no commercial scale storage plants in the US or the world.......

                      .................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 05:49:30 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Something in the linked article (0+ / 0-)

                        I saw the following statement:

                        "A recent study from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that by 2017 the U.S. grid will be ready to utilize enough wind power to generate 30% of its electricity, along with enough solar energy to meet another 5% of the demand on it – WITHOUT any storage."

                        A couple things.

                        1. Wind is now at 4% of the total, having grown 20% year over year, i.e. from 3.4%. No way will we be at 30% by 2017. Law of large numbers. Ain't gonna happen, period.

                        2. No storage needed? That's news to anyone in the Pacific Northwest where I live, because both the dams and the wind turbines on the Columbia River routinely throttle back in the winter because the grid can't handle the power. Call me a big skeptic on the NREL claim. Upgrading the grid is a very expensive and very time-consuming deal.

                        •  National Academy of Science (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          FishOutofWater

                          Says we can integrate 20% from solar and wind without gridwork. Thats one.

                          2)NREL & NAS agree that some gridwork gets us to 30-35%.

                          3) Electrical demand drops in winter.

                          4) Theres a million volt HVDC line to LA.
                          http://www.forbes.com/...

                          Do you remember saying how there no commercial storage systems....... ?

                          Are you ready to walk that claim back? OR do you wish to continue down that sluice way?

                          .................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 Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 03:17:22 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                    •  Okay, some numbers (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      chopper

                      But first off, I didn't write that there's no utility scale pumped hydro. I wrote that there's no utility scale battery storage.

                      You replied that there's 25 GWh of pumped storage. I replied that this would be 0.6% of the U.S. of 4 TWh of electricity generation.

                      You replied that it's actually 25 GWh per day of pumped hydro storage. That's when I asked for links, pointing out that your claim would amount to more than twice the entire annual U.S. electricity generation.

                      -----

                      Here is a link to a pdf of U.S. electricity generation. You will see that the total is roughly 4 TWh a year. Pumped hydroelectric storage is about 4 MWh, or 0.1% of the total. It has actually declined quite a bit in the U.S., for reasons unfamiliar to me.

                      Here's a more detailed table for pumped hydro. The numbers don't quite match, I think because the detail table includes industrial self-generation (probably because of oil refineries that generate from feedstocks for internal use, but I could be wrong).

                      What's interesting to me is that, in both tables, they are negative numbers. I wonder if this might be because hydroelectric dams send some water back up at times? I don't know, but the note in the detailed table says: "Negative generation denotes that electric power consumed for plant use exceeds gross generation."

                      In any case, a couple of links to a couple of wind farms in Spain doesn't support your claim of 25 GWh a day of pumped hydro storage. Given that the world annual electricity generation is somewhere between 20 TWh and 25 TWh, it would be a little odd if your claim that 9.175 TWh a year comes from pumped storage is true.

                      A further thought on the negative numbers. It occurs to me that, as a theoretical example, a wind farm produced, say 1 GWh a year, but used, say 250 MWh to pump water into a reservoir, and then generated, say 200 MWh at a different time, the net score would be a negative 50 MWh for that pumped storage.

                      This goes back to an earlier statement I made about pumped hydro representing a dimunition of the output of whatever process made the power to begin with. I don't know how much loss is involved in pumped storage. Do you?

                    •  To add something (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      chopper

                      It's very easy to get confused about the numbers. I know I've struggled with them. It was my purchase of an electric car 16 months ago that renewed my interest in these details, and I've struggled with all the data and terminology.

                      One thing I've realized is how poor the reporting is. We'll see this or that project stated in "megawatts," when it ought to be "megawatt hours" and should give a time frame. These are not little glitches, they're big ones, at least when you actually try to use the information.

                      The Spanish project you cited is a great example. They tell us about the wind farms and the pumped storage, but there's no useful data about how much power output there really is, and how much loss is involved in the storage.

                      Don't get me wrong. I'm 1,000% in favor of finding ways to store electricity. But if the solid numbers aren't there, it's very, very easy to slide into magical thinking.

            •  Nothing is commercial yet? (0+ / 0-)

              I gave you a citation for 2 pumped hydro plants powered by wind in Spain.

              .................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 06:41:16 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  "can it be stored?" (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            SeaTurtle

            I happen to be making a documentary about the most disruptive storage technology on the horizon - http://www.youtube.com/...

            I'm prepping for a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money to finish my film. I promise you'll hear about on da Kos.

            •  thanks for link, why 'disruptive'? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              engine17

              "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 Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 06:39:03 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  Solar Is Fusion (4+ / 0-)

        Solar is fusion; the reactor is the Sun 95 million miles away.

        I want a fusion reactor on the far side of the Moon, where there's plenty of fuel, no ecosystem to damage, and a whole solar system to power for exploration and colonization. Beaming down power to big "solar" collectors out at sea, the beams only 5-10x as strong as natural sunlight but always on despite weather etc.

        And lots of low-density (conventional) solar collectors distributed around the grid, for decentralization and cheap mass operation.

        "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

        by DocGonzo on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 03:07:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Not really sure that's true. (12+ / 0-)

      The lab director conceded to a reporter that the amount of energy released by the fusion reaction was on the order of 1% of the energy pumped into the system.

      Even allowing for the potential gains of a more modern solid state laser array, that's a loooooooong way from actual break-even.

      And you need much, much more than break-even efficiency before you can even begin to think about a practical power plant.

      Given the fact that solar is already nearing or at cost parity with fossil fuel (which ignores the gruesome reality of CO2 costs that come with fossil fuels!) and that wind power is also more or less cost competitive, sinking billions more into fusion research seems like a snark hunt.

      •  it's a fusion output to laser input (3+ / 0-)

        breakeven but that's a first.

      •  Target Not Absorbing Energy (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest, pat bunny, caul

        What's happening in this experiment is that the target is absorbing only about 1% of the laser energy input. However, that's enough for the target to start to fuse, which outputs more energy than what was absorbed. That surplus is further absorbed by the target, which continues to drive further fusion ("bootstrapping").

        So what's necessary is to learn how to get the target to absorb more of the laser energy put onto it. Solving that problem is most of what's left to do for a fully viable fusion plant. Then what remains is how to feed targets to the ongoing fusion reactor. Once done the reactor can scale down to a tiny percentage of the experimental size.

        Spending $billions more on that is a high priority. For the same $50 billion invested in solar or wind we'd get perhaps a few dozen gigawatts more, at just over $1:W. That's a lot - we could retire dozens of nuke and coal plants. But getting a fusion technology for that money would give us the something like $0.01:W. So a few dozen GW could cost a few hundred $million more. The entire 17 terawatts humans now consume could cost something like $170B to deploy as fusion generators. That's far less than the Iraq War cost the US.

        Fusion is a big upfront investment, but with a really huge payoff. Of course, we should meanwhile invest even more in wind and solar too. As a country, as a world, we've got a lot more than $50B available for this. The costs of not doing it is $EVERYTHING.

        "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

        by DocGonzo on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 03:33:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  There is absolutely no certainty of this. (0+ / 0-)

          Many tens of billions of dollars have already been sunk into fusion over the last 50 years, with basically nothing to show for it beyond an increasingly frustrating series of technical roadblocks. Call me skeptical, but every time a problem is finally overcome, there's another intractable issue ten feet further down the road. And another, and another.....

          Fusion fans have been saying "all we need is (X) billion dollars and five more years, and we're there". For about fifty years now.

          We are nowhere near the point of ramping up to develop an actual working power plant. Too many of the nuts 'n bolts details remain to be worked out. Some of the problems may turn out to be insoluble. It's like Lockheed-Martin launching into production of the F-35, when the flight control software is still full of bugs and the lift fan transmission still tends to explode.

          •  No (0+ / 0-)

            No, fusion "fans" have been saying fusion is 50 years away for 50 years. Nobody's put a pricetag on its final arrival, and nobody's said anything like 5 years.

            Of course there's always been more problems to solve revealed by solving the last one. This is science. But the problems grow more specific and understandable with every milestone reached, not harder.

            You are clearly not an expert, or even decently informed, about fusion research. Yours is not "skepticism", it's simply "doubt". Good think it doesn't get in the way of this vital research that is indeed closing in on one of the most important achievements within humanity's reach.

            "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

            by DocGonzo on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 05:13:10 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  If we were to put $50 billion into energy, (0+ / 0-)

              would it make more sense today to put it into solar or wind power, which are already economically viable and working propositions, or ito Fusion, with no certainty it will ever be feasible?

              Okay, in a sane world we would do both. But with the ongoing Republican war on science, that's not necessarily an option.

              •  Energy Investments (0+ / 0-)

                Once fusion is industrialized new plants will generate energy at something like $0.01:W. Solar and wind will probably not get below $0.10:W. So after the science investment the next $200B could build 20 terawatts of fusion or 2 terawatts of solar/wind. The world already consumes over 17 TW.

                Fusion could also work in nanoscale materials, putting century-long batteries into devices cheap enough to install everywhere, making an immersive "wifi" network of sensors and computation.

                Plus the other science dividends.

                We should keep up the intensity while reallocating when we have real insights into the payoffs. We have a lot of lost time to make up in slowing or reversing the Greenhouse, to say nothing of the other costs of delay.

                We are doing both now. Nothing is safe with Republicans near the levers of power, but we should at least continue what we're doing. Democrats at least should lead on these defining 21st Century efforts.

                "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

                by DocGonzo on Fri Feb 14, 2014 at 07:15:03 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  This research is funded by defense money (0+ / 0-)

                Models of nuclear fusion in nuclear weapons can be improved as a result of this research. The improved models give the engineers confidence that our nuclear weapons will work as intended so further weapons testing won't be required.

                So... this isn't being studied with money that would have ever gone to renewable energy.

                “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 07:40:19 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  500 MJ of electricity went into the lasers (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest, FishOutofWater, caul

        but they are old lasers, not efficient.

        But Seriously, JT-60 exceeded break even in 1998. The USSR showed Proton Boron11 fusion in 1958.

        .................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 03:59:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  uh..not really. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roger Fox, caul, jobobo

      The article states that while they DID succeed in getting the lasers to confine the hydrogen target in position long enough to sustain a nanosecond-long fusion of the D-T fuel, the goal of self-sustaining fusion is (as always with fusion) "decades away."

      They were NOT able to attain fusion in any meaningful way.

      In other words, the amount of energy of energy released in this "fusion event" was less than the TOTAL energy in the system. The fusion which took place here only momentarily exceeded the energy of the lasers compressing and heating the target.

      Think lightning bolt only  a million times faster.

      "Wealthy the Spirit which knows its own flight. Stealthy the Hunter who slays his own fright. Blessed is the Traveler who journeys the length of the Light."

      by CanisMaximus on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 02:29:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bootstrapping (3+ / 0-)

        They certainly did attain meaningful fusion. They went further than that: they attained fusion with output greater than what was accepted as input to the fuel.

        Yes, they still have the problem that the fuel didn't accept more than about 1% of the energy output to it by the lasers. The whole system didn't produce overunity. But the fusion reaction did.

        And they went beyond that: the overunity in the fuel drove even more fusion. That's the "bootstrapping" that is the greatest success of this experiment - and its actual unprecedented (proven) milestone.

        There are lots of problems remaining before the remaining science gives way to engineering that harnesses a working process. Primary is getting the fuel to accept more than the 1% it accepted in this experiment. Probably increasing the bootstrapping to a greater percentage than merely "some". Also delivering more fuel to maintain the reaction as the fuel is consumed.

        But this is meaningful fusion, and a major milestone. Even though the "breakeven" breakthrough is only technically true in a self-selected sense, the bootstrapping is real.

        "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

        by DocGonzo on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 03:42:30 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  JT-60 exceeded break even in 1998 (0+ / 0-)

      NIF doing it 15 years later is like..... so what....

      .................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 03:35:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  JT-60 exceeded break even in 1998 (0+ / 0-)

      So its not big.

      .................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 04:44:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Is There a Reason the Pellet Must Be So Small? nt (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueyedace2, whenwego, RiveroftheWest

    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 01:03:53 PM PST

  •  Interesting news, but... (10+ / 0-)

    While this is an interesting development and further research should be funded, practical fusion energy is a very long ways off, if it is even possible at all.

    We cannot let this be used as an excuse to stymie development of decentralized renewable power generation.

  •  The lasers are cool but I like the capacitors (7+ / 0-)

    The facility is a huge array of lasers. That's cool enough but feeding all of those lasers is a giant warehouse full of brick sized capacitors. Each capacitor does not hold much energy if you compare it size-wize to a battery. The capacitor's claim to fame is that it can discharge all of it's energy in a tiny fraction of a second. This is good because the experiment lasts much less than one second.


    Every time my iPhone battery gets down to 47%, I think of Mitt Romney.

    by bobinson on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 01:41:20 PM PST

  •  Thank you for your Diary Too! (3+ / 0-)

    Full Circle - Your contributions provide the fansastic video and scientific detail.  I'm a policy wonk/scientist hybrid so it was really nice to read yours as well!

    "Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media." -Noam Chomsky

    by Gethsemani Sam on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 01:43:33 PM PST

  •  If you want to speed up funding (6+ / 0-)

    of this research, which even if it dead ends, will provide useful information for energy developement, start a rumor that the Chinese or Russians are getting 'close' to doing it, that ought to get the rethugs excited. Actually, the Russians were working on it, working on a tokomak system.

    May you live in interesting times--Chinese curse

    by oldcrow on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 01:49:59 PM PST

    •  China & Iran are looking at IEC (polywell) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      caul

      and probably Russia.

      But what you say is what Dr's Bussard and Hirsch did in 1969 after the Russiain Tokamak successes. Of course 25 years later they both thought toridial fusion was a dead end.

      .................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 04:07:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fordmandalay had a great question on my diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FishOutofWater

    Can you answer it better than I did FishoutofWater?

    "Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media." -Noam Chomsky

    by Gethsemani Sam on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 01:50:48 PM PST

    •  I gave it my best. n/t. (0+ / 0-)

      “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 05:02:52 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What's a vacuum tube? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FishOutofWater

    heh.

    "There is just one way to save yourself, and that's to get together and work and fight for everybody." ---Woody Guthrie (quoted by Jim Hightower in The Progressive Populist April 1, 2012, p3)

    by CitizenJoe on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 01:50:58 PM PST

  •  We can ALREADY get energy from fusion. The sun is (10+ / 0-)

    a fusion reactor 93 million miles from the earth. It has a 5 billion year fuel supply. The reactor is maintenance-free.

    The energy is free. All we have to do is collect it.

  •  they'll need to work out how to refuel quickly (4+ / 0-)

    The biggest problem with laser fusion is that it's what's called a "batch process": you load the reactor with the hydrogen in its little package, zap it, extract the heat energy and waste helium, then you have to load a new charge of hydrogen and apparently also its package which gets destroyed.  The challenge is going to be to quickly and efficiently refuel the reactor after each zap so that it can produce power semi-continuously.  Same with recharging the lasers.  

    The big gas-filled magnetic donut has the advantage that it's a continuous process: fresh hydrogen can be continually added and waste helium and heat continually drawn off.

    Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

    by Visceral on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 02:03:54 PM PST

    •  Discussed in hour long video here. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      Yes, that's an issue that will be dealt with, in part, by improving the efficiency of the laser system. The present system takes a long time to cool and will never be practical. There's far too much waste heat in the laser system.

      Blowing up incredibly expensive gold capsules does seem a bit impractical, doesn't it? However, that's an engineering problem that can probably be solved. It's not a physical limitation.

      “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 02:37:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Expensive Gold (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest, FishOutofWater

        Well, the gold in the capsules can come from only a few thousand bucks of jewelry. And be converted to millions of bucks worth of energy (at current prices). That sounds more profitable than transmuting lead to gold.

        Besides, as you imply, more science and engineering can probably replace the gold with something else, like plastic or a cheap metal. With $1 megawatt hours to burn, we'd have enough aluminum smelted to build a bridge to the Moon.

        Also, the bootstrap milestone achieved in this experiment leaves the weakest link as the 1% absorption of laser input by the target. If data from the setup gets progress there, the laser waste heat would drop closer to 1% of current per fusion energy output.

        Down the road is the possibility of nanoscale fusion reactor materials generating mere kilowatts for personal use.

        "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

        by DocGonzo on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 03:53:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Dueterium fusion is dirty. (0+ / 0-)

          Every other DD fusion event creates a neutron, which weakens and makes materials brittle in a few years.

          So DD fusion is a fail.

          DT fusion too.

          .................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 04:10:13 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Getting to this point is long overdue and GREAT (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tim DeLaney, caul

    But I am not as excited by this as some are. As is pointed out, this is still WAY below what is needed for anything useful.  We are taking so many orders of magnitude that it seems unlikely that we are going to see anything from this in any of our lifetimes.  We owe it to future generations to keep trying and learning but we should continue to assume that this is not going to produce any useful primary energy for any of us.

    We must, however, dramatically reduce the amount of carbon that we are putting into the atmosphere, and we need to do it NOW!  Carbon is very nicely sequestered where it is - in the ground as coal and crude oil.  Leave it there, and learn to use other things as our primary energy sources.  Wind - yes, solar - hell yes, and fission nuclear - logically yes!

    Ted Cruz: The second coming of Christ, but not Reagan (yet).

    by nuketeacher on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 02:11:36 PM PST

    •  Actually, (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      whenwego, DocGonzo, RiveroftheWest, catwho

      the researchers believe they only need to double the pressures to get to the point where it's viable for actual energy production.

      (that isn't necessarily the point where it becomes economical, just where they can consistently produce a net positive energy output.)

      This really is a substantial step forward.

      "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

      by nosleep4u on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 02:32:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  They have no clue how to achieve steady state (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        caul

        fusion.

        .................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 03:13:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  This was never meant to be a production system (4+ / 0-)

        I visited LLNL several years ago and got the tour of the place.  The docent explained that they built this as a proof of concept, because private industry didn't want to do it.  They've poured billions into it, in the hopes that it would work well enough to inspire private industry to take their concepts, improve them, and commercialize them.

        As they've developed the technology from scratch, they've already identified hundreds of places they can optimize it and scale it down, which will dramatically cheapen the next generation versions.

        Whether or not that will be cheap enough to lure big energy companies in, I can't tell you.

        The Cake is a lie. In Pie there is Truth. ~ Fordmandalay

        by catwho on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 05:19:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Fission Nuclear No (5+ / 0-)

      We've given fission nuclear several generations, and it's blowing up in our faces even as its waste stacks up around our ears. The nuclear power industry demonstrates time and again it cannot be trusted with the responsibility it holds. Fukushima itself is far from over, and possibly its worst is still ahead.

      "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

      by DocGonzo on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 03:55:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A few tech comments (5+ / 0-)

    on the "external" power usage.

    1. Yes, these external energy costs are substantial.

    but,

    2. The lab systems ramp up, perform a single shot, then shut down. This power-up sequence takes a lot of power. In a theoretical production system, the ramp-up costs would be spread across many many firings.

    2a. Keeping things powered up is also a cost, but I've never seen any numbers on this vs the ramp-up costs.

    3. The lasers in the test facility are not efficient energy-wise. These lasers are designed to do many different jobs for many different experiments. A real production design would use specially-designed lasers and get much higher efficiency.

    External power costs are an issue, but they are much lower than the external numbers at the test labs.

    "What could BPossibly go wrong??" -RLMiller "God is just pretend." - eru

    by nosleep4u on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 02:12:37 PM PST

  •  How is the energy to be harnessed exactly? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Fox, RiveroftheWest

    Let's say they get viably past the break-even point...how does that get turned into something useful?

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 02:21:50 PM PST

    •  Alphas can be converted to DC electricity. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      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 03:05:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Does the technology exist... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roger Fox, RiveroftheWest

        ...to do that with the intensity of energy that this thingamajig would produce at the hoped-for level?

        It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

        by Rich in PA on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 03:57:18 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The neutrons make it moot (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          catwho, Rich in PA

          These sorts of fuels require shielding and a thermal plant to convert the neutrons into boiling water, steam, spinning turbines.....etc.

          Proton Boron11 fuel doesnt require as much shielding and 99% of its energy is released as Alphas, no neutrons.

          Short version, A Polywell fusion reactor using Proton-Boron 11 fuel would use electrostatic grids to convert alphas to electricity. So yes the technology exists, albeit esoteric.

          But the device in the dairy will never amount to clean practical fusion power. Fusion fuels are not made equal, there are more than a dozen fuel combos, we want to use aneutronic fusion fuels. They are vastly cleaner.

          .................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 04:21:07 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Steam (0+ / 0-)

      The fusion reaction immediately generates lots of heat at 100% efficiency, with little mechanical innovation necessary to do so. Heating water to steam likewise, at near 100%. Steam turns turbines on electrical dynamos at over 98% efficiency.

      This is how most fission reactors are harnessed for usable energy. We have lots of infrastructure for this efficient, well understood and basically safe means of transducing fusion energy to electricity.

      From there we could crack water to hydrogen fuels (or alcohols, or gasoine). Or even crack CO2 and water into fuels. Fusion is so potent and potentially clean that we don't have to keep the steps highly efficient for it to be well worth it.

      "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

      by DocGonzo on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 04:00:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Can I haz Mr. Fusion? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SeaTurtle, Roger Fox

  •  Laser fusion weapons tie in (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    whenwego, Roger Fox, Magic Menk

    I did a paper on fusion by in college long ago back in the 70s, comparing laser fusion to the tokamak ("magnetic bottle") technology. While magnetic confinement was more promising to reach breakeven (key of course if the goal is energy production), laser fusion was getting all the money because the military didn't care about breakeven but that the radiation profile from the mini-explosions mimicked that of an H-bomb, allowing testing of radiation-hardened systems. So it was basically weapons research.

    Also, as far as the prospects for fusion power being clean, there were some analyses at the time that the neutrons produced in the reactions would eventually cause the reactor components to become radioactive, leading to a significant disposal problem.

  •  Far From Breakeven, But Bootstrapping (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, Tortmaster

    No, the breakeven point (or net energy surplus) was not reached in this experiment. Yes, more energy was released from the fusion than was consumed by the fusing material, which is an important milestone. However, that milestone has already been reached - it's almost always reached whenever fusion occurs, due to the energy mechanics of fusion.

    This experiment sent laser energy at the target more than 100x than what was consumed by the target. The surplus of what was generated over what was consumed was a tiny percentage greater. So overall this experiment was close to 99% of energy lost. And that's not even counting the energy input to the lasers before they output laser energy, which are much less than 100% efficient (usually under 25%). We have to learn how to deliver more laser energy into the fusion reaction, which also means the lasers could scale down by 100x. Or better yet, perpetuate the fusion from its own surplus energy rather than from outside lasers: bootstrapping.

    However, the demonstrated bootstrapping is the extremely important milestone now behind us. The consumption by the material of not just external laser energy, but also energy generated by the fusion - that contributed to more fusion - was a tremendous milestone. It's the equivalent of finally reaching a "chain reaction" in nuclear fission, which is what makes traditional nuclear power effective for industrial power (and weapons).

    Overall it means that we have nuclear fusion now potentially capable of running indefinitely, if we can keep feeding it fusable material. We now have to learn how to take the system off "life support", and remove the igniting lasers while the fusion continues on its own generated surplus power.

    Really this is exciting. The remaining way to viable fusion power is still long, with breathroughs required and unknowns still lurking in our remaining ignorance. But this experment didn't just prove bootstrapping and overunity within the target to drive it. It also produced a wealth of data of what happens inside a working system that achieves those successful operations. Which, along with the rapid progress overall in related science and engineering means that we might soon start to accurately predict the remaining steps necessary to deploy fusion among our grids.

    Hooray!

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 03:03:27 PM PST

    •  Can't break even? Redefine "break even" (0+ / 0-)

      "While this is far from the energy breakeven point for the whole system, because much energy is lost outside the target ..."

      Yeah, those darned laws of Thermodynamics:

      1. You can't win.
      2. You can't break even.
      3. You can't quit.

      (Ginsberg's Theorem, for those who want a specific name for this re-stating.)

  •  This may still be (0+ / 0-)

    This may still be a good time to invest in large chunks of flint and work on your flint knapping skills.

    How many exotic materials (such as unobtainable Chinese rare earth minerals) are required to make this go?  What about to make the rest of the supply chain go to make this go?  How well will this work when petroleum availability falls off, like it will as all the world's oil wells go into decline?  Petroleum is virtually irreplaceable as a transport fuel.  Want to run on electric railroads instead? How will you be refining all that new steel?  From what ore?  

    We're going cold and dark.  It's time to get used to the idea of that future.

  •  This breakthrough reminds me of Fermi in 1942 (4+ / 0-)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/...

    Chicago Pile-1 (CP-1) was the world's first nuclear reactor.[4][5] The construction of CP-1 was part of the Manhattan Project, and was carried out by the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago. It was built under the west stands of the original Stagg Field. The first man-made self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was initiated in CP-1 on 2 December 1942, under the supervision of Enrico Fermi. Fermi described the apparatus as "a crude pile of black bricks and wooden timbers."
    But that was dirty energy.  Laser fusion is clean.

    OTOH, unless we prevent global warming, it's too late to make a difference.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 03:13:10 PM PST

  •  FOW how many megajoules of electricity went into (0+ / 0-)

    the lasers?

    .................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 03:18:25 PM PST

  •  Omar Hurricane? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, DarthMeow504

    That can't possibly be his real name, can it?

    While I'm glad that they've made a bit of progress here, the practical use and control of this process is still a long way off.  Still, it's clear they're made significant progress here.  I just doubt that there will be fusion reactors providing electrical power to the grid during my lifetime.

    -5.13,-5.64; GOP thinking: A 13 year path to citizenship is too easy, and a 5 minute background check is too burdensome. -- 1audreyrenee

    by gizmo59 on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 03:38:18 PM PST

  •  They Haven't Solved the Containment Issue (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, Roger Fox

    A long time ago (2003 to be exact) I ran into a guy on an ocean liner who turned out to be a professional nuclear engineer who worked on the leading-edge progjects in Europe. Really knew his stuff. So we talked a lot about reactors and safety, etc., and eventually got around to fusion.

    I don't remember the precise numbers, but he told me that the chain reaction itself isn't the hard part with fusion. The hard part, he said, was containment. He said you could build a fusion reactor, but that you'd need something like 30-foot thick steel walls, and those walls would last maybe six months, and they'd be too radioactive to even clean up because no machinery would be able to approach them.

    This announcement is very small scale, and only about the reaction itself and not containing it. Every so often, I'll see a fusion breakthrough story and think of that conversation. The guy told me that he was quite pessimistic on the containment issue. Didn't think it'd be solved for hundreds of years, if ever.

    •  Basically correct with DD or DT fuels (3+ / 0-)

      We want to use aneutronic fusion fuels like proton born 11 or helium.

      .................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 04:25:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Steel is a poor material for neutron containment (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roger Fox

      Low Z atoms are most effective so water works well. Concrete is used at the NIF, not steel.

      Roger's suggestion to use sources that produce low numbers of neutrons seems reasonable.

      “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 04:58:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It Was A Long-Ago Conversation (0+ / 0-)

        My underlying issue with fusion is that containment has always been the real killer issue, and I haven't seen anything indicating that anyone's solved it. Having read more press releases than I care to admit, I'll wait until someone builds a real one before I believe it.

        Which is the say: Surprise me! Honest, I'd love to be wrong, wrong, wrong!

  •  Very cool, but (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kovie, matador

    fusion's been 20 years away for as long as I can remember, which is a lot longer than 20 years.

    Or as someone said "Fusion is the power of the future, and always will be".

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 06:58:13 PM PST

  •  This will NEVER work. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Magic Menk

    Sorry to be a wet blanket, but please see Ozy's comment here. These guys are 25,000 times short of their goal, and there is no practical way that difference can be made up.

    And their unilateral redifinition of "breakeven" has other physicists snickering. It is a rather transparent ploy to attract more funding for a project which frankly doesn't deserve it.

    We are all in the same boat on a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty. -- G.K. Chesterton

    by Keith Pickering on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 07:50:50 PM PST

  •  Should we all chip in for some laser LEDs? (0+ / 0-)

    Also, can it core a apple, oh physicist of the future? Zip Zip!

    photo ChefoftheFuture_zpsa9955833.jpg

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 09:15:44 PM PST

  •  Trillions on shooting depleted uranium at people (0+ / 0-)

    Or this?

    Unfortunately, "no-brainer" should be the answer, not the medical description of the people deciding.

  •  Watch how fast this goes away when Big Oil (0+ / 0-)

    and the oligarchs recognize the threat it poses to their power. This is great news.

    “He talks a lot and he's not very bright. And that's a combination I like in Republicans.” James Carville

    by Mokislab on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 10:20:10 PM PST

  •  I remember when I worked around (0+ / 0-)

    Princeton they were doing the last experiments with the tokamak that was to be shut down.  The student(?) crew the last night of operation, cranked it to max magnetic field flux.  They did achieve fusion to the point of more than they got out of it, but burned the circuitry out.  That is why the next one in Japan is larger and has better circuitry.

    "Death is the winner in any war." - Nightwish/Imaginareum/Song of myself.

    by doingbusinessas on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 10:29:07 PM PST

  •  I'm surprised (0+ / 0-)

    That Joieau isn't on here protesting this technological advance.  There is "nuclear" in the title, after all.  :)

    Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices. - Voltaire

    by rickrocket on Thu Feb 13, 2014 at 10:46:30 PM PST

  •  I don't see how you scale this up (0+ / 0-)

    We are talking about very miniscule spheres and scientific readings of the heat energy created. I see no way to scale this up to significant amounts of power. I also wonder if the computations include the energy involved in creating the spheres in the first place.

    Wind and solar seem so much more usable and feasible. There are still major efficiencies to be realized.

  •  proliferation via fusion (0+ / 0-)

    Fusion technology sounds amazingly promising but take a real look at what it would mean. According to Lovins the high neutron flux from a fusion reactor would invite placement of a blanket of uranium around the reaction, where plutonium would be created. The temptation to do this and use the Pu in a nuclear weapon would be overwhelming and if fusion reactors were built around the world, n-weapons proliferation would become rampant. So let's skip fusion and proceed directly to a future based on solar energy and increasingly efficient machinery.

    •  We already have more than enough bomb Pu (0+ / 0-)

      I don't think Iran is going to invent a fusion reactor to build a Pu bomb.

      “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 Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 02:13:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fusion Power (0+ / 0-)

    Ah, but if we gain fusion power, inertial or magnetic confinement, or even build more nuclear power plants, it will anger the fossil fuel faction of our corporate overlords.

    Seriously, in 1980, Congress passed the McCormack Fusion Energy bill, mandating an Apollo scale approach to developing fusion power by heavily financing all approaches. Studies done prior to the legislation determined that we could have a functioning commercial plant by 2000, if we used the Apollo method of funding.

    They then proceeded to effectively cut funding to the present time. The space program suffers the same fate. Indeed, most scientific research has been progressively (and I don't mean Progressive, as in FDR)  underfunded, except for those areas that can turn a quick, massive profit, or extend the military and surveillance power of the global corporatist empire.

    And Obama, obeying his corporate masters, continues the assault on our future.

    Idiotic pipelines, yes, cheap, abundant energy, no.

  •  Fusion Power is A Fantasy (0+ / 0-)

    A few things this article omitted (source, similar posting in Scientific American)

    Only 1% of the energy output of the lasers actually went into the target, so the reference to "more energy out" only refers to this 1%, not the other 99% of the laser output.

    That little confinement chamber for the each inertial fusion pulse costs $ 1 million each. No mention if it is re-usuable

      -----------------------------

    Really people, even the directors of NIF, in past testimony to congress, have admitted that the sole purpose of NIF is to allow the US to simulate nuclear explosions and continue weapons development without actual weapons testing.

    Even in the fusion power community, no one believes inertial confinement is a path to power generation.   Most of the money is back on magnetic bottle technology.

    This is a total waste of the highly limited federal research funding.  When you set aside for the moment, funding to the National Institute of Health, 70-80% of our remaining federal research money goes to weapons development for DOD and DOE's nuclear weapons programs.

    We need a realistic path to sustainable energy production within the next 20 years, or all climate change predictions will be in worst case scenarios.  Fusion is the every retreating "we'll be close in 30-50 years" (which is the same predictions made when I first attended physical science conventions as a graduate student in the 1970's).

    •  This is taking weapons money (0+ / 0-)

      that would never be diverted into basic science, IMO.

      70-80% of our remaining federal research money goes to weapons development for DOD and DOE's nuclear weapons programs.
      If you cut this research, Republicans would not vote to transfer the money to the earth sciences, basic physics or chemistry. They would try to give the rich another tax break.

      “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 Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 02:10:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The solution to global warming (0+ / 0-)

    If you're concerned about climate change then you should agree that we should be pouring as much funding as possible into projects like these.  Aside from reversing population growth, fusion is the only solution to global warming.

  •  Any Even Amateur Professionals Here?!` (0+ / 0-)

    My impression of this facility is that it is merely a way to keep weapons scientists employed, as well as benefit the constituents in some very influential, and possibly big Demo, districts.  Inertial confinement is the quintessential Dr. Strangelove boondoggle which only the US really supports, anymore, for less than pure reasons.

    Of course, that's only after long, continuous reading of the Weapons Monitor family of insider newsletters, so I might be wrong..l

    If you want REAL progress, reprogram this money into research on future energy programs that don't require national security style clearances to participate in it.

    •  Dr. Teller was associated with Livermore (0+ / 0-)

      and, yes, this does follow up on his work on nuclear fission, like it or not.

      This is a better use of bomb money than building more bombs or conducting more nuclear tests.  There's nothing pure about this work, but I like the swords to plowshares element of it.

      “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 Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 02:03:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Fusion, excuse me. (0+ / 0-)

        FWIW the hydrogen bomb is actually an enhanced fission weapon but that's not what I meant.

        “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 Sat Feb 15, 2014 at 02:05:10 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  fusion, stars, and black holes eating money (0+ / 0-)

    maybe the day will come when fusion is practical, but it is beyond all reasonable doubt that it won't be anywhere near soon enough to make a dent in our descent into global warming

    even the molten salt thorium reactor has a better chance of doing that, and it offers most of the same benefits as fusion (about the only one it doesn't being that if we power everything with thorium we'll run out in about 500 years, but by that time we'll certainly have found something better, maybe even fusion)

    meanwhile, back on earth, all that's going to be needed to make renewables competitive is a cheap way to store energy, and if that isn't an easier problem to solve quickly, I'll eat anything you ask me to, even this ridiculous article

  •  the Higgs boson (0+ / 0-)

    and now laser fusion.  Too much science for the fundamentalists.  What they see as an assault on the existence of God they will attack as a product of the devil, and those who disagree are all going to hell.

  •  Impressive intellectual achievement. (0+ / 0-)

     Of all the praises I read in this article, the one that impressed me the most was in a sentence devoted to the pure research goal of the project.  The fusion event occurred according to the detailed physical model that was developed to describe it.  This means that the ideas that were verified by the experiment can be applied and extended to future experiments of this kind.  The power of the idea impresses me more than the substantial engineering success.

  •  NPR had a good piece on this. (0+ / 0-)

    This provides some additional detail and might make things a bit clearer for some folks:

    Strictly speaking, while more energy came from fusion than went into the hydrogen fuel, only about 1 percent of the laser's energy ever reached the fuel. Useful levels of fusion are still a long way off. "They didn't get more fusion power out than they put in with the laser," says Steve Cowley, the head of a huge fusion experiment in the U.K. called the Joint European Torus, or JET. The new technique can't reach "ignition," which is the point at which the hydrogen fusion feeds on itself to make more. "I think it's still a very important step forward, they reached fusion conditions, they made some fusion happen, and that's not been done before [with a laser]," he says.

    Constructed at a cost of more than $3 billion, it consists of 192 beams that take up the length of three football fields. For a brief moment, the beams can focus 500 trillion watts of power — more power than is being used in that same time across the entire United States — onto a target about the width of a No. 2 pencil.

    Over the past few years, NIF has been getting a fat "F." For all its power, it just couldn't get the hydrogen to fuse, and researchers didn't know why. The failures have led NIF's critics to label the facility an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars. In 2012, the government shifted NIF away from its fusion goals to focus on its other mission: simulating the conditions inside nuclear weapons.

    But the fusion experiments continued, and [Omar] Hurricane says researchers now understand why their original strategy wasn't working. In the journal Nature, he and his colleagues report that they've finally figured out how to squeeze the fuel with the lasers. By doing a lot of squeezing right at the start, they were able to keep the fuel from churning and squirting out. The lasers squeezed evenly and the hydrogen turned into helium.

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