Technology and Society Ignition August 12, 2022 Rand Simberg 23 Comments A milestone in fusion. But they’re still a long way from actually harnessing it.
23 thoughts on “Ignition”
From the ‘Newsweek’ article: “No fossil fuels would be required as the only fuel would be hydrogen…” One more time, class: Where do we get hydrogen?
Smart aleck in the back of class: Deuterium is required and we get Deuterium from heavy water. Which is separated from normal water.
For some reason really doubt fossil fuels would be a good source of deuterium, but I leave that to organic chemist to verify.
If I remember discussions from years past, I suspect RNB is noting that separating hydrogen out of heavy water requires… energy.
I suppose once fusion got up and running it would provide the necessary power, but until then…
On the short term a nuclear power plant that also does desalination and Dueterium separation would seem a worthy investment… The next generation would be a fusion power plant.
Assuming you could build such a thing in todays regulatory climate.
As I recall, most of the world’s heavy water resides in Canada, because they use it as a moderator in their natural U reactors (CANDU). The plants that made the heavy water actually used gaseous diffusion of H2S (very toxic) to get D. You then could oxidise the D to get the heavy water. Maybe the Norsk Hydro plant used water as the source during WW2, but I think H2S was used for large scale production in Canada. But, I could be wrong.
The D/H ratio for hydrocarbons is nearly the same as for seawater. There are variations in the isotope ratio, but they are measured at the per mil level by geochemists. Remember, D is stable. T, however, needs to be bred as its half-life is about 12 years or so.
Nuclear >> chemical. The energy from successful commercial fusion would be orders of magnitude greater than the energy required to electrolyze the hydrogen needed for the fusion.
Just gotta reproduce it and then invent three new types of laser.
Didn’t we already achieve ignition with inertial confinement fusion back in the 1950’s, and with a vastly higher yield than the laser technique?
Well I think this was without destroying everything in a few mile radius. Dunno think that might be worthy of note.
I believe that process lacked certain refinements.
George, was that when the first Farnsworth Fusor was built?
No, the Farnsworth Fusor was built in the 1960’s. I was thinking more along the lines of Castle Bravo. If you took lots of those fusion devices and set them off sequentially inside a very large piston engine, you should be able to drive a humongous generator that’s hooked to the grid.
Yeah, I read a long time ago a suggestion to roof over a canyon, add some water and set off a fusion weapon. Use the steam to drive a turbine.
I could see some idiot calling themself an engineer doing this and then claiming the steam was created without fossil fuel because the original feedstock water came from natural runoff. Imagine an engineer that doesn’t understand how the engine itself was built.
Another thought: Set off a fusion device underground and drill down to use the “geothermal” energy to generate steam.
All you have to do is quite thinking about those wimpy cubic liters IC engines with pistons measured in centimeters and go for the cubic kilometers nuclear engines where pistons are measured in kilometers. What’s so difficult about that? Just a mater of scaling up a bit. Also have to quit that ridiculous rpm crap and do rpd. (Revolutions per day for the tech challenged)
Ducks for cover.
That was the idea behind Project Orion.
!0 minutes after Fusion power becomes a viable reality, environmentalists will come out wanting it to banned.
Well make that NEGATIVE 10 of millions of minutes after it viable reality, since they were complaining about it 5 years ago.
Mike, You are 60 years late. Project Gnome did such a test near Carlsbad NM on December 10, 1962 to see if heating a salt bed with a nuclear device could create a geothermal power source. It was determined that it was not a good idea, especially after the explosion vented creating a fallout cloud that contaminated a number vehicles and the area around the test blast.
ICF is much, much further away from being useful than I had imagined. They’ve taken an elegant concept of the type pioneered by KMS Fusion in the 1970s, and turned it into a micro-miniaturized Teller-Ulam bomb, driven by lasers instead of a fission primary, and lacking the fission “sparkplug” employed by that concept to provide the heat to ignite the reaction.
I don’t know if KMS’s utilization method is even remembered, let alone being pursued. It took the bulk of the fusion neutrons to dissociate some of the CO2 in a bulk stream into CO and O2, at room temperature. The resulting gas mixture could be piped anywhere, and the chemical potential extracted as heat by passing it over a catalyst to promote recombination.
NIF has just gotten one shot to produce the same amount of energy as was put in through the laser driver. They have a long, long way to go.
It is hard to get excited about laser initiated fusion.
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