Compact Fusion Reactor

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Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Fat Cat » Thu Oct 01, 2020 7:57 pm

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are collaborating on a new “compact” fusion reactor that could feasibly be built and go online much faster than existing fusion reactor concepts. Does that mean fusion’s Lucy will finally let an industry Charlie Brown kick the football? Maybe.

https://www.popularmechanics.com/scienc ... -timeline/

This would be a pretty amazing feat, and has the potential to allow for nearly unlimited clean energy.
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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by nafod » Thu Oct 01, 2020 8:39 pm

Unlimited clean energy = fuck climate change

One can hope.
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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Fat Cat » Thu Oct 01, 2020 10:05 pm

It sounds too good to be true, but it would be amazing and yes, could have a major impact on anthropogenic carbon. I think it's naive to think that there aren't also naturally occurring factors leading to warming, but this would certainly help us clean up our act. And that's just the beginning of it, because the whole hydrocarbon business is dirty on many levels.
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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by nafod » Fri Oct 02, 2020 12:55 am

It’s just that with mega-cheap energy, even with climate change one can make the desert bloom, and just about any place livable. Still have to deal with risings seas and forced migration.
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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Fat Cat » Fri Oct 02, 2020 1:53 am

nafod wrote:
Fri Oct 02, 2020 12:55 am
It’s just that with mega-cheap energy, even with climate change one can make the desert bloom, and just about any place livable. Still have to deal with risings seas and forced migration.
Fusion powered deathray in 3..2...1...
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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Kazuya Mishima » Fri Oct 02, 2020 1:51 pm

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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by nafod » Fri Oct 02, 2020 2:00 pm

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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Sua Sponte » Fri Oct 02, 2020 2:56 pm

MIT. Where would be without you.

Typical of Popular Mechanics and it's ilk, article is a bit optimistic. Much has been learned about fusion in programs like LLNL's NIF so the base technology is pretty well understood. Going to TRL 9, little bit more difficult.

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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by nafod » Fri Oct 02, 2020 3:09 pm

I remember reading a book about fusion power development years ago, and as an interesting tidbit, a big-time private investor in it was the guy who owned Penthouse magazine, forget his name.
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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Sua Sponte » Fri Oct 02, 2020 3:14 pm

Bob Guccione. $20M. Nowhere enough to fund such an undertaking. Especially in the early 80's when the technology was infantile in comparison. There was the idea of a compact tokamak. One of the scientists involved, Coppi, later joined the MIT physics department. There's a compact tokamak at MIT for roughly the last 3 decades.

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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by nafod » Fri Oct 02, 2020 3:22 pm

I stood in their control room and watched them do some kind of a test run. Up there while working on a project involving compact cyclotrons, and asked for a tour.
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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Sua Sponte » Fri Oct 02, 2020 5:38 pm

My office and lab were across the hall from the tokamak group. Great guys to chat physics with. Hard time getting grad students to sign-up. Thirty years ago, that sort of research seemed like a good way to throw away a career before it started.

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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Fat Cat » Fri Oct 02, 2020 7:28 pm

A viable nuclear fusion reactor — one that spits out more energy than it consumes — could be here as soon as 2025.

That's the takeaway of seven new studies, published Sept. 29 in the Journal of Plasma Physics.

If a fusion reactor reaches that milestone, it could pave the way for massive generation of clean energy.

https://www.livescience.com/nuclear-fus ... -2025.html
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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Sua Sponte » Fri Oct 02, 2020 7:49 pm

There's not doubt such a result would epochal. What I referred to above reference a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 9 means it is full in production. The program described in the PM article is only going to produce TRL 5 or maybe 6. That's just for the reactor. Converting into electricity is another step, all the safety engineering, manufacturability issues, validation and public acceptance are other hurdles to TRL 9; the latter may be the toughest part, who knows.

The great thing about the this technology is that it does not require a fission reactor to nucleate the fusion. LLNL's NIF program used very large arrays of laser diodes to initiate the fusion reaction and magnets to confine the resultant plasma. In bot cases, the development of those supporting technologies to sufficient capability are relatively recent developments.

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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Sua Sponte » Fri Oct 02, 2020 7:50 pm

Double post

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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Fat Cat » Fri Oct 02, 2020 8:12 pm

Sua Sponte wrote:
Fri Oct 02, 2020 7:49 pm
There's not doubt such a result would epochal. What I referred to above reference a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 9 means it is full in production. The program described in the PM article is only going to produce TRL 5 or maybe 6. That's just for the reactor. Converting into electricity is another step, all the safety engineering, manufacturability issues, validation and public acceptance are other hurdles to TRL 9; the latter may be the toughest part, who knows.

The great thing about the this technology is that it does not require a fission reactor to nucleate the fusion. LLNL's NIF program used very large arrays of laser diodes to initiate the fusion reaction and magnets to confine the resultant plasma. In bot cases, the development of those supporting technologies to sufficient capability are relatively recent developments.
Good information, and of course, it's important to be realistic. That said, this could be a game changer as the technology develops.
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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Grandpa's Spells » Fri Oct 02, 2020 8:19 pm

Pretty cool article. It does feel a little more like the huge leaps in cheap solar, even over the last few years, will make the big difference before fusion ever comes online.
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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Sua Sponte » Fri Oct 02, 2020 8:43 pm

Cheap solar isn't all that cheap nor particularly impactful and will never have the impact of a fieldable fusion system. Not even close.

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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Fat Cat » Fri Oct 02, 2020 9:08 pm

Grandpa's Spells wrote:
Fri Oct 02, 2020 8:19 pm
Pretty cool article. It does feel a little more like the huge leaps in cheap solar, even over the last few years, will make the big difference before fusion ever comes online.
I do a lot of work related to renewable energy and solar in particular. The price per MWh has come down massively over the course of my two decades of observation, but it's still an incremental improvement, not a revolution. It's soft power (i.e., fluctuates) and requires hard power backing and/or battery storage for smoothing, otherwise you end up with rolling blackouts like in California.

Compact fusion would be a near instant earthquake in technology. Like, immediately shut down all coal mines, fracking, wind turbines, etc. because they're simply no longer needed. Hell, even combustion engine vehicles would immediately cease to have much utility. You could find out if global warming is anthropogenic pretty damned quick, because you wouldn't need to shed carbon to make power.
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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Grandpa's Spells » Sat Oct 03, 2020 4:01 am

The part I may be mistaken on is, it appears as though the improvements in solar + the battery storage like what Tesla's putting out appears to be potentially taking an awful lot of power needs off our plate over the next 20 years, assuming the battery and solar improvement curves continue. Combined it looks dramatic. I see the battery stuff more than solar part, but people seemed excited about solar. Is that less accurate in the industry?

This seemed like a way where people have power stations on nearly every roof in much of the country, as opposed to decade projects to get reactors online.
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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Shafpocalypse Now » Sat Oct 03, 2020 4:38 pm

Look for immediate repression of those technology by fossil fuel based industries.

I hope those MIT guys are looking over their shoulders

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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by nafod » Sat Oct 03, 2020 4:59 pm

I’m going to use it to power my lunar base, and wish you Terrans the best of luck.
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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by motherjuggs&speed » Sat Oct 03, 2020 11:44 pm

I'm going to quote FC in bold since the quote function is a pain to use for multiple quotes.

Compact fusion would be a near instant earthquake in technology.

No, it would not be, since unless someone invents Mr. Fusion, it will take a long time to build the needed infrastructure.

Like, immediately shut down all coal mines, fracking, wind turbines, etc. because they're simply no longer needed.


This assumes that the cost of fusion would be less than other energy sources, which it might not be, even if it were way less expensive than anything currently in development. It also assumes that the companies or countries that invested in the previous technology would be willing to buy or build the new technology.

Hell, even combustion engine vehicles would immediately cease to have much utility.


Completely wrong. There are many areas of the world which don't have the capacity for charging electric vehicles. I'm assuming here that fusion will require huge plants of the approximate size and complexity of current nuclear power stations. Small fusion engines might not be possible, and even if they were it would take many years to produce them at scale cheaply enough to make them an attractive option, and even then most people with current gas or diesel engines couldn't afford to buy the few Fusor cars quickly.

You could find out if global warming is anthropogenic pretty damned quick, because you wouldn't need to shed carbon to make power.

No, because the carbon in the air, oceans, etc., is still there. The greenhouse effect, if true, is likely not going to respond in a quick or linear manner.

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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by motherjuggs&speed » Sun Oct 04, 2020 12:12 am

Fat Cat wrote:
Fri Oct 02, 2020 1:53 am

Fusion powered deathray in 3..2...1...
I've always found it suspicious that Leia Organa just happened to be offworld when Alderaan got it. Funny how her assets were stored in the Galactic Exchange whereas all her debts, and most of her political enemies, were on Alderaan. She also managed to be off the station when

<<<spoiler>>>

Luke blew it up, so Moff Tarkin was eliminated as well. One might suspect that she had been downplaying her true degree of proficiency with the Force. It would explain a few things.

I know what you're all thinking -- "If she was that skilled and prescient, why allow Han to get frozen?". Because she was still pretty mad at him, since she expected him to be all hers, and then, being the heroes of the galaxy, he and Luke were literally drowning in pussy for a while: "You ever been inside a giant Quardoth, kid?", so Leia was inclined to let him think on it for a while.

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Re: Compact Fusion Reactor

Post by Fat Cat » Mon Oct 05, 2020 7:11 pm

motherjuggs&speed wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 11:44 pm
Compact fusion would be a near instant earthquake in technology.

No, it would not be, since unless someone invents Mr. Fusion, it will take a long time to build the needed infrastructure.
The electrical transmission and distribution infrastructure is already present. Aside from the time to permit and construct the SPARC technology, no additional infrastructure is needed that is not already present. Also, since it is continuous hard power, no need for huge storage banks as is the case with soft renewables.
motherjuggs&speed wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 11:44 pm

Like, immediately shut down all coal mines, fracking, wind turbines, etc. because they're simply no longer needed.


This assumes that the cost of fusion would be less than other energy sources, which it might not be, even if it were way less expensive than anything currently in development. It also assumes that the companies or countries that invested in the previous technology would be willing to buy or build the new technology.
I think that this is a reasonable point of view, I believe Elon Musk made the same point. But, it depends on how you look at the cost-benefit equation. It may, as a straight line comparison, be more expensive than wind or solar today, but there's no reason to assume that that would continue to be the case for very long given the factors that drive the price-per-watt for, say, solar which ignores additional outliers like storage, which SPARC-power doesn't need. The era of cheap solar panels from China is coming to an end. SPARC doesn't take up huge amounts of space like solar farms, doesn't impact communities or endangered species like wind, doesn't require energy storage, etc. All of which means that what you spend on the front end you save on the back end. Also, the performance life of the reactor is far beyond that of a solar or wind facility.

motherjuggs&speed wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 11:44 pm

Hell, even combustion engine vehicles would immediately cease to have much utility.


Completely wrong. There are many areas of the world which don't have the capacity for charging electric vehicles. I'm assuming here that fusion will require huge plants of the approximate size and complexity of current nuclear power stations. Small fusion engines might not be possible, and even if they were it would take many years to produce them at scale cheaply enough to make them an attractive option, and even then most people with current gas or diesel engines couldn't afford to buy the few Fusor cars quickly.
Any place that has wall outlets has the capacity for charging electric vehicles. With massive free power, the government would incentivize charging stations in places where people park on the streets, because it promotes economic activity across the board. Also, the SPARC reactor is not large, it's approximately the size of a large house. Where it would take time would be for older combustion-engine vehicles to cycle out of their useful life, but given that transportation is only about a quarter of the total for greenhouse gas emissions, the early progress would be in utility-scale generation for residences, commercial properties, and industry which collectively are about half of the whole pie.

motherjuggs&speed wrote:
Sat Oct 03, 2020 11:44 pm
You could find out if global warming is anthropogenic pretty damned quick, because you wouldn't need to shed carbon to make power.

No, because the carbon in the air, oceans, etc., is still there. The greenhouse effect, if true, is likely not going to respond in a quick or linear manner.
Carbon is constantly being sequestered via natural processes. You would be able to chart the arrival of cheap fusion electricity versus the decline in greenhouse gas emissions more or less overnight. You would also be able to finally make some statements about how much of global warming is anthropogenic versus a natural phenomenon.
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