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Fusion Energy

Fusion energy. Yes it sounds futuristic and is apparently a hot word in marketing. Gillette makes a Fusion razor, Ford builds a Fusion car (that runs on gasoline, go figure), and Coke introduced Coke Blak, a fusion drink of cola and coffee (it’s quite good, really).

But what is Fusion really, besides a buzzword? For the purposes of this post, fusion is the joining of atoms to form new atoms and surplus energy as a product. Currently the only sources of fusion energy are thermonuclear weapons and stars, our sun being one of the latter. Self-sustaining nuclear fusion reactions do not exist on Earth at this point. Several research reactors are moving towards this, but no reactor has been able to produce energy equal to the energy required to control the reaction for more than a few seconds. The next generation research reactors being built now should produce 2-3 times the power used for periods on the order of minutes. Ideally, the third generation will finally produce at least 3 times the power input indefinitely. This research is publicly funded, meaning that the technology produced from that research would be available to the countries funding it. If a private company were to beat these researchers to the punch, they would turn the world’s energy economy on its ear.

Fusion energy is produced by causing two light atoms (Hydrogen, Helium, Boron) to collide with each other hard enough to overcome the electrostatic charges repelling each other. Think of smashing two magnets together North pole to North pole. These atoms then form a new atom (often helium in the more common fusion reactions) with more energy than the original fuel atoms. This energy comes from rearranging the nuclei of the fuel atoms into the nucleus of the new atom.

In order to use this energy viably, the reactions need to be contained. There are two basic means of containment. The first is inertia. Imagine holding a baseball made of fusion fuel (deuterium and tritium, say). Squeeze that baseball tight enough to cause the atoms to fuse, forming Helium. The fusion reactions will cause the baseball to expand out rapidly, but not as rapidly as the fusion reactions are occurring. Thus, an explosion is the end result, but in the meantime, fusion occurred. This is what happens inside a thermonuclear weapon. A fission bomb (A-Bomb) detonates, creating a shockwave strong enough to compress fuel to the point of fusion. The resulting explosion from fusion makes that little (A-bomb) look like nothing. This is an (H-Bomb).

The second, and more important, method of containment is using Magnetic fields. Fusion is most at home in plasma. The best way to create plasma on Earth is high temperature, high pressure. We’re talking so hot no material known to man could withstand it. Luckily, since plasma consists of atoms with enough energy that the electrons essentially fly off, plasma is conductive. This means that magnetic fields can be used as walls to contain plasma without letting it touch the physical boundaries of the reactor. The reactor design currently being researched uses a doughnut shaped vessel to avoid the plasma being able to "leak out" at the ends.

So we, as the human race, know how to produce fusion. Why aren’t we using it? After all, we could take seawater, extract the deuterium (1 in 6400 atoms, but we have a LOT of seawater), put it in our doughnut shaped reactor and get energy and helium, the second most common element in the universe. What are we waiting for! Well, it turns out that at this point, the energy needed to keep those huge magnetic fields humming away indefinitely is more than we can extract from the reactions occurring inside. The goal of international researchers is to improve the design and materials (i.e. use of superconductors) to lower the input power and increase the output power. Many men and women smarter than pretty much anyone I know have been working on this for years.

Now, hypothetically, if there existed an island with an enormous magnetic field built into the very rock of the island, could this be used as a place to build a reactor. The power needed to sustain the powerful magnetic fields could possibly be reduced. Given that this would be a research reactor with many unknowns and it would contain plasmas at dangerously high pressures and temperatures, wouldn’t a remote location far from population centers be ideal?
These are just a few things to think about. We know THF is interested in electromagnetism. We know Hanso owns an island with unique electromagnetic properties. We know that if a company beat the international researchers to the punch on fusion energy, that company would hold massive amounts of power, both literally and figuratively.

Something to think about,

Oxillini and Crossfade (I [Cross] didn't do anything but put this on blogger. Ox knocked this theory out!)

7 Comments:

Blogger oxillini said...

Woohoo! First!

7/17/2006 3:29 PM  
Blogger Heather's Brain said...

second...and I love it!

7/17/2006 3:39 PM  
Blogger Heather's Brain said...

See, this is the stuff I think about, but am not knowledgable (wasn't before this post) in this area enough to share a theory!!!

THANKS OX!

7/17/2006 3:40 PM  
Blogger oxillini said...

no problem heather, i'm just glad to have someplace to ramble.

7/17/2006 3:45 PM  
Blogger LostinFrogurt said...

Wow. That's quite informative. You think this was one of the goals of TPTB? To make people learn stuff? Maybe after they've educated us, they'll take our e-mails, find our addresses, kidnap us and force us to work on making fusion reactors so they'll control the energy economy, effectively mimicing the Hanso Foundation?! Or maybe not...

7/17/2006 3:46 PM  
Blogger RyaNDrumZ said...

I like it!!

THF doing this on a far off island makes sense. Plus, to be the first to accomplish this would mean lots of money for THF.

SPOILER
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Now there are left with a pile of junk with 3 dead bodies inside...J/K

7/17/2006 3:46 PM  
Blogger Crossfade said...

Hey Ox, had problems with posting your pic with blogger. I'll try again soon.

7/17/2006 4:03 PM  

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