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Thread: The Real Problem With Fusion Energy

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    Senior Member Englisc's Avatar
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    The Real Problem With Fusion Energy

    The longstanding joke about fusion—that it’s the energy source of the future, and always will be—may be the field’s biggest problem.

    The quest to bottle the power of the sun has led to countless starry-eyed predictions of an imminent clean energy revolution. But the expectations for fusion have always been outsized, the trail of broken promises has grown long, and public perception has soured.

    While our cynicism about fusion may feel justified, it’s also unfortunate. Because, despite tepid support and constant funding peril, researchers are making progress toward this futuristic energy source. Scientists will eventually solve fusion’s immense technical challenges, if society can commit to the journey.

    Last week, I visited the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory to tour the recently-upgraded National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX-U), the most powerful “spherical tokamak” fusion reactor on Earth. An 85 ton beast of a machine shaped like a giant cored apple, the NSTX-U uses high energy particles to heat hydrogen atoms to temperatures of 100 million degrees Celsius, hotter than the core of the sun. To contain this super-hot plasma, winding copper coils generate a magnetic field 20,000 times stronger than that of the Earth. All of this so that for a few magic seconds, atomic nuclei will collide, fuse, and release energy.

    The experiment is a step along the path toward a fusion plant that would run constantly, powering entire cities on mere grams of seawater.

    It’s easy to see why the field of fusion energy is prone to grandiose claims—this stuff just sounds epic. But what struck me the most from my trip to the PPPL was not the science wizardry taking place inside its giant reactor, or the Houston-style control center where dozens of (white, male) scientists crunched data and ran supercomputer simulations. It was the balance of optimism about the fusion energy future, and realism about the hard physics and engineering problems that need to be solved to get us there.

    “It almost sounds too good to be true: this concept that we’re going to have a limitless, carbon-free energy source,” Clayton Myers, a plasma physicist working on the NSTX-U, told me. “But the nuclear physics says that it’s not. It is proven that fusion reactions are real and that we can make them.”

    The basic challenge, as physicists first learned in the 1950s and 60s, is that fusion plasmas—free-flowing soups of protons and electrons in which atomic nuclei collide and release energy—do not like to be contained. They want to splatter everywhere, and yet, we need to contain them, at high enough pressures and for long enough time intervals that we can produce more energy than we put in.

    Our sun contains plasma with its immense gravity, but here on Earth, we need powerful magnets or lasers to do so. And the margins for error are miniscule. A teensy amount of escaped plasma can scar the wall of a fusion reactor, causing the machine to shut down.

    The field plasma physics blossomed out of a desire to bottle the stars. Over the past few decades, that field has expanded in myriad directions, from astrophysics to space weather to nanotechnology.

    As our general understanding of plasmas has grown, so has our ability to sustain fusion conditions for more than a hot second. Earlier this year, China’s new superconducting fusion reactor was able to contain a 50 million degree Celsius plasma for a record 102 seconds. The Wendelstein X-7 Stellarator, which fired up in Germany for the first time last fall, is expected to blow that record out of the water with runs of up to 30 minutes at a time.

    The NSTX-U’s recent upgrade sounds modest by comparison: the experiment can now keep a fusion plasma cooking for five seconds instead of one. But this, too, marks an important milestone.

    “Making a fusion plasma that lasts for five seconds may not sound like a long time, but the physics [of plasma] at five seconds is comparable to its physics at steady-state,” Myers said, referring to conditions in which the plasma is stable. (The ultimate goal is a steady-state “burning plasma,” one that can sustain fusion on its own with only a small input of external energy. No experiment to date has managed to achieve this.)

    The NSTX-U will allow Princeton researchers to fill in some of the gaps between what is known of fusion plasma physics now, and what will be needed to build a pilot plant capable of reaching reaching that steady state burn and generating net electricity.

    For one, in order to find the best materials for containment, we need to better understand what’s going on between the fusion plasma and the reactor wall. Princeton is exploring the possibility of replacing its current reactor walls (made of carbon graphite) with a “wall” of liquid lithium in order to reduce long-term corrosion.
    read more http://gizmodo.com/the-real-problem-...rgy-1777994830

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    Senior Member Mööv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Englisc View Post
    tepid support and constant funding peril

    This is the biggest problem for science in general. A lot of funds and support are given into insignificant or pointless projects popularized by the mass media while everything of significance suffers an extremely prolonged development or even gets abandoned.
    The ITER in France should start running in a few years. It ate a lot of money so it's going to be interesting seeing what they done with it. It's tokamak based.
    Lieber tot als Sklave!

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    Anachronism "Friend of Germanics"
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    Huginn ok Muninn's Avatar
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    Did anyone else notice the rabid anti-white communist, patriarchy-hating, totally off-topic aside that this Jewish feminist just had to insert into her article?

    But what struck me the most from my trip to the PPPL was not the science wizardry taking place inside its giant reactor, or the Houston-style control center where dozens of (white, male) scientists crunched data and ran supercomputer simulations.
    Most people think as they are trained to think, and most people make a majority.

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    Senior Member Mööv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Huginn ok Muninn View Post
    Did anyone else notice the rabid anti-white communist, patriarchy-hating, totally off-topic aside that this Jewish feminist just had to insert into her article?

    Yeah. But such comment are regular lately so one starts to ignore over time.
    But they should make an all nigger fusion project. They'd probably manage to blow themselves up. It would be fun
    Lieber tot als Sklave!

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    Dr. Ronald Richter achieved a sustained fusion reaction during WW2 in the Jonas Valley, at Suhl. Later, he immigrated to Argentina and further developed this system under Peron.

    I know people will say this was a fraud but it was not a fraud. Richter corresponded with the Paperclip committee in the USA in an effort to re-immigrate to America after Peron's grip on power began to wane. He told the Americans in 1952 exactly how to do this and the fools at the US National Archives mistakenly released this whole file circa 2005.

    Richter contained the fusion reaction using sound. Yes, sound but in the form of standing waves. Standing waves are waves created at two sources in opposition to each other so that for instance if two rocks were thrown into a pond a few feet apart at the same time at the space between the two impacts a wave would appear and appear not to move for as long as the vibration on the water lasts. Richter used sound, ultrasound to do this. Of course the fusion reaction would have to be small to be contained by such a method but it was contained nevertheless. The Richter file was written by Dr. Ronald Richter and in excellent English. It covers far more than just fusion reactions, it also explains how to build a ram jet engine which could be started at rest (quite a feat) as well as a description of experiments into the aether field in which Richter gained some free energy. The file has been published in total so if you are interested pm me for details. Otherwise it can be obtained from the US government at:

    The National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Rd., College Park, Maryland, 20740-6001, USA, Foreign Scientist Case Files 1945-1958, Paperclip File of Dr. Ronald Richter, Box 54 of record Group 330.

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