Saturday, December 27, 2008

Yet another fusion experiment

It seems that nuclear fusion is all the rage these days: here's another type of fusion—laser-ignition—that is about to be tested.
In the spring, a team will begin attempts to ignite a tiny man-made star inside a laboratory and trigger a thermonuclear reaction.

Its goal is to generate temperatures of more than 100 million degrees Celsius and pressures billions of times higher than those found anywhere else on earth, from a speck of fuel little bigger than a pinhead. If successful, the experiment will mark the first step towards building a practical nuclear fusion power station and a source of almost limitless energy.

At a time when fossil fuel supplies are dwindling and fears about global warming are forcing governments to seek clean energy sources, fusion could provide the answer. Hydrogen, the fuel needed for fusion reactions, is among the most abundant in the universe. Building work on the £1.2 billion nuclear fusion experiment is due to be completed in spring.

Scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore, nestled among the wine-producing vineyards of central California, will use a laser that concentrates 1,000 times the electric generating power of the United States into a billionth of a second.

The result should be an explosion in the 32ft-wide reaction chamber which will produce at least 10 times the amount of energy used to create it.

Although, of course, this is another American effort. Whilst they look to the future, here in the UK, we are still toying with windmills, the energy-generating efforts of the Middle Ages...


Houdini said...

Hydrogen, the fuel needed for fusion reactions, is among the most abundant in the universe.

Well, yes, hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, not among, but the most abundant. However, the earth supply is relatively small and finite; once it has gone, it is gone and there is no way to replace it short of going to the stars and getting some though there are some processes for extracting it from other elements, but that has dangers of its own and would produce only small amounts and negate the benefits of fusion technology.

Maybe we should get hold of a spaceship, like the millennium falcon, and we can start harvesting it from the milky way?

We'd make a fucking fortune, can you drive DK?

SantaToryB said...

If you have not read this yet...


Roger Thornhill said...


The "shortage" of hydrogen for Fusion purposes is not a problem IIRC.

The isotopes needed exist in seawater. The quantities needed are very small indeed compared to those required for other hydrogen uses such as fuel cells.

Dr Evil said...

Wind turbines: I always ask the question; does the wind blow steadily all the time? No! Sometimes it's too fast, othertimes it isn't there. Tidal power is obvious and at twice a day, always available and predictable. This is of course if we are going for 'green' power generation.

I like the laser fusion idea. It's not that novel but will be interesting. There was a programme looking at ultrasonic cavitation in water and fusion generation for biodegradation of recalcitrant molecules but I haven't heard much about this in recent years.

All the Tokamak research seems to have generated is research papers unfortunately.

Roger Thornhill said...


Yup, tidal. predictable and it is not a blot on the landscape/seascape. As long as you do not screw up silt or migration, that is.

Neal Asher said...

"All the Tokamak research seems to have generated is research papers unfortunately."

Fusion might be at about the stage of development fission was just after 1934 when Fermi split the atom. 1942 saw the first reactor and 1954 the first one to supply commercial power. Maybe commercial fusion plants aren't so far away...

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