In this space, visitors are invited to post any comments, questions, or skeptical observations about Philo T. Farnsworth's contributions to the field of Nuclear Fusion research.
Subject: Chemical VS Nuclear
Date: Aug 07, 9:34 am
Poster: Richard Hull
On Aug 07, 9:34 am, Richard Hull wrote:
Dave Cooper in his post of the 6th is quite correct. Per unit reacting mass, nuclear reactions are incredibly energetic over chemical reactions.
The original question posed on the issue sounds as if it was one of perception and of qalitative thought rather than precise scintific thinking. Dave and Jim geave superb discussion to elucidate the issue. Howvers, the the poor average joe looking at Fusion, it looks pitiably weak.
All the kings horses and all the kings men have sucked at the public treasure for years making bigger and bigger edifices to the goal of cheap fusion energy. It got to be big science real quick in the 60's.
The big and obvious difference to the average Joe on the street is that chemical explosions and reactions DO THINGS. Fusion reactions don't (at least at their level.) Billions of degrees kelvin are now leaving them cold, and millions of electron volts are not as shocking as they once were, for like the boy who cried wolf, the gilding is now off the lilly for most folks who are actually footing the bill for fusion research. Oh, there will always be a few new folks to snap at the carrot, but the public slowly tires of the quest. So the scientists pity them for their sins of the spirit and lack of understanding.
The key difference in the chemical and nuclear reactions is the 3-6ev/ molecule chemical reactions, everything GOES, as a rule. In any nuclear process, only a micro fraction of the mass GOES. The rest is blown clear of the reaction.
Do we herald the near 100 % conversion of molecular/mass binding energy at 5 ev involving quadrillions of molecules or applaude the .00000000000001% supplied mass conversion of a few million fusion reactions? It is a matter of perception and perception alone for the man on the street.
Fission is a going reaction and is now making many thousands of megawatts of energy for Joe daily.
It is still an awfully mass poor conversion process (as is any man handled nuclear process), and a messy one, but it vastly outperforms the finest and most elegant fusion system, so far as visible, usable, energy is concerned. It will most likely continue to do so for years into the future.
Also fission at its core, (no pun entended), involves only a couple of small lumps of matter brought together, and presto!.. real water boilin', island eviscerting energy.
So as big as the nuclear reaction is energetic, it is almost infinitly pitiable in the paucity of reaction/unit mass fed into the process, and the support facility needed to assure the reaction at this level of jaundiced output. (Jim's fine post.)
This is why chemical reactions are seen to have power, energy, or whatever the common Joe ascribes to a blast of 1 fluid ounce of nitro in his or her own mind. It is also why Joe seeing a 2000 ton tokomak tended by a faithful following of egg heads sucking at his money, watching plasma flashes noiselessly illuminate the chamber is not amused or bemused to the degree of the long suffering phyicist.
We can spend $3.00 for the chemicals to make the nitro and eviscerate a room sized building where work, energy and power have meaning to the average Joe. We can then attempt to convince him of the elegance and future of fusion where billions of electron volts of energy resulting in each fusion and billions of degrees kelvin needed to achieve that reaction are much more energetic reactions and point to our multi-million dollar, multi-ton edifice as he sees a blue flash in the chamber through a view port and some small erosion debris from the walls fly around. Joe is left cold.
We as Scientists, physicists, engineers, technicians, and amateur scientists can see the elegance, the beauty, the magesty of it all, but poor Joe only has his unlearned and dim conceptualiztion of work, energy, power and utility............poor Joe.
Has this been a diatribe against fusion....?
Not really. I am one of the few on this list to ever do and verify fusion with my own hands. I also commiserate with Joe. If we leave him out of our work we fail him and ourselves.
So perception is of paramont importance. For joe the nitro going off was much "neater" at 5 ev/ molecule. It did more work. It showed a more energetic reaction. It had more power. It was contained in a perfume bottle. It cost 3 bucks, and didn't require saleries for 400 people saying we can blow up that building "real soon now".