Fusion energy?

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#1
Does anyone here think it will take off in our lifetime or not?

I think it might, but not sure. Would be super cool if it did. Dunno, you could probably make some sort of battery or something out of some sort of continuous reaction but that's kind of what salt batteries are.


I guess you could always live near a river.
 

Traemo

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#2
Actual fusion? I don't think it's going to become practical in our lifetimes - among other things I can't see a way to actually induce it at anything approaching STP, meaning reactors are going to be both large and filled with an inherently hazardous environment. Also, the by-products, while less problematic than those of fission, can still be sort of nasty in their own right. Probably our best bet would be to use He-3, but at at less than 100 ppm it's not precisely common, so there's a stumbling block.
 

WoodlandWanderer

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#3
In my lifetime I'm hopeful we'll finally surpass the breakeven point as proof of concept, but whether we will start to see it as a mainstream power source is a different question.

I've been lucky enough to have had the chance to visit JET (Joint European Torus) on a school trip many years ago. It wasn't operational at the time as it was undergoing upgrade work, and unfortunately we weren't allowed in the main hall to see it in person because of the radiation limits as we were minors. But we got to see them fire MAST (a smaller UK fusion reactor experiment) from the control room, which was awesome.

The problem is that these things literally take decades to design and build, partly because the numbers involved are staggering - we're trying to harness a process that drives the heart of stars after all. The next experimental step (ITER) has a peak magnetic field of 11.8 Tesla and the aimed power output is half a Gigawatt. It's been under construction for 5 years, decades after it was proposed, with contruction not due to finish for another 7 years and peak operation testing perhaps not for 10 years after that.
By then, if we're serious about climate change, we should have vastly increased our renewable capacity which doesn't have the same waste issues that fusion power has when decomissioned. On the other hand, if it really works then maybe it will eventually make it's way into the supply as an 'anytime' energy source. But you're probably looking at 2060s for commercial production at the earliest if everything works perfectly.
 

willnotwill

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#4
Fusion isn't exactly "clean" either. You're going to have to shield it pretty much to block the flow of neutrons.

Back when the whole "cold fusion" scam was being played out there was a joke about the difference between a chemist and a physicist.

A physicist doesn't think he's achieved cold fusion and wraps the experiment in lead bricks.
A chemist believes he has achieved it and wraps the experiment in styrofoam.
 

dogboy

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#5
I guess you could say we're using fusion sourced energy when we use solar panels, as the sun is a fusion machine. I suspect that's as close as we'll get in the next 50 years, but who knows. Stranger things than fusion energy have happened.
 

Nam Repaid

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#6
I have a fusion reactor in my basement, it fuses carbon from industrial waste oils with atmospheric oxygen to create carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, heat and electricity.
(Waste oil co-generator.)
 

Traemo

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#7
Fusion isn't exactly "clean" either. You're going to have to shield it pretty much to block the flow of neutrons.
Sort of depends on what you're fusing
Also, neutrons aren't precisely dangerous (He[SUP]2H[/SUP] and H[SUP]-[/SUP] are different story).
 
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#9
I think it's a moot point. We will probably destroy ourselves with old-fashioned fission long before we figure out how to make fusion weapons.
 

willnotwill

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#10
Sort of depends on what you're fusing
Also, neutrons aren't precisely dangerous (He[SUP]2H[/SUP] and H[SUP]-[/SUP] are different story).
A neutron by itself isn't dangerous, but the energy it is propelled from the fusion is and so far we've not managed a scheme that harnesses that energy.
 

Traemo

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#11
Also, see my line about Helium-3 - no neutrons released, no reaction products with noticeable half-lives
 
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#12
There are some privately funded companies talking about possibly having viable fusion reactors in 30 years, but that’s seen by most observers as overly optimistic. Most still believe that either ITER or The National Ignition Facility will be the first groups to achieve ignition if not breakeven on energy.
 

WoodlandWanderer

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#13
I think it's a moot point. We will probably destroy ourselves with old-fashioned fission long before we figure out how to make fusion weapons.
You're 66 years late - we tested the first fusion weapon in 1952.

It didn't take that long for people to figure out they could use the immense power and radiation pressure of a fission bomb to ignite a secondary and devastatingly more powerful fusion reaction. That's what a thermonuclear weapon is, otherwise known as a H-bomb as it fuses hydrogen isotopes, and most of the world's nukes are of that type. You can actually go further than that and use the neutrons produced from the secondary fusion bomb to trigger additional fissile material, giving you a fission-fusion-fission bomb. In theory you could keep adding more stages, but when one single weapon is already enough to devastate most of a small country you have to ask what the point would be.

I guess you could say we're using fusion sourced energy when we use solar panels, as the sun is a fusion machine. I suspect that's as close as we'll get in the next 50 years, but who knows. Stranger things than fusion energy have happened.
Technically, by that logic, all energy except for geothermal, nuclear fission and tidal power came from the sun. Fossil fuels are from plants fuelled by the sun, or the animals that ate the plants. The sun powers the water cycle that gives us hydro power and the wind.

The tides are influenced by the sun but mainly driven by the moon, or more accurately a gradual leaching of the angular momentum that's locked up in the earth-moon system.
Geothermal is powered by the remaining heat in the earth from when all the rocks smashed together with some heat generated from decay of radioactive isotpes which also gives us fission power. Those isotopes were of course forged in supernova long before our sun existed.
 
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#14
You're 66 years late - we tested the first fusion weapon in 1952.

It didn't take that long for people to figure out they could use the immense power and radiation pressure of a fission bomb to ignite a secondary and devastatingly more powerful fusion reaction. That's what a thermonuclear weapon is, otherwise known as a H-bomb as it fuses hydrogen isotopes, and most of the world's nukes are of that type. You can actually go further than that and use the neutrons produced from the secondary fusion bomb to trigger additional fissile material, giving you a fission-fusion-fission bomb. In theory you could keep adding more stages, but when one single weapon is already enough to devastate most of a small country you have to ask what the point would be.
Thanks. You restored my faith in humanity. I was only 4 at the time so I have an excuse for missing it.

To answer your rhetorical question: The "point" would be that humans are not quitters. They will continue to strive onward and upward until they successfully create a weapon capable of destroying the planet in one stroke. Given enough time they could probably develop a black hole weapon capable of sucking in the entire universe. (Don't tell me they've already done that! :sweatdrop: )
 

RubberJin

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#15
It's been "10 years away" for about 50+ years now, although when Skunkworks say they're onto something I am more inclined to believe it than many others.

If we could just work out batteries that don't suck a lot of the issues with wind/solar and of course electric cars etc. would go away and everything would leap forward a few steps.
 

Slomo

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#16
It's been "10 years away" for about 50+ years now, although when Skunkworks say they're onto something I am more inclined to believe it than many others.

If we could just work out batteries that don't suck a lot of the issues with wind/solar and of course electric cars etc. would go away and everything would leap forward a few steps.
We're about 10 years away from that too. Actually, a lot less less. As in we already do have several batteries that are WAY better than what we currently use. There's the molten salt battery that MIT has been running for a few years now, and a sulfer one now too. Tesla is testing a aluminum-air battery, which weighs almost half as much as lithium-ion (because the cathode is literally the air around it). Toyota has a solid state battery which can be charged near infinitely, Japan has a dual-carbon battery with durability like no other. Then we can't forget about hydrogen fuel cells already in use in california.
 
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