Fine progress for ITER.

Reflections on fusion history, current events, and predictions for the 'fusion powered future.
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Paul_Schatzkin
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First the Pregnancy...

Post by Paul_Schatzkin » Fri Sep 16, 2011 3:28 pm

...the the copulation?

Richard Hull writes:

"Fission is the delivery of a pregnancy. Fusion is a forced copulation in hope of an immaculate conception."

Pardon the momentary use of (implied) profanity but.... that's just f'ing brilliant.

No pun intended?

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Paul Schatzkin, aka "The Perfesser" – Founder and Host of Fusor.net
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"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 50 years in the past and we missed it."

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ITER -v- IEC

Post by Paul_Schatzkin » Fri Sep 16, 2011 3:57 pm

Yeah, I know... with HEAS coming around the corner I figure it's time I stuck my head in here and see what I've been missing while I've been off jousting at other windmills the past few months...

These discussions of ITER always catch my eye. I am of "both minds" about it.

I have previously expressed my own skepticism of those and similar big-budget efforts on occasion, here in the forums (fora?) and in posts to the front of the site. Every time ITER hits my "fusion" Google alert I hear a cash register ring and another billion dollars has gone up the magnetic confinement chimney.

So I agree with Hector's aspersions on the one hand, but I also concur with Carl's suggestion that dumping on legions of well-intentioned scientists and engineers is probably counter productive.

And for what it's worth, I've had more than my fill of people who profess to have brilliant, novel concepts but can only talk about them in the abstract ("I have an idea!") and never in the material ("...and this is the idea:...") See "Brown, Townsend" and all the smoke and mirrors that gather around that sideshow.

But the real reason I'm taking the time to make a post here is because I want to echo what Chad Ramey said:

"many ideas+ability to test ideas quickly=lots of data available for improvement"

...because that so succinctly underscores the whole reason this site is has been here for well over a decade now.

To me, just the fact that there is a coterie of individuals around the world who can actually produce fusion in their basements and garages is nothing short of astonishing, amazing, miraculous - chose your hyperbolic adjective. These people are actually observing and learning things from fusion. I tell friends and colleagues that I host a site for people who can create a "synthetic star" and jaws drop (or eyeballs roll back in their heads).

And so the body of knowledge about how fusion can actually be created and controlled, how it behaves when it is controlled and how such a reaction can be sustained, is valuable in ways that are impossible to measure (especially in the short term).

As I told somebody in a media interview recently, I am not handicapped by the kind of hard-boiled, hands-on experience that some of the senior members of this community possess, so I am not bound to the conclusion that "fusion is 20 years in the future and always will be." With my lack of experience, I still have room to dream...

So I am inspired by the curiosity and daring people like Chad, Taylor Wilson, and the other young Fusioneers who think about these things in their sleep and wake up with new experiments that further grow the body of knowledge here.

There really isn't much we can do about ITER and its ilk, that is how big institutions work. But I think it's true that the brilliant and disruptive ideas that drive civilization forward always come from the fringe, and the initial proof of concept is achieved for pennies on the dollars that monolithic institutions are endowed to spend.

And if it is to be, so will it be with fusion.

--PS
Paul Schatzkin, aka "The Perfesser" – Founder and Host of Fusor.net
Author of The Boy Who Invented Television - http://farnovision.com/book.html
"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it is 50 years in the past and we missed it."

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Re: First the Pregnancy...

Post by Richard Hull » Fri Sep 16, 2011 6:17 pm

My small comment noted by Paul was no slight or slap at some supposed impossibilty of fusion for power use, but just a realistic statement that fusion is based on a rather difficult and distant set of probabilities causing a rare reaction that has no inherrently stored potential energy to yield a well understood energy producing reaction. The "immaculate conception" being self-sustaining ignition in spite of all the cross linked near improbables and seeming impossibles involved in the process.

Paul showed that he has been learning some details about fusion, even if by osmosis to see the simple beauty of the comparison I made. I even patted myself on the back on that one.

Not only are fission and fusion different in the physical, scientific sense, but they are diametrically opposed at a fundamental level only those familiar with many details of each can begin to appreciate. Amazingly, fusion was discovered about 14 years before fission, though it was not until the late 40's that anyone really started working on trying to get power from it in a way that they knew they could easily get from fission.

Even more amazing is that, in our universe, fusion had to occur before fission would ever be possible....At least in our current understanding of the physics. Oh yes, the fusion that made fission possible was 100% energy sucking, endothermic fusion.

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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Re: First the Pregnancy...

Post by Chris Bradley » Fri Sep 16, 2011 6:23 pm

It's not an immaculate conception we need, it's an 'immaculate contraption'.

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Re: First the Pregnancy...

Post by Chris Bradley » Fri Sep 16, 2011 6:28 pm

Richard Hull wrote:
> fusion was discovered about 14 years before fission, though it was not until the late 40's that anyone really started working on trying to get power from it in a way that they knew they could easily get from fission.

..and even more confusingly, the first observed fusion reaction was p+Li7, resulting in a 'fission' of 2 x 4He - hailed as 'splitting the atom' rather than 'fusion'!

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Re: First the Pregnancy...

Post by Richard Hull » Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:01 pm

There a vast gulf affixed between fission and fusion, regardless of what we think we observe in the processes.

In fission, seemingly dead material ( mater) does not require any input energy, yet can be merely macro-mechanically assembled and fully controlled to deliver, on demand, as little or as much energy as needed up to its net mass equivalent. (critical mass assembly) It is always an exothermic reaction or a net energy producer. We note the disolution of mater in this case into two nuclei, both huddling about the middle of the periodic chart masses

In fusion, seemingly dead material always demands that vast amounts of energy be applied or added to the dead material, plus, a number of special subatomic mechanical conditions must also be made to exist and then regardless of what we see happen, particle wise, we evolve a process yielding either net excess energy or net loss of energy, depending on whether an exothermic or endorthermic fusion has taken place.

The key differences are fission needs no input energy and is a 100% exothermic, energy producer. Fusion demands input energy in 100% of all cases and may or may not produce excess energy once the fusion occurs.

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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Re: First the Pregnancy...

Post by David Geer » Sat Sep 17, 2011 7:07 am

The CNO fusion reaction in a star is nearly self-sustaining in the right environmental conditions. We don't have the sheer resources to duplicate it but with the combination of other fusion and fission reactions, a sustainable fusion event occurs with these specific atoms.

Using exothermic and endothermic reactions is the only sure way to produce long sustainable energy output aside from standard exothermic nuclear fission reactors. Fundamentally different but mutually beneficial to eachother.

-David Geer
- David Geer

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Re: Fine progress for ITER.

Post by David Geer » Sat Sep 17, 2011 7:14 am

I was talking about amateur folks running on large funding without the board of directors and project guidelines getting in the way of scientific progress. I do believe the ITER project is a great scientific undertaking and they are learning a great deal about particle behaviors and engineering improvements.

A simplified goal with a complex and difficult road to reach it. Not what they have for the big projects now, where a single project has numerous goal objectives being mandated from higher authorities.

I guess the bottomline, is that, these projects funded by government or multi-national efforts need to be streamlined and not simply for academia.
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Re: First the Pregnancy...

Post by Chris Bradley » Sat Sep 17, 2011 7:41 am

David Geer wrote:
> The CNO fusion reaction in a star is nearly self-sustaining in the right environmental conditions. We don't have the sheer resources to duplicate it .....
(....nor the gravitational field, it would appear...)


> but with the combination of other fusion and fission reactions, a sustainable fusion event occurs with these specific atoms.
I've posited here before that it is irrelevant to consider the 'CNO' cycle and all we need do is pick the fastest, most useful reaction in that chain. It takes an eternity for each step to happen for any quantity of these reactants that can be contained on earth.

The 'possibly useful' reaction CNO teaches us is the p+15N reaction, which seems only a little bit more unlikely than the p+¹¹B (and some folks talk that up as a walk in the park, so why not p+15N?).

But this is a thread about ITER, and magnetic confinement can never likely do any fusion for the so called 'advanced' fuels because there is too great a power loss from the plasma from higher Z thermal plasmas.

What you have to do to avoid losses in a thermal fusion plasma is decrease the plasma surface area (through which losses flow) to volume. There is no object within several light years of us with a smaller surface area:volume ratio than the Sun.

Hence, because the Sun is also suspended in a vacuum, this is why it becomes incandescent even though its specific power, by volume, is a couple orders of magnitude *lower* than the heat output of a mammal.

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Re: Fine progress for ITER.

Post by Chris Bradley » Sat Sep 17, 2011 7:54 am

There are such projects I'd put in that category and they still have problems: General Fusion, Focus Fusion and FPGeneration appear to surely fit into the 'non-academic' definition - I would tend to describe these folks as 'well-funded amateurs' (excepting the last who now appears to have run out of funding).

Then there are EMC2, Tri-Alpha, Helion Energy and others that are 'academic lead' but not with the 'Board of Directors' format you are describing as being the 'big hold-up'.

Then there are those amateurs who are doing/have built 'non-fusor' reactor configurations never before attempted by amateurs, such as FamulusFusion, Bee Research, Ed Miller and myself. In all these cases, I think I am right to say that funding and interfering Boards of Directors aren't the fundamental issues - other limitations come to bear, as they always would in any project (e.g., time, space, opportunities to disseminate).

So, on evidence, it looks more to be the 'problem' that is the limitation, not the organisation per se.

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