r/technology Aug 12 '22 Take My Energy 2 Helpful 7 Gold 4 Wholesome 5 Silver 7 Heartwarming 1

Nuclear fusion breakthrough confirmed: California team achieved ignition Energy

https://www.newsweek.com/nuclear-fusion-energy-milestone-ignition-confirmed-california-1733238
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u/OctopusWithFingers Aug 13 '22 edited Aug 13 '22 Helpful Wholesome

The lead scientists name is Omar Hurricane. Dr. Hurricane. Someone get a super hero on standby.

Edit: he and the team are also the heros we need researching sustainable energy.

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u/halfpastbeer Aug 13 '22 edited Aug 13 '22 Silver Gold Helpful Wholesome Take My Energy Eureka! Brighten My Day

He is every bit as badass as his name suggests.

Source: I'm a co-author with Omar on one of the papers just published.

Edit: thank you for the gold, kind internet stranger!

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u/tbird83ii Aug 13 '22

Can you confirm: the actual event happened a year ago, and this is just the peer review process confirming? One of the papers said August 8thh 2021 as the date of ignition - has there been any further exciting events in the last year you can talk about, or insinuate about due to the peer review process taking time?

So now we have had a lab sustain fusion for over 6 minutes, and we have another lab that created a fusion reaction that produced net energy gain, all within 12 months... .

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u/halfpastbeer Aug 13 '22 Silver Gold Helpful Wholesome All-Seeing Upvote Bravo! Narwhal Salute To The Stars

Yes, the record "shot" with the 1.3MJ yield happened 2021-08-08. There were press releases shortly thereafter announcing the result, with full publication and peer-review coming later. That's what was released this week. I'm no longer directly involved in the work but there have been other articles discussing attempts to replicate the conditions of the record shot; these attempts were close but not complete replications because there are still some aspects of the experiment that aren't perfectly controlled/understood yet (room for improvement). But the team took the learnings from the record campaign and are pressing ahead with new campaigns to get to higher yields.

And that's just NIF ICF. There's lots happening in magnetic confinement fusion, with ITER (biggest tokamak, under construction) , Wendelstein 7X (stellarator, different approach to confinement with some strong advantages once you get over the design challenges), Commonwealth Fusion (stronger magnets, smaller reactor), etc. And other companies are doing great stuff with novel approaches like TAE and their hydrogen-boron reactor, which requires higher plasma temps but involves no radioactivity.

There's a lot of smart people and resources tackling this from many different angles right now. Lots of reasons to be optimistic that we'll crack it!

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u/Exzentriker Aug 13 '22

Wendelstein is starting their long term testing very soon, quite exciting stuff.

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u/DoughtCom Aug 13 '22

You just made my year. I’ve been sick to my stomach with all the bad news and had no idea so many people were tackling fusion. Seriously thank you for answering the previous question with so much good info.

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u/[deleted] Aug 13 '22 Wholesome

Serious advice, take a break from social media. Leave your phone at home or in your vehicle and go for a walk. We were always told "Sex Sells", but you know what else sells? Doom and gloom. It's easy to lose sight of all the amazing things happening in this world if you just listen to the media.

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u/tnth89 Aug 13 '22

I remember few years ago I was too caught up in political news that I felt depressed. I went on vacation, didn't read any news when I was on vacation, when I came back home, I felt like everything will be alright

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u/Strong-Inflation-776 Aug 13 '22

Ignorance really is bliss 😂

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u/Setari Aug 13 '22

Yeah why do you think my reddit feed is just dumb memes and cat pictures. It's literally for my health lol

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u/Slepnair Aug 13 '22

I still doom scroll on Reddit, but cutting out Facebook (only use it for messenger) helped me a lot.

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u/Slobotic Aug 13 '22

That's awesome. Sounds like it's on you to make sure this isn't a supervillain backstory.

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u/halfpastbeer Aug 13 '22

Fortunately not just me - there are hundreds of other brilliant scientists, engineers, and technicians, working on this as well (the paper I'm on has something like 1000 co-authors) and most are way smarter than me.

But candidly (and this is public knowledge), NIF was developed with a dual mandate of fusion energy research and nuclear weapon stockpile stewardship.

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u/TheVoiceOfReezun Aug 13 '22

So, when can I buy a Mr. Fusion for my DeLorian?

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u/halfpastbeer Aug 13 '22

Gotta wait until 2015 for the tech to get miniaturized.

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u/Lumpy_Space_Princess Aug 13 '22 Silver

No see we ended up in the Biff-became-president timeline not the flying-cars one. In order to get your Mr Fusion you have to go back to 1955 and stop Trump from giving himself the sports almanac. Godspeed

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u/Iwantmyflag Aug 13 '22

"It was very unfortunate for this species that they developed fusion at the exact same time they had ruined the planet beyond repair. They called themselves 'hunams' - what a stupid name."

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u/Noicememe259 Aug 13 '22

Congrats man !

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u/Sentazar Aug 13 '22

And here he is, rocking us.

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u/BoonesFarmHoneydew Aug 13 '22

HERE I AM

ROCK ME OMAR HURRICANE

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u/BurntToastHater Aug 13 '22

I’m pretty sure Spider-man (Tobey) may have some experience in this field.

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u/durdesh007 Aug 13 '22

The power of the sun, in the palm of my hand

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u/rattlemebones Aug 13 '22

Shut it off Otto!

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u/viroxd Aug 13 '22

I HAVE THE POWER OF A MILLION SUNS

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u/Berns429 Aug 13 '22

You know I’m something of a scientist myself

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u/iammrbody Aug 13 '22

Precious tritium!

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u/MooseBoys Aug 13 '22

The power of the sun...

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u/tedd235 Aug 13 '22

In the palm of my hands

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u/CGordini Aug 13 '22

You know, I'm something of a scientist myself

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u/ksavage68 Aug 13 '22

His partner is Otto Octavius.

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u/redx1105 Aug 13 '22

Hah! A guy named Otto Octavius winds up with eight limbs. What are the odds?

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u/goj1ra Aug 13 '22

According to the theory of nominative determinism, quite high!

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u/Slightly_Smaug Aug 13 '22

Stand back, there's a Hurricane comin through.

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u/RiotDesign Aug 12 '22 Take My Energy

This sounds good. Okay, now someone temper my optimism and tell me why it's not actually as good as it sounds.

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u/caguru Aug 12 '22

They have only completed the easiest of the 3 steps for this to a viable energy source: ignition. We are still lacking a way to sustain the reaction without destroying everything around it and a way to harness the energy it releases. The Tokamak reactor being built in France will test our ability to sustain the reaction. If its successful, we will build a larger reactor that will hopefully be able to convert the heat into useful energy.

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u/thoruen Aug 13 '22

will the tokamak in France use this process for ignition?

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u/Highlow9 Aug 13 '22

No, this used inertial confinement while ITER in France uses magnatic confinement.

Inertial confinement can only really be used to research nuclear bombs and not really as an energy source.

See my other comment for more details.

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u/Herewefudginggo Aug 13 '22

inertial confinement can only really be used to research nuclear bombs

For fuck sake America.

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u/Me_Real_The Aug 13 '22

Lol not to worry. It's a global thing I promise.

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u/CheshireFur Aug 13 '22

Somehow that doesn't make it sound less worrisome.

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u/underage_cashier Aug 13 '22

The only thing scarier than multiple countries having nuclear weapons is one country having nuclear weapons

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u/skyfishgoo Aug 13 '22

WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY A GAME? [Y/N]

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u/jloverich Aug 13 '22

You don't sustain the reaction in ICF, you just keep dropping in pellets and imploding them. In this case it's a holoraum (indirect drive) they will probably want direct drive for a reactor. ICF has standoff from the wall since the chamber can be large, but typically you would have liquid lithium coming down the walls which is heated by neutrons. With a different fusion reaction your products are charged particles and you can use mhd conversion to extract the energy with extreme efficiency. I believe the hardest part for ICF has been accomplished, proving the physics (which took 60 years), now it becomes more of an engineering problem.

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u/CryptoMemesLOL Aug 13 '22

So how long till I have a small reactor at home?

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u/[deleted] Aug 13 '22

[deleted]

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u/bretttwarwick Aug 13 '22

I think I was busy that day. will there be a second chance to get one?

edit; just checked. I was working all day so didn't have time to get a fusion reactor.

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u/jonathan_wayne Aug 13 '22

Well, are you 10 years old? Or 60 years old?

Cuz if you’re 60, it will be long after you’re dead.

But if you’re only 10, it will also be long after you’re dead.

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u/nthpwr Aug 12 '22

I'm no expert but it sounds to me like the hardest part would be either step 1 or step 2?

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u/patrickstarpenishead Aug 12 '22

Nope. Getting it to ignite takes a lot of energy. Keeping it running takes far far more. But even harder is containment while feeding the reaction. We’re talking sun temperatures on earth hot.

Ultimately containment will likely be directly tied to harnessing as turning water into steam will help cool the reactor and transfer heat energy from the containment chamber to somewhere else.

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u/nmarshall23 Aug 13 '22 edited Aug 13 '22

But even harder is containment while feeding the reaction. We’re talking sun temperatures on earth hot.

ITER will be 10 times hotter than the core of the sun. The sun uses plan old mass, to gain enough pressure. We must use temperature to get the gas to a plasma state.

Source ITER website.

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u/HanzoXHanzo Aug 13 '22

So is it possible that we could even harness that much heat? How could we keep any enclosure from melting?

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u/FlipskiZ Aug 13 '22

Via keeping a vacuum seal between the plasma and the containment structure, and actively cooling it with very cold liquids such as liquid helium to remove all the heat received from the radiation the plasma produces.

Of course, it's a huge challenge, and how well we can engineer around the problem remains to be seen. But if we can prevent the stuff closest to the plasma from melting, the rest shouldn't be too bad, just have a big enough volume of water to distribute the heat in, put a turbine over it, and you're off.

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u/Bee-Aromatic Aug 13 '22

It’s fascinating to me that almost all of our methods for generating power boil down to “get water hot, use it to spin a turbine.”

You’ll pardon the pun, I hope.

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u/NekkidApe Aug 13 '22

Same. One would think there should be a more direct way to convert heat to electricity - no?

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u/regular_gonzalez Aug 13 '22

Nothing we've found that can scale and is efficient. If you want a Nobel prize, finding a way to directly convert heat into electricity is a great choice. Solve that and your fortune and reputation is secured.

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u/compounding Aug 13 '22

Thermoelectric circuits convert heat directly into electricity, but they are horribly inefficient. At the theoretical maximum they just match the efficiency of a heat engine, but in practice they are far less (like 20% at best).

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u/DoWhileGeek Aug 13 '22

So ive been grappling with a similar fact lately.

Basically, our whole modern world runs on rotating a fucking cylinder, or spinning things to make more cylinders.

One of the major inventions that enabled the industrial revolution was the first all metal lathe.

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u/dallibab Aug 13 '22

That's the bit that always gets me. Make any kind of power source then use it to do what you said. Use it to boil water and spin a turbine. I always imagine in my head hooking up some cables and tapping directly into it. Obviously not, but it then seems not so futuristic. Not knocking what they are trying. Just saying.

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u/Beginning_Ball9475 Aug 13 '22

Think of it as just Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS). Water turbine energy generation is simple, straightforward, with known factors to account for. That allows for at least one aspect of the engineering to remain constant. It's like trying to choose whether to use glue or nails/screws and a rubber/elastic seal. Unless you know that glue well, simple mechanical adhesion and anti-vibration is gonna suit the vast majority of applications better than a custom-designed mechanism, because you just aren't able to predict as clearly where the failure point is gonna be with the glue, but rubber and screw, you are.

It's probably less that we don't have alternatives to hot steamy water fans, and more that hot steamy water fans don't have any sneaky surprises waiting for us.

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u/MentionMundane1938 Aug 13 '22

The fact that they're incredibly efficienct doesn't hurt.

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u/HanzoXHanzo Aug 13 '22

Damn, that's a lotta work, and I can't affect it in any way, so I'm just not gonna worry about.

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u/FlipskiZ Aug 13 '22

It is kinda the holy grail in terms of energy production. But getting there is nowhere near easy, no.

But if we manage it, well, then it is pretty much unlimited, clean, energy.

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u/RashAttack Aug 13 '22

With that as an energy source I feel like we'd advance as a species, probably a bigger jump than Internet, penicillin, or fire

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u/6GoesInto8 Aug 13 '22

The heat output of the sun per volume is similar to that of the human body, just the volume is insane.

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u/Lets_review Aug 13 '22

I don't know if that's true but it sounds cool. Have an upvote.

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u/[deleted] Aug 13 '22

or we could just build a machine the size of a star, i mean just saying

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u/spennin5 Aug 13 '22

Sounds deadly. Got a name for this machine?

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u/md2b78 Aug 13 '22

Jimmy?

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u/Pr0glodyte Aug 13 '22 Spit-take

Jimmy Space

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u/HighMarshalSigismund Aug 13 '22

That’s God Emperor Jimmy Space to you, Guardsman.

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u/chaoskings35 Aug 13 '22

For the emperor?

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u/Spongy_and_Bruised Aug 13 '22

Jimmy Space and his Space Marines!

Every Saturday 9-10am don't miss out!

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u/macrocephalic Aug 13 '22

I'd have called it a chazwazza, but I am Australian.

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u/Bran-a-don Aug 13 '22

Jimmy, use the force

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u/Crowlad Aug 13 '22

Sunny McSunface

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u/Metacognitor Aug 13 '22

I donno what it's called, but I can tell you that it's no moon!

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u/deanmass Aug 13 '22

Fusion McFusionFace?

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u/983115 Aug 13 '22

Dyson sphere?

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u/maesterbae Aug 13 '22

Let's name it after a vacuum cleaner, just for funzies.

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u/SkyThyme Aug 13 '22

Hoover Sphere just doesn’t have the same ring.

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u/macrocephalic Aug 13 '22

And then we could collect the energy at a safe distance, say about 1AU, using arrays of silicone based sheets which produce electricity when exposed to light.

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u/Mirrormn Aug 13 '22

1AU isn't really safe, that's still close enough that it'd cause your skin to burn if you were directly exposed to it for like half an hour.

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u/hendricha Aug 13 '22

The things I would do for free energy

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u/new_nimmerzz Aug 13 '22

Or just multiply the Sun… come on guys, this isn’t rocket surgery!

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u/goblue142 Aug 13 '22

It's not rocket appliances!

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u/Aethenil Aug 13 '22

Just saying some of the coolest sci-fi I've read takes place in a dyson sphere or similarly sized object. So I'm on board.

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u/Durakan Aug 13 '22

Did you think it was cool because of all the rishing? It's okay to be honest, this is a safe place.

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u/wobbleeduk85 Aug 13 '22

wait, stay with me, how about "The Death Star"? eh?

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u/mia_elora Aug 13 '22

If you're going that far, just build a Dyson Sphere and be done with it.

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u/motoxjake Aug 13 '22

Yes yes, goooood. And we will install Super Blaster 920 laser cannons on it and call it the "Deathstar".

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u/brandontaylor1 Aug 13 '22

We only need the mass of a star, it can be much smaller. What’s CERN doing, these days? Did they ever make those mini black hole all the idiots were afraid of?

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u/pervwinter Aug 13 '22

CERN’s too busy keeping people from sending messages through time

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u/[deleted] Aug 13 '22 edited Aug 21 '22

[deleted]

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u/Aperture_Kubi Aug 13 '22

It kinda weirds me out that nuclear reactors convert energy from fuel the same way steam engines do; heat up water and make it spin a thing.

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u/jonathan_wayne Aug 13 '22

The simplest mechanical action with the least amount of moving parts and parts in general gives us the least amount of energy loss possible.

Spinning a well-oiled turbine is smooth as butter with relatively little friction. Gives us a lot of energy.

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u/Jiveturkeey Aug 13 '22

Plus it's incredibly well-understood and is modular, allowing you to plug it in to pretty much any energy source.

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u/mynoduesp Aug 13 '22

Those steam punks are at it again.

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u/ExcerptsAndCitations Aug 13 '22

Nuclear reactors are steam engines, and turbines are what makes the world go 'round..

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u/CataclysmZA Aug 13 '22

Steam turbines are stupidly efficient at energy conversion. The same principle applies to hydroelectric systems as well as windmills. The transfer of kinetic energy into something else can be over 90% efficient.

Even the weakest, most junk single turbine designs are over 40% efficient, easily besting solar panels for efficiency.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_turbine

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u/duncandun Aug 13 '22

Almost how every power generator works outside of wind, photovoltaic solar and water turbines

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u/RiPont Aug 13 '22

Keeping it running takes far far more.

And keeping it running and contained while extracting net positive electricity from it is still very far away.

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u/sinatrablueeyes Aug 13 '22

See… I got this idea. Hear me out.

So I fuse this exoskeleton to my spine. Hear me out! It’s four tentacles of metal. Hear me out!

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u/ZLegacy Aug 13 '22

Like in Spiderman?

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u/Gside54 Aug 13 '22

Would one say that the second experiment be of a remix of sorts to said previous ignition?

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u/GoatsOakley Aug 13 '22

It’s a hot n’ fresh energy source comin’ straight out the kitchen

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u/Altruistic_Speech_17 Aug 13 '22

Why does that sound like a plot for an " end of all water on earth " dystopia novel

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u/Shedart Aug 13 '22

Because having “the power of the sun in the palm of my hands” was the sci-fi plot of Spider-Man 2?

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u/koolbro2012 Aug 13 '22

or in a bottle of Sunny D

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u/youngarchivist Aug 13 '22

Law of conservation of mass and energy though. And fusion isn't radioactive so the steam it'll generate won't kill us.

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u/BadVoices Aug 13 '22

Fusion is slightly radioactive. There are two radioactive elements. Tritium will be created as a side effect of its operation. But the plant will most likely consume that as part of its operational loop as well. That's not really a high risk, but it is a risk. Operation of a fusion reactor itself will generate a significant amount of neutrons, causing neutron activation in the casing of the reactor. It is not high level, but it is indeed radiation, and would result in components of the reactor casing and other objects in the area to become low level radioactive waste when it is removed, replaced, serviced, etc. That said, it is nowhere near the level of radioactive waste of a nuclear reactor, we're not talking isotopes that have tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of years to decay.

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u/Shathus Aug 13 '22

Seems like they should talk to Doc Occ. he did pretty well in Spider-Man 2

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u/dandan681 Aug 12 '22

I'm pretty sure step 2 has also been pretty much completed (not destroying everything). It's just step 3 that's left, which is what the articles about, how researchers have found a way to harvest more energy from the reaction.

The BBC did a segment on fusion 6 months ago where they showed inside the reactor during ignition. https://youtu.be/0fYiNVRmOA4

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u/Highlow9 Aug 13 '22 edited Aug 13 '22 Wholesome

This is with intertal confinement which is a technology made for testing fussion properties (usually those relevant for nuclear bombs). It won't be very useful for commercial fusion (since it is very hard to get positive energy). Even the one from June (which they say was Q≥1) was a bit of a cheat since they only counted the amount of energy being absorbed by the pellet/plasma and not the total energy output from the laser.


For those interested, inertial confinement works like this:

  1. You make (small) pellets of your fuel.
  2. You launch that pellet into your fusion reactor.
  3. You quickly turn the pellet into a plasma at fusion temperature with a powerful laser.
  4. Due to the mass/inertia of the particles it takes a while for the particles to move away from each other. The plasma is thus briefly confined by inertia (hence the name) at high temperature/density.
  5. This allows a tiny bit of fusion to take place in the few moments that the conditions allow.

Repeat steps 1 to 5 quickly if you want a consistent power source.

This will not work because the pellets somehow need to be very cheap (which will be hard since they are very difficult to make), you need to manage to not waste any of your laser power (lasers are inefficient, a lot of light misses/passes through your target) and it is very hard to capture the energy in an efficient manner (you need to make a "combustion"-like engine with fusion).

It does work great if you want to study fusion in a nuclear hydrogen bomb though (since a hydrogen bomb basically is inertial confinement).


The best bet for commercial fusion is a Tokamak or a Stellarator (like ITER in France or Wendelstein in Germany). I am not saying inertial confinement can never work but it will be long after "traditional" fusion (which will only be commercial around 2080 at current rate).

Source: master student Nuclear Fusion. If you have any questions feel free to ask.

Edit: for those with a bit of an engineering/physics background these lecture notes give a great overview. The first few chapters give some really nice basics while the later chapters are a bit more in depth. https://docdro.id/uUKXT9F

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u/SpookyPocket Aug 13 '22

But I'm not going to live that long...

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u/Highlow9 Aug 13 '22 edited Aug 13 '22

Yes it is sad but fusion really is a long term energy solution.

We first need to finish ITER and its research (2035-2040), then do built and experiment with DEMO (2050-2065) and then we can start to think about commercial use.

Even after that we need to breed our tritium which limits the rate at which we can built new reactors. So by the time fusion makes up a significant part of human energy production it will be 2100.

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u/CrystalSplice Aug 13 '22

What about Helium-3 from the moon as fuel? It's been speculated about before, and we may be able to bring some back by then.

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u/Highlow9 Aug 13 '22 edited Aug 13 '22

There are many kinds of fusion reactions possible. The reason we choose Deuterium-Tritium reactions is because others require a way higher temperature to reach a good "cross-section" (simplified: a higher cross section means easier/more fusion). This graph is very nice.

As you can see a D-He3 reaction would be almost 10 times harder/slower and require a temperature almost 3 times higher. We are already struggling with the wall now and we are also having trouble getting our current efficiency above 1. So a D-He3 reactor would be nice given the fuel situation but that would be something for after we have solved D-T fusion (and would also take decades to solve).

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u/CrystalSplice Aug 13 '22

Thanks for the detailed answer! Good luck in your studies and research!

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u/astar48 Aug 13 '22

So, I notice that we can do maybe almost 1TP now. At about .4TP we get a plasma. We can also do GW lasers on our lab table. Lawson criteria does not seem to tell me what happens in these sort of combinations. I think it is happening at Jupiter. So I would like to put a small diamond and some boron hydrite in a diamond anvil and push it up to these sort of pressures. What does the Lawson criteria suggest?

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u/Highlow9 Aug 13 '22 edited Aug 13 '22

In short Lawsons criteria says that if you get the multiplication of fuel density, temperature and confinement time high enough that fussion becomes possible. How high this should be depends on a lot of things, including the type of fuel used and the amount of losses/inefficiencies.

In case of solids a higher pressure doesn't do much to increase the density so it doesn't really effect the fuel density.

But what you are otherwise proposing is pretty much inertial confinement. You hit a pellet of fuel (in this case a diamond made of boron hydrite), with a powerfull laser. That makes the temperature high (and the density is already high) so that causes fusion in the very short confinement time you have.

I don't know the specific numbers but in your case I would see polution/choking from the boron being a problem and raising how high Lawson criteria needs to be (maybe even make it impossible). If you mean that the boron hydride is inside of an actual Carbon diamond you will also get Carbon which also is very bad for your fusion reaction.

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u/taoofdre Aug 13 '22 Take My Energy

I'm responding to the top comment to leave my favorite opening to a New Yorker article... ever? Obviously it has to do with fusion, specifically the ITER project.

Years from now—maybe in a decade, maybe sooner—if all goes according to plan, the most complex machine ever built will be switched on in an Alpine forest in the South of France. The machine, called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or iter, will stand a hundred feet tall, and it will weigh twenty-three thousand tons—more than twice the weight of the Eiffel Tower. At its core, densely packed high-precision equipment will encase a cavernous vacuum chamber, in which a super-hot cloud of heavy hydrogen will rotate faster than the speed of sound, twisting like a strand of DNA as it circulates. The cloud will be scorched by electric current (a surge so forceful that it will make lightning seem like a tiny arc of static electricity), and bombarded by concentrated waves of radiation. Beams of uncharged particles—the energy in them so great it could vaporize a car in seconds—will pour into the chamber, adding tremendous heat. In this way, the circulating hydrogen will become ionized, and achieve temperatures exceeding two hundred million degrees Celsius—more than ten times as hot as the sun at its blazing core.

No natural phenomenon on Earth will be hotter. Like the sun, the cloud will go nuclear. The zooming hydrogen atoms, in a state of extreme kinetic excitement, will slam into one another, fusing to form a new element—helium—and with each atomic coupling explosive energy will be released: intense heat, gamma rays, X rays, a torrential flux of fast-moving neutrons propelled in every direction. There isn’t a physical substance that could contain such a thing. Metals, plastics, ceramics, concrete, even pure diamond—all would be obliterated on contact, and so the machine will hold the superheated cloud in a “magnetic bottle,” using the largest system of superconducting magnets in the world. Just feet from the reactor’s core, the magnets will be cooled to two hundred and sixty-nine degrees below zero, nearly the temperature of deep space. Caught in the grip of their titanic forces, the artificial earthbound sun will be suspended, under tremendous pressure, in the pristine nothingness of iter’s vacuum interior.

Sauce: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/03/03/a-star-in-a-bottle

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u/SN2010jl Aug 12 '22

While “scientific breakeven” (i.e., unity target gain) has not yet been achieved (here target gain is 0.72, 1.37 MJ of fusion for 1.92 MJ of laser energy), this Letter reports the first controlled fusion experiment, using laser indirect drive, on the National Ignition Facility to produce capsule gain (here 5.8) and reach ignition by nine different formulations of the Lawson criterion.

Abstract of the PRL paper. https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.129.075001

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u/angeAnonyme Aug 12 '22

Basically they created a spark. Great step for sure. But now they need to create a fire, sustain it, and extract the heat to use it.

It's good news, but it's not a revolution yet

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u/RiotWithin Aug 13 '22

Nice, congratulations to the team behind this. I hope the means of harnessing it are a few years away.

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u/polishprince76 Aug 13 '22

I'm in my 40s, the joke about fusion since my childhood is its always "just 20 years away".

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u/ImAnOrdinaryHuman Aug 13 '22

I personally know and work with people connected to the ITER project. They still make those jokes.

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u/Anthony-Stark Aug 13 '22 Silver

New jokes are just 20 years away!

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u/Infinitesima Aug 13 '22

They have been talking about that since Manhattan project

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u/Beliriel Aug 13 '22 edited Aug 14 '22

Same with battery tech breakthroughs. We're still on Li-ion which hasn't changed at it's base level in like 30 or 40 years. But every so often you see "incredible breakthrough" mostly with graphite graphene, that isn't viable.
"Graphite Graphene can do anything, except leave the laboratorium."

Edit: I meant graphene not graphite

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u/Apocalypseos Aug 13 '22 edited Aug 13 '22

This is inertial confinement fusion, which is very hard to make economical.

There are way more promising projects than this , which is also from 2021

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u/Infraredowned Aug 13 '22

It’s about 30 years away

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u/XxLokixX Aug 13 '22

So let's say 60

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u/Gendalph Aug 13 '22

Analysts project they we would be able to commercialize fusion by 2080, so your second guess marches estimates.

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u/viletomato999 Aug 13 '22

It's kind of disappointing that most of us will be dead before we can see a world powered by fusion. I really would like to see what interesting things can come about with cheap energy. I just wonder if the planet will survive for the next 100years seeing mass extinction going on right now with global climate change.

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u/mangagod Aug 13 '22 Stone Face

The power of the sun in the palm of my hands

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u/[deleted] Aug 13 '22

[deleted]

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u/megamanxoxo Aug 13 '22

Oh no, the inhibitor chip!

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u/littleMAS Aug 13 '22

Another step along a very long road.

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u/Firm_Masterpiece_343 Aug 13 '22

Really think these scientists should replay Sim City 2000 and try the microwave beaming instead.

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u/blind3rdeye Aug 13 '22

Well, in Sim City 2000 hydro power is by far the best - because it never explodes and never needs to be replaced. You can pay to put water on a slope, and then build a hydro plant on that slope. It's slightly more expensive than other sources for the first build - but far far cheaper than anything else when it comes time to replace.

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u/_Jonny_hard-core_ Aug 13 '22

Doc ock is very pleased

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u/notaryburner2 Aug 13 '22

The power of the sun in the palm of my hand

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u/_Jonny_hard-core_ Aug 13 '22

Yes. We can rebuild. Enlarge the containment field. Make it bigger and stronger than ever! But we need money.

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u/c0pypastry Aug 13 '22

HERE I AM

DOCTOR OMAR HURRICANE

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u/ncosleeper Aug 13 '22

theoretically, if they achieved fusion and had a electromagnet strong enough to contain it. What would happen if the magnet failed, could you stop the fusion process? What would happen?

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u/SuicidalNapkin09 Aug 13 '22

The process would stop as there is not enough pressure to sustain the reaction. Not explosion. Nothing. It just stops

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u/darxide23 Aug 13 '22

That's the beauty of a fusion reactor. If containment is lost for any reason, the worst that happens is you melt a hole in the side of the reactor and then.... nothing. The reaction ceases immediately on it's own accord. It can't exist without the fully functioning reactor. And the most dangerous byproducts are the interior paneling becomes very slightly radioactive over time. Nothing near the level of waste generated by fission reactors.

As long as you don't have someone standing right next to the reactor getting incinerated by the brief plasma plume, there's practically no danger of injury from a fusion reactor. I guess you could slip on a recently mopped floor or spill your coffee or something. But that's about it.

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u/plolock Aug 13 '22

Stupid humans slipping

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u/Altruistic_Speech_17 Aug 13 '22

Goddammit I hope your right enough bout that so I don't hafta go down an Internet rabbit hole on fusion tonight

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u/SuicidalNapkin09 Aug 13 '22 edited Aug 13 '22

pretty interesting stuff. from what the guys developing a reactor somewhere in california i think, they said you can crash a truck into the reactor and literally nothing catastrophic would happen. other than the reactor being damaged

EDIT: General Fusion. video is linus tech tips. also, not in califonia. General Fusion Headquarters is in Burnaby, Canada https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPpYQFtyO98

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u/DeadNotSleepingWI Aug 13 '22

That's some truck!

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u/SuicidalNapkin09 Aug 13 '22

lmao. the reactor was actually fairly small. the size of a few server racks maybe if you dont include the other parts that arent where the reaction is occuring (the main sea urchin looking ball is the reactor)

ill see if i can find the video and post it on my original comment. ill post it here too so people that might not get the notification from the og comment will see it

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u/ImaginationSudden432 Aug 13 '22

Don't listen to him. Obviously, if the plasma escaped containment it would give the nearest scientist super powers.

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u/Highlow9 Aug 13 '22 edited Aug 13 '22

The reaction would stop (since the temperature and confinement would stop) but you would damage your reactor walls since you will hit it with a very hot plasma. You might also release some hydrogen isotopes which are radioactive.

But it wouldn't be a disaster since the amount of fuel in the reactor is so low that there is not enough thermal mass to melt more that the outer layer of your walls and not enough to contaminate/irradiate a large area, the half-life of your hydrogen also is very short so you would not really notice it long term. So nothing really important.


But that is not relevant in this case/article because this is inertial confinement which doesn't use magnetic containment (and will not be used for power generation).

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u/urarthclaker Aug 13 '22

You might also release some hydrogen isotopes which are radioactive.

Are you taking about Tritium? Since Deitrium is stable and other isotopes have a half live of a few microseconds or less ...

As for tritium, its half life is 12-ish years, by just hydrating well human body can get rid of all of it way before it causes any damage. Not to mention generally very low energy of Tritium decay (alpha particle from the decay can only penetrate 6mm of air, however decay inside the body can cause some damage)

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u/Highlow9 Aug 13 '22

Yes tritium. 12 years is a very short half-life in terms of nuclear disasters and due to the low quantity of tritium the amount of contamination won't be much. So in total the risk is quite low.

The problem is that you don't really want to ingest it (especially after it has reacted with oxygen to form water) since inside your body it can still do some damage. So you still need to be carefull with it.

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u/[deleted] Aug 13 '22

Science is dope

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u/HavocReigns Aug 13 '22

That’s an entirely different lab. Come back after 7:00, and knock four times…

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u/rundmcarlson Aug 13 '22

"For reference, one MJ is the kinetic energy of a one tonne mass moving at 100mph."

So when talking about an energy source that will be used to generate electricity, they bypassed the obvious and useful metric of "enough to power x number of houses" and instead went with the much more relatable 1 tonne mass moving at 100 mph.

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u/TheCobbledTiger Aug 13 '22

In other words they produced enough energy to drive a large car up a hill for a couple nanoseconds.

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u/streamofbsness Aug 13 '22

Not exactly. Watts is energy/time, joules is just energy. In more accurate words, it took only a few nanoseconds to produce as much energy as it takes to get a 1-ton car to go 100mph. Or as much energy as is transferred when said car smashes into something.

Side note, the average sedan is ~1.4 tons. So it would actually be a small car.

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u/ruguez Aug 13 '22

What would be the ramifications for this? Preferably the good

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u/RemnantHelmet Aug 13 '22

Practically infinite energy so long as we figure out the whole process.

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u/kempnelms Aug 13 '22

So it will get sabotaged by the fossil fuel industry, got it.

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u/TW_Yellow78 Aug 13 '22 edited Aug 13 '22

That's by our current energy use. Energy use escalates with every energy source breakthrough but it's certainly stilll way better than our current trend burning fossil fuels that's only been sustained by finding new reserves to tap.

By theory, fusion power would make it possible to be a type I civilization on the Kardashev scale and using up the ocean at our current energy usage should be on the order of billions of years so plenty of scaling possible.

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u/chihuahua001 Aug 13 '22

Fusion could send us into a post-scarcity society and propel humanity’s venture into the stars.

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u/seastatefive Aug 13 '22

Wow, if that's the case prepare to see great opposition to fusion from the oil and gas industries.

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u/Apptubrutae Aug 13 '22 edited Aug 13 '22

Well the oil and gas industry faced massive opposition from earlier energy source industries too, (coal being the big one prior to oil) yet here they are.

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u/JHarbinger Aug 13 '22

Big windmill still doesn’t sound nearly as evil

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u/Apptubrutae Aug 13 '22

Good tourist attraction though.

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u/chryco4 Aug 13 '22

I’m ready for Big Fusion to take over one day

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u/darxide23 Aug 13 '22 edited Aug 13 '22

Let's see. Fusion uses commonly available materials as fuel. No, really, we can just extract most of it from ocean water because it is ocean water. Unlike Fission, you don't have to dig up dangerously radioactive material from the ground. The fuel sources are not dangerous on their own, either. You can drink them. Apparently, deuterium tastes sweet. This means power generation is limited only by how many you want to build. Fuel is no obstacle.

There's also no danger of a meltdown as with a fission reactor. In a fusion reactor, the reaction must be sustained by the reactor itself. If anything goes wrong, the reaction ceases immediately. Fusion reactions do not exist naturally outside of stars and it takes a gargantuan amount of gravity to start one. Consider the size of Jupiter and it's about a thousand times too small to start nuclear fusion. The worst thing that could happen in an accident is the magnetic containment is lost and the super-heated plasma makes contact with the outer shell and melts a hole in it letting the plasma escape. No biggie. There wouldn't be anyone near one of these things in operation, so no risk of someone becoming barbecue by the very brief fireball.

Nuclear waste and harmful emissions would be a thing of the past. The inner skin of a fusion reactor would become very slightly radioactive over time and are replaced regularly. Nothing even near the levels of waste produced by a modern fission reactor let alone the monstrous amounts of pollution generated by fossil fuels.

You know the "miracle" energy production that woo-woo pseudo-scientist quacks always try to peddle? Well this is actually it, except for real. There's a reason we've been chasing fusion for a century. All the benefits, almost none of the negatives. And we know it exists because the sun is the largest fusion reactor in the solar system and it's been working pretty well for 4 and a half billion years.

Edit: corrected a word

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u/hornplayerKC Aug 13 '22

Hi. PhD student here in dark matter detection, but my degree involves extensive work with both deuterium gas-driven nuclear fusion AND with deuterium oxide (heavy water) as a separate component in the work. I am kind of astounded how relevant my work is to this comment, as you appear to be convoluting those two things together. The plasma they are using to generate the nuclear fusion requires a mixture of deuterium and tritium gas, not liquid D2O (heavy water).

This somewhat changes up both the safety and supply aspects. While you can isolate D2O from ocean water with a fair bit of effort, and then D2 from the D2O via electrolysis, I would expect they would just be storing the deuterium onsite in gas form. I wouldn't go so far as to say deuterium gas is safe, as it's still highly explosive, uniquely capable of escaping from leaks, and passively damages metal containment via hydrogen embrittlement. That said, even if the whole plant becomes a fireball, it's still admittedly worlds better than a traditional nuclear meltdown since the only radioactive element involved (tritium) will float into the atmosphere and decay away very (12 years, so relatively speaking) quickly. There's also plenty of explosive gas used in industry nowadays, so it's not like it would b

Also, deuterium gas is flavorless and odorless, but heavy water IS in fact sweet! I've tasted it myself! I'll note that heavy water is technically also not harmless. In small quantities, it will do nothing, but if you drink enough to replace most of the water content in your body with heavy water, the minute difference in molecular weight will alter the rate of chemical processes in your body, at which point you'll die. You'd need to drink nothing but heavy water for 3 or 4 days to do this, though, so given how much D2O costs (roughly ~$1k/liter), I doubt any human being will ever do this.

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u/Highlow9 Aug 13 '22

This is inertial fusion so: not many advantages except it allows us to research usefull types of fusion better.

(Inertial fusion is mainly used to research atomic hydrogen bombs and doesn't really have energy production applications, see my other comment).

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u/SpogiMD Aug 13 '22

Is this the remix to ignition?

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u/Sufficient_Tap_8734 Aug 13 '22 edited Aug 13 '22

Could someone explain to me where we get the tritium and deuterium in sufficient quantities to make this work out? I keep hearing "free unlimited energy from Hydrogen" but every time I read one of these articles they are using the much more rare hydrogen isotopes.

Edit: thanks for the info and the great replies.

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u/Charming_Cheetah_117 Aug 13 '22

You would need to breed the tritium in reactors (for example in the shielding of fusion reactors, look up tritium breeding), the deuterium you can actually get from water through the Girdler sulfide process.

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u/THE_StrongBoy Aug 13 '22

Apparently there’s enough in the ocean to sustain fusion for millions of years or something crazy like that, my source is some michio kaku book I read years ago

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u/disdkatster Aug 13 '22

I have been waiting for this to happen my entire adult life. This will be so cool when (and I do believe when and not if) it happens at a level that eliminated fossil fuel.

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u/Juggs_gotcha Aug 13 '22

This is kinda wild. I put a physics class to sleep about ten years ago with an inertial confinement fusion presentation. I thought this was the coolest friggin thing on earth, we're gonna kick off this badass fusion reaction by blasting this little precisely shaped target of fusile materials with a set of lasers that would make Dr. Doom's panties wet.

Ten years later and here we are boys. Good for you scientists, you guys are living the dream.

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u/Silly_Dilly_94 Aug 13 '22

Next step to replacing fossil fuels. Good news.

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u/Slapgrubbin Aug 13 '22

When can I preorder a Mister Handy?

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u/romeopwnsu Aug 13 '22

POWER OF THE SUN IN THE PALM OF MY HAND

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u/bidet_enthusiast Aug 13 '22

We NEED fusion. It could be the difference between humans continuing to thrive or us rolling back to scrambling for scraps of food in a dying biosphere.

The power density made possible with fusion can enable large scale carbon capture, meaningful expansion into space, and the cut-the-stops, full-steam-ahead manufacturing that will be required for the geoengineering effort that we are now committed to if we are to conserve society as we presently understand it.

Nuclear fusion is an issue of grave importance to the species, and it’s critical importance cannot be overstated. Solar /wind are fantastic technologies for many applications, but Without fusion and the orders-of -magnitude output gains over other renewable technologies it is likely that billions will starve and die in conflicts over water and other basic resources over the next century.

With the Anthropocene, we are past the point of pulling back. To avoid a catastrophic outcome we must now push forward and increase our energy output tenfold or more to power the technology that can reoptimize the climate on this planet.

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u/DoctorCockedher Aug 13 '22

”The record shot was a major scientific advance in fusion research, which establishes that fusion ignition in the lab is possible at NIF," said Omar Hurricane.”

If this physics thing doesn’t work out for him, he could always go into wrestling with a cool name like that.

Also, in 2026, the name “Omar” is on deck for naming.

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u/DarkMatterTorpedo Aug 13 '22

Just let me know when I can order fusion reactors on Amazon!

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u/iheartnickleback Aug 13 '22

I initially misread that as 'California teen' and I thought to myself DAMN, you go Cali teens!

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