Yet nuclear fusion?
Just about the Holy Grail of clean energy: nuclear fusion, which – unlike nuclear fission – produces no waste.
An infinite source of clean energy. But until now, not into practice. He? What says MIT?
MIT has developed a small, new model which, as they say, can be launched within a decade. It has a diameter of 6.6 meters and will be able to provide 100,000 households with green electricity.
The breakthrough is due to the availability of superconductors, made of barium copper oxide (Rebco), allowing to create super magnetic coils. Better than currently available materials, these superconductors are able to control the extreme heat of the plasma, created during fusion.
Fusion has the potential to save the planet
Imagine a world powered by a cheap, safe, clean, virtually limitless, sustainable fuel source such as water. If fuel and energy are cheap and available to all nations, that reduces global political tensions. If our energy comes from a clean-burning fuel source, that reduces air pollution. All that would be good, right?
Billionaires such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen apparently think so.
They’ve each thrown their money into a different fusion development company, each with its own idea how to solve the fusion puzzle.
Bright burning star
“What we’re really doing here is trying to build a star on Earth,” said Laban Coblentz at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), a massive fusion reactor being built by 35 countries in southern France. He means it:
Fusion is what keeps stars, including our own sun, burning bright.
This is how fusion works
2 gases ( deuterium and tritium) are heated under pressure to at least 100 million degrees Celsius. Because of the heat, the gas converts into plasma.
Then they fuse together — releasing a burst of additional heat. That burst is called a fusion reaction.
The heat boils water into steam, which drives a turbine and generates electricity that powers your neighborhood.
What’s so hard about fusion?
- To have a business case, we have to create more energy than the original energy we have been using to heat the fuel. And that is still not possible.ITER recently cut the ribbon on a nearly 200-foot-tall Assembly Building, one of the first massive structures at the site. Inside, workers will piece together large reactor components before they’re inserted into the main facility that houses something called a tokamak.
- Handling plasma is one of the big challenges that make fusion so hard. To achieve fusion, you have to bottle up that super-hot plasma so it’s really dense. Then you have to keep it dense, hot and contained long enough to get it to fuse.The billionaires such as Allen, Thiel and Bezos have put their money into private companies that are running projects on a much smaller scale than ITER.
- Allen is an investor in a firm called Tri-Alpha Energy, in Orange County, California.
- Thiel is said to be backing Helion Energy in Redmond, Washington
- Bezos is investing in General Fusion, Burnaby/Canada
All these companies are using electromagnets in their attempts to unlock the promise of fusion.
In Livermore, California, the National Ignition Facility has been focusing on a process called inertial confinement fusion.
This is how it works
- You take a pellet filled with deuterium and tritium gas and place it inside a gold plated cylinder
- Then you shoot it with intense laser light.
The light heats the inner walls of the cylinder, creating a superhot plasma that showers the pellet with soft X-rays.
- The X-rays heat the outer surface of the pellet, causing it to implode.
- The implosion compresses and ignites the plasma and burns the fuel, causing a fusion reaction.
Experts say science has made a lot of progress recently and for some, confidence is high.
“For $20 billion in cash, I could build you a working reactor,” Professor Steven Cowley, CEO of the UK Atomic Energy Authority
It would solve the world’s energy needs for the next millennium. There’s no question.
We just have to demonstrate it, and then replicate it on a scale that will actually be practical.”
- Fusion Power, Pros & Cons
- Lockheed Martin’s R&D Fusion: clean power for the future?
- We have to report you on cold fusion (ECAT)
- How do different types of renewable energy work? Video
- Time for more Concentrated Solar Power Plants?
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