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View Full Version : Is fusion based electric power 15 years away?


Lonewolf_50
27th Nov 2018, 16:41
Got another article sent to me (https://www.businessinsider.com/chinas-artificial-sun-nuclear-fusion-hotter-than-actual-sun-2018-11)about the progress the Chinese are making with fusion.
In this one, they are able to get some matter up to 100 million degrees Celsius. (whoa, that's hot).
The end result was a cloud of charged particles that contained electrons heated to more than 100 million degrees.
As I've been hearing since I was about 7, when my dad explained to me the difference between fission and fusion, we are about "15 years away from working fusion power plant" and we of course heard about that cold fusion "success" in the 80's and 90's that ... wasn't.
Are we now about 15 years from usable fusion power?
There is still the matter of putting together enough tritium to make it actually work, among other things.
Sure would be nice if this pans out.

ORAC
27th Nov 2018, 17:06
No, you’ve got maintain it and contain it and produce substantially more energy coming out than going in.

Fusion is 50 years away - fusion is always 50 years away......

FakePilot
27th Nov 2018, 17:44
Nothing gets the old guys worked up like Free Energy. :E

I had a co-worker get soaked by some guys who promised free energy next week every week.

Gertrude the Wombat
27th Nov 2018, 17:46
and we of course heard about that cold fusion "success" in the 80's and 90's that ... wasn't.
A physicist in a Cambridge pub:

"Well, we've got it running in the lab, and it does indeed get warm [shrug]"

wrmiles
27th Nov 2018, 18:00
Besides the quote of fifteen or twenty years away for the last fifty years, there is this:

"Fusion is the power source of the future and always will be."

Lantern10
27th Nov 2018, 22:04
IMHO there are too many folk making squillions selling us the power we are consuming now.
Can you imaging all the jumping up and down etc if someone could give us free energy. They simply wouldn't let it happen.
Anyway who said "There is no such thing as a free lunch"

Loose rivets
27th Nov 2018, 22:45
Why not, if the universe itself is? If.

Should it prove to be so, one only has to tilt that balance slightly off centre and presto!

As much energy as you want . . . erm, until the continuum* folds itself up into a singularity again.





*Patrick Stuart calls it a continuum, so it must be right.

Sallyann1234
28th Nov 2018, 10:33
"Don't you just love hydrogen? Pull it apart, you get energy. Put it back together, you get energy."

ORAC
28th Nov 2018, 12:45
Anyway who said "There is no such thing as a free lunch" Robert Heinlein, TANSTAAFL, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”.

HyFlyer
28th Nov 2018, 18:25
Quick dab of reality...
We as a species either invest substantially and find a way to harness Fusion power in a practical way or in the future we will indeed go back to living in caves and cooking over a wood fire (at best)....that isn't a prediction or a probability it is an absolute certainty based on all information on the planet's resources and energy sources we know about.
Solar, wind, water etc etc all use resources that are limited, all require some form of lubrication or battery or other limited resource that doesn't self reproduce and doesn't really provide sufficient energy to fully feed an entire economic industrial society that you need to produce the power source.
So the real question should be, why is so little of our GDP actually invested in our future? (as a species) and who is responsible for (and profiting from) such a lamentable situation.

Buster15
28th Nov 2018, 18:40
IMHO there are too many folk making squillions selling us the power we are consuming now.
Can you imaging all the jumping up and down etc if someone could give us free energy. They simply wouldn't let it happen.
Anyway who said "There is no such thing as a free lunch"

Where did you get the impression that Nuclear Fusion would be free energy.

Currently the only place this happens is deep within stars.
To be able to recreate the specific conditions on earth requires incredibly high temperature and incredibly high pressures to overcome the electromagnetic force and allow the fusion of two hydrogen atoms to fuse and then the strong nuclear force to hold them together to form a helium atom. This results in a tiny loss of mass and hence a massive amount of energy.

This then needs to be sustained to provide a stable source of power.

meadowrun
28th Nov 2018, 19:01
Perhaps the tipping point has finally been reached with electric powered vehicles (see GM's just announced significant re-structuring of manufacturing allocations (newly purposed word to cover layoffs and closures) to focus on alternative power).

However it doesn't seem that the lithium supply can keep up with even current demands (has been faltering for years).
There might be a need for an alternative method if we want to surf the electric wave into the future.

Gertrude the Wombat
28th Nov 2018, 19:21
Quick dab of reality...
We as a species either invest substantially and find a way to harness Fusion power in a practical way or in the future we will indeed go back to living in caves and cooking over a wood fire (at best)....
Niven points out that after a society collapses having consumed all its raw materials including fossil fuels, it'll have to go straight from cave dwelling to fusion in one hop to rebuild civilisation, with no coal, oil or uranium left for the intermediate stages. Which is a big ask.

Ascend Charlie
29th Nov 2018, 05:49
Where are the swamps full of decaying wood and animals that is supposed to be turning into the next lot of oil and coal? The whole process can't have just been a one-off ...or did Big G do it just to tease us?

cattletruck
29th Nov 2018, 07:19
If electricity prices keep going up at the remarkable rate they are moving now, and its use becomes so exclusive that its reserved for just special occasions like running your i-thingy to check your mail, then I think we will be going back to candles before the first fusion generator comes online.

Gertrude the Wombat
29th Nov 2018, 08:33
Where are the swamps full of decaying wood and animals that is supposed to be turning into the next lot of oil and coal?
Been repurposed to grow hamburgers and palm oil.

currawong
29th Nov 2018, 09:11
China likes to share research that belongs to others.

Not so much research that belongs to them.

If they do crack it, do you think they will share it?

Beats me how they find the time, between manipulating weather patterns and launching artificial moons.

Argonautical
29th Nov 2018, 14:20
and incredibly high pressures to overcome the electromagnetic force and allow the fusion of two hydrogen atoms to fuse

To be pedantic...not even these high pressures are enough, fusion only actually occurs because of quantum tunnelling.

Buster15
29th Nov 2018, 18:46
To be pedantic...not even these high pressures are enough, fusion only actually occurs because of quantum tunnelling.

That is a theory and bearing in mind the uncertainty principle of Quantum Mechanics ~ anybody who says they understand it is a liar (not my quote).

It is therefore simpler to explain it the way people could understand.

Dont Hang Up
30th Nov 2018, 11:40
To be pedantic...not even these high pressures are enough, fusion only actually occurs because of quantum tunnelling.
That is a theory and bearing in mind the uncertainty principle of Quantum Mechanics ~ anybody who says they understand it is a liar (not my quote).

It is therefore simpler to explain it the way people could understand.

Quantum tunneling and the uncertainty principle are actually the same thing.
An impenetrable barrier can be crossed simply because the essential uncertainty of a particle's position means that there is a finite probability that it is on the other side of the barrier.
So do it enough times and some of those times it actually will be on the other side.

wiggy
30th Nov 2018, 13:00
That is a theory and bearing in mind the uncertainty principle of Quantum Mechanics ~ anybody who says they understand it is a liar (not my quote).

It is therefore simpler to explain it the way people could understand.

Itís probably ;) not he understanding of QM being fundamental , itís IMHO having the imagination / being able to accept what the theories predict and working with them,,,quantum tunnelling being one example

Mr Optimistic
30th Nov 2018, 17:27
Nah, more like an evanescent wave effect.

Buster15
30th Nov 2018, 18:19
Quantum tunneling and the uncertainty principle are actually the same thing.
An impenetrable barrier can be crossed simply because the essential uncertainty of a particle's position means that there is a finite probability that it is on the other side of the barrier.
So do it enough times and some of those times it actually will be on the other side.

Or on both sides at the same time. That is the uncertainty principle.

However, the thread is about nuclear fusion and my understanding is that deep within a star this process takes place when the temperature and pressure reaches a specific threshold, almost like a switch.

The repulsive effect of two Hydrogen atom protons is momentarily overcome by the atoms moving extremely quickly (together) due to the temperature and then the strong force binds them together to form a Helium atom.

The tiny mass that is lost during this conversion is Energy, in this case Heat energy in the form of Photons.

So nuclear fusion requires a massive energy input and the really clever bit is to nbe able to get more energy out than is put in.

Mr Optimistic
30th Nov 2018, 19:54
...at a controlled rate unlike a thermonuclear weapon...
Commercially viable nuclear fusion electrical generator.....not within the lifetime of anyone currently on this planet would be my take on it. Why even try, fission isn't commercially attractive at the moment.

tdracer
1st Dec 2018, 03:36
Why even try, fission isn't commercially attractive at the moment.
Well, if we don't try, we'll never solve it. If there is to be an economically vibrant future for mankind, it's going to be dependent on plentiful, relatively inexpensive energy. That need was addressed for the last 100 years by fossil fuels, but even without the threat of carbon fed global warming, we're eventually going to run out of inexpensive fossil fuels. The only renewable power source that provides dependable base load electrical power is hydro - and even hydro has major environmental issues (there is an ongoing argument in Washington state about if our abundant hydro resources can even be counted as 'green energy'.) Plus, hydro offers limited opportunity for growth - there are only so many suitable hydro sources available. Solar only works when the sun shines, wind when the wind blows - we need something to take up the slack. Fusion remains the only identified long term solution that promises abundant, consistent power.
In the mean time, fission makes sense if you're really concerned about carbon - and fission still costs less than most solar and wind power if you account for all the 'green energy' subsidies.

meadowrun
1st Dec 2018, 05:36
And there was this guy who Musk seems to regard highly:

"Energy Transmission By Means of a Spherical Conductor “Single-wire” Surface Wave Transmission Line
The type of transmitter used to excite this propagation mode is described and illustrated in Tesla’s patent ART OF TRANSMITTING ELECTRICAL ENERGY THROUGH THE NATURAL MEDIUMS, May 16, 1900, U.S. Patent No. 787,412, Apr. 18, 1905 and elsewhere. It is essentially the same as the transmitter used for the atmospheric conduction method, connected to the ground and to an elevated terminal, with the elevated terminal having the modified spherical shape seen in a number of photographs and artistic renderings of the Wardenclyffe wireless station prototype. A similar rendering of a Wardenclyffe-type structure appears in the specifications of Tesla’s APPARATUS FOR TRANSMITTING ELECTRICAL ENERGY, Jan. 18, 1902, U.S. Patent 1,119,732, Dec. 1, 1914 in which this terminal is drawn as a modified torus.

It is apparent from documents on file at the U.S. Patent Office pertaining to U.S. Patent No. 787,412 that Tesla collected actual performance data. In response to a question from U.S. Patent Examiner G.C. Dean regarding three stated requirements that, “seem essential to the establishment of the resonating condition” Tesla’s attorneys responded, [QUOTE]These three requirements, as stated are in agreement with his numerous experimental observations. . . . we would point out that the specification does not deal with theories, but with facts which applicant has experimentally observed and demonstrated again and again, and in the commercial exploitation of which he is engaged. ["Spherical Transmission Lines and Global Propagation, An Analysis of Tesla's Experimentally Determined Propagation Model," K. L. Corum, J. F. Corum, Ph.D., and J. F. X. Daum, Ph.D. 1996, p. 3n.]

Tesla determined that the time required for a transmitted pulse or wave train to travel from the transmitter to the antipode and back again is .08484 seconds. This equates to a fundamental earth resonance frequency of 11.786892 Hz. He believed that by incorporating a portion of the earth as part of a powerful earth-resonance Tesla coil transmitter an electrical disturbance could be impressed upon the earth and detected, “at great distance, or even all over the surface of the globe."

ORAC
1st Dec 2018, 06:47
The only renewable power source that provides dependable base load electrical power is hydro Geothermal.

SUSTAINABLE, LOW CARBON ENERGY - ICELAND TO THE UK (http://www.atlanticsuperconnection.com/)

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iceland-energy-britain/iceland-magma-drilling-project-may-revive-giant-uk-power-cable-link-idUSKBN17C17E

https://www.edenproject.com/eden-story/behind-the-scenes/eden-deep-geothermal-energy-project

meadowrun
1st Dec 2018, 11:34
Icelandic geothermal is great.

All them hot springs and Bjork in the evening.

Unfortunately it is joined at the hip with volcanoes and can often be temporary and made to re-locate, if possible. (see: Big Island, Mount Kilauea)

Why has Tesla's research not been further investigated? He was onto something. Some many things.
Is it because he was foreign? Did fledgling oil companies and Edison protest too much? Is no one smart like Tesla?

Mr Optimistic
1st Dec 2018, 11:41
Was it Groucho Marx who said who am I going to believe, you or the evidence of my own eyes...or suchlike! When I graduated in 1975 one of my mates went to work at Culham on fusion. Now, a working lifetime later, how much closer have we got? The world is stuffed with energy. Spend the money on other things like carbon capture for coal. Difficult, but not insurmountable like I suspect safe, economic fusion power us.
Nice to be go minded and all that, but somethings will remain beyond our puny reach. Now, back to my search for the elixir of youth and a natty way of turning this lead stuff into gold. Actually water into wine would be better suited to my lifestyle.

blue up
1st Dec 2018, 15:28
An interesting idea dropped into my ears yesterday..."Why don't they plug all those Teslas in overnight to charge up and then use them to discharge to the electricity system when the driver reaches work, just as 30 million people switch on the kettle and their desktops to update their Facebook stsus?" If you aren't leaving work until 5pm then it could boost the electrical grid until 4pm, couldn't it?

Gertrude the Wombat
1st Dec 2018, 15:44
An interesting idea dropped into my ears yesterday..."Why don't they plug all those Teslas in overnight to charge up and then use them to discharge to the electricity system when the driver reaches work, just as 30 million people switch on the kettle and their desktops to update their Facebook stsus?" If you aren't leaving work until 5pm then it could boost the electrical grid until 4pm, couldn't it?
Been talked about for yonks.

The aspect of this that would worry me, if I were owning the battery risk, is how I'd get paid for the extra charge/discharge cycles that shorten the life of the battery.

ORAC
1st Dec 2018, 16:16
Originally Posted by blue up https://www.pprune.org/images/buttons/viewpost.gif (https://www.pprune.org/jet-blast/615834-fusion-based-electric-power-15-years-away-2.html#post10325453)
An interesting idea dropped into my ears yesterday..."Why don't they plug all those Teslas in overnight to charge up and then use them to discharge to the electricity system when the driver reaches work, just as 30 million people switch on the kettle and their desktops to update their Facebook stsus?" If you aren't leaving work until 5pm then it could boost the electrical grid until 4pm, couldn't it? Already part of the charging system specifications and being built into the car software.

Argonautical
1st Dec 2018, 20:29
Here in earth, we can only get fusion to work by using really high temperatures, far hotter than those found in the core of the sun. Fusion only occurs in the sun and nearly all other stars because of quantum tunneling. The uncertainty principle means that there is a really low probability that two protons will get close enough for the strong nuclear force to come into effect and fuse them together and hence release all the energy we see, but there see so many hydrogen atoms in the core that enough of them do fuse together to provide the energy. Without quantum tunneling the universe would be a cold dark p!ace. Fusion by temperature and pressure could never happen in for example red dwarf stars.
​​​​​​

Mr Optimistic
1st Dec 2018, 21:57
Here on earth, you don't know what you are talking about. You can't do the math. Go back a few posts, see the post about evanescent waves. There's the maths.

Dont Hang Up
3rd Dec 2018, 14:25
An interesting idea dropped into my ears yesterday..."Why don't they plug all those Teslas in overnight to charge up and then use them to discharge to the electricity system when the driver reaches work, just as 30 million people switch on the kettle and their desktops to update their Facebook stsus?" If you aren't leaving work until 5pm then it could boost the electrical grid until 4pm, couldn't it?

A nice idea for leveling supply and demand over the course of the day.

But does not deal with the ultimate problem. That supply has to be generated in the first place.