[Theory] Electron-Degenerate Matter: High Power Density p-p?

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ian_krase
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[Theory] Electron-Degenerate Matter: High Power Density p-p?

Post by ian_krase » Tue Jul 25, 2017 7:04 am

I understand well that protons fuse very very slowly (and don't get much faster either with greater compression or with CNO cycle), which means that ordinary stars can last for billions of years but that a fusion reactor using only common isotopes of hydrogen sounds difficult to achieve useful power outputs from unless it was the size of a small stellar core, even if we had Dr. Minkovsky helping us out with containment.

However, I also understand that in a type Ia supernova, "cold" gas is compressed so tightly that it becomes electron-degenerate, and that if enough additional gas is added, a portion of it eventually "flashes" to fusion very rapidly, forming a spectacular and rapid explosion. The power density is on the very, very, very rough order of 10E13 times that of the sun.

So, if we had a way to compress bulk matter past the point of electron degeneracy in the laboratory, could we make high-power fusion reactors that burn hydrogen or other common isotopes rapidly? Or am I missing something serious here?

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Re: [Theory] Electron-Degenerate Matter: High Power Density

Post by John Futter » Tue Jul 25, 2017 8:17 am

hmm
HBOMB

ian_krase
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Re: [Theory] Electron-Degenerate Matter: High Power Density

Post by ian_krase » Tue Jul 25, 2017 9:45 am

I don't see how that's the same thing. It's news to me if that's anywhere near electron degeneracy, and they explicitly use fusable isotopes.

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Richard Hull
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Re: [Theory] Electron-Degenerate Matter: High Power Density

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Jul 25, 2017 5:03 pm

Rapid compression, boom-boom.... Putt-putt boat fusion. Lightning bolt capturing power plant ideas.

Any ideas on actually obtaining electron-degenerate, earth bound compression schemes? NIF uses several tera-watt pulses to compress a little gold pellet loaded with D and can't generate a single usable watt of electricity in their putt-putt boat fusion regime.

I guess the thought process can balloon from simple lawson criteria based hot fusion to muon catalyzed fusion on up to earth bound super nova based P-P burn fusion. Why fence ourselves in with the old fusion processes that haven't worked for the last 70 years?

Think big, really big!

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

ian_krase
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Re: [Theory] Electron-Degenerate Matter: High Power Density

Post by ian_krase » Tue Jul 25, 2017 7:31 pm

It's worth noting that type Ia supernovae expend most of their energy in kinetic energy of expanding gas/plasma. If this were carried over to an artificial reactor, would be great for space propulsion -even better than thermonuclear Orion Drive.


I'm pretty much assuming a magical gravity containment field here in both cases - the point is that for normal proton-proton fusion, CNO or no, that doesn't work very well. The question isn't how to actually do it, though I've heard claims that laser implosion can theoretically go much further than it has.

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Re: [Theory] Electron-Degenerate Matter: High Power Density

Post by Sarvesh Sadana » Tue Jul 25, 2017 7:49 pm

It's worth mentioning that a physicist at a national laboratory told me that breakeven ICF fusion had been achieved by the military. Supposedly, it was classified so the public never heard about it.

Sarvesh

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Richard Hull
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Re: [Theory] Electron-Degenerate Matter: High Power Density

Post by Richard Hull » Wed Jul 26, 2017 5:14 am

I attended a conference at VCU presented by a NIF scientist and they are also claiming over unity ICF fusion has been done at NIF! They are putting forth big ideas for a power plant proof of concept system!! Artist renderings of the final design with green trees surrounding the complex really impressed the impressionable young would-be nuclear engineers. Me?... Bah Humbug!

What I heard was, of course, "Give us more money and we promise the moon and the stars will be at your feet".

Secret over unity fusion!.... That at least is original in the checkered history of fusion boosting tales and promises. The mix of military defense in the fusion quest is also novel.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Dennis P Brown
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Re: [Theory] Electron-Degenerate Matter: High Power Density

Post by Dennis P Brown » Thu Jul 27, 2017 7:13 pm

I am in the field and they (NIF) are five orders of magnitude below just break even - they make tokamaks look Iike super power plants (which we know they aren't.) There are no secret programs that have achieved break even - just fake news. Sorry. That said, ion fusion was looked at in the 80's/90's at Sandia Labs (at very low power levels so, not a real attempt) and that approach looked very promising once relativistic speeds are achieved (not very difficult); however, that approach had no weapon application so was left unexplored at higher powers. Not saying it would work but it has potential that has never been explored; shocking that an ion accelerator far exceeds most lasers in conversion efficiency -that really surprised me.

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Rich Feldman
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Re: [Theory] Electron-Degenerate Matter: High Power Density

Post by Rich Feldman » Fri Jul 28, 2017 5:32 am

>>... in a type Ia supernova, "cold" gas is compressed so tightly that it becomes electron-degenerate, and that if enough additional gas is added, a portion of it eventually "flashes" to fusion very rapidly, forming a spectacular and rapid explosion. The power density is on the very, very, very rough order of 10E13 times that of the sun.
So, if we had a way to compress bulk matter past the point of electron degeneracy in the laboratory ...

>>HBOMB

Just ran the numbers.
Power density in man-made bomb cores is very very roughly 3E+27 times that of the sun (whole ball) or 3E+24 times that at center of sun.

My values for sun: 0.27 W/m^3 for whole ball, 276.5 W/m^3 at center. The latter value is similar to that in the center of an active compost heap.
My SWAG values for H-bomb are based on LiD at 1000 x natural density, 50% consumed in 100 ns. I bet that's conservative, esp. if we consider _peak_ power. Maybe not, depending on how fast the reacting volume expands during the burn. A not-inconsequential fraction of the mass escapes as (literally) fast neutrons.

As another example of clever humans creating exotic astrophysical conditions:
that NIF we've been pooh-pooing as a fusion reactor nevertheless creates implosion accelerations as great as the surface gravity on neutron stars. Dennis, if you want I could dig up the numbers that led me to that conclusion.

oh and an old pet peeve of mine, last expressed here years ago:
When floating point numbers are printed in the E format, the E doesn't mean "To the power of".
It means "Times 10 to the power of".
One way to avoid confusion, without exotic typography, is to substitute *10^ or x10^ for the E.
Richard Feldman

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