t-115790 Tabletop Nuclear Fusion Acheived? [Flat] - TribalWar Forums

Tabletop Nuclear Fusion Acheived?

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Bounty
03-06-2002, 07:10 AM
'Tabletop' Fusion Report Elicits Mixed Reaction (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A38511-2002Mar4?language=printer )

By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 5, 2002; Page A01

Nuclear physicists split yesterday into camps of excitement and skepticism after a group of scientists announced it may have created nuclear fusion -- the awesome power that fuels the sun -- in a device the size of two coffee cups stacked one atop the other.

The work, so simple and elegant, could create a virtually endless source of clean, renewable energy and change the world. But it also could be just another false alarm, like a 1989 report about "cold fusion" that drew huge attention before being dismissed as a dud.

"At first blush, we were very excited about it," said Lawrence Crum, a physicist at the Applied Physics Lab at the University of Washington in Seattle. Closer examination suggested that skepticism was in order, he said, adding, "the researchers might be deluded by Mother Nature, whose principal object in life is to make fools of scientists."

Creating "tabletop" nuclear fusion has been one of the most heated races in modern physics. Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee were careful yesterday to couch their claims in caveats, stressing that the results needed to be confirmed and, even if true, may not necessarily mean nuclear fusion power plants were imminent.

Unlike the "cold fusion" controversy, in which researchers went public before opening their findings to scientific scrutiny, the current report is being published in this week's issue of the journal Science, and was first evaluated by independent scientists. Still, such scientists as Nat Fisch, a physicist who directs Princeton University's Graduate Program in Plasma Physics, were unconvinced.

"The peer review process is important, but it's uneven," he said. "The fact an article is peer reviewed is not sufficient to guarantee quality."

Richard Lahey, one of the scientists who conducted the experiment, countered that criticism of the experiment was "political" and that the finding threatened scientists with big budgets for expensive, conventional fusion techniques.

The scientific journal yesterday issued some unusually blunt advice to both camps: "The premature critics of the result, and those who believe in it, would both do well to cool it, and wait for the scientific process to do its work."

Both nuclear fusion and its cousin fission convert matter into energy according to Albert Einstein's famous formula e = mc{+2}.

In fission, heavy atoms such as uranium break up into lighter particles. In fusion, two light atoms, such as hydrogen, are fused into a heavier element. In each case, some matter gets converted into energy.

Fission requires elements such as uranium, which are difficult to find, purify, handle and store, and it leaves radioactive waste that can last for decades or centuries. So scientists have long sought to acquire a simple means of nuclear fusion: Hydrogen is plentifully available and potentially safer.

But fusion is difficult to achieve, since very high levels of energy are required to force atoms of hydrogen together. So far, nonmilitary, man-made fusion has required high-energy accelerators or lasers.

In the Oak Ridge experiment, the researchers took advantage of a phenomenon called sonoluminescence. When sound waves are passed through certain liquids, they can create bubbles that pop with a flash of light.

The phenomenon is not completely understood, but the scientists thought they could use the popping of the bubbles to create the temperatures and pressures needed for fusion. The researchers created a sound wave in a container filled with the chemical acetone. The wave created oscillations -- and powerful vacuums -- about 20,000 times a second.

"If you have a bottle of water sitting at the desk and you put a stopper in the top and start pulling a vacuum, at some point it will start to boil at room temperature," said Lahey, a professor of engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. He explained the vacuum created in the experiment "is way, way down below that. That liquid wants to boil, it's hungry to boil; if you can just get it started, that bubble will grow like mad and evaporate."

The scientists fired neutrons into the liquid to "seed" tiny bubbles that rapidly grew to about twice the size of the period at the end of this sentence. As the sound wave oscillated, the low-pressure vacuum turned into a high-pressure zone and the bubble collapsed with intense force, creating temperatures as hot as the sun for a few trillionths of a second -- enough to force atoms of a form of hydrogen in the acetone together.

The researchers couldn't see the actual fusion -- they only measured its byproducts. These included a form of hydrogen called tritium, and neutrons that are produced in such reactions. While the experiment used up more energy than it produced, Lahey hopes scientists will find ways to use the energy produced to repeat the process -- setting up a chain reaction.

"It could be a tremendous resource for mankind," said Lahey. "Potentially, it really has the potential to solve a lot of the problems we've had in nuclear energy with radioactive waste, safety, and the availability of fuel. If this thing can be made to work, those problems could go away."

The publication of the results was delayed when other scientists at Oak Ridge could not reproduce the findings.

"I view this as an interesting research paper at this point that needs to be verified," said Fred Becchetti, a professor of nuclear physics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He added dryly, "somehow the words 'tabletop' and 'fusion' trigger a reactive response" among the media.

FiENDx
03-06-2002, 07:20 AM
----
"It could be a tremendous resource for mankind," said Lahey. "Potentially, it really has the potential to solve a lot of the problems we've had in nuclear energy with radioactive waste, safety, and the availability of fuel. If this thing can be made to work, those problems could go away."
----

yes, before taxes.

Prophecy
03-06-2002, 07:30 AM
Yes, this is all potentially true, and is a nice intermediary step in our quest for clean renewable energy, but I forsee in the next twenty five years, fusion being moot as energy derived from magnetism and gravitational forces is developed.

Gravity is where its at.

Fancy Cat
03-06-2002, 07:31 AM
This potentially has some potential. Potato anyone?

Bounty
03-06-2002, 07:32 AM
Originally posted by [OPs]Prophecy
Gravity is where it's at.

That concept is a little bit heavy for me.

Prophecy
03-06-2002, 07:33 AM
oh gawd that is a weak joke Bounty...especially for you :)

Bounty
03-06-2002, 07:35 AM
It's 7:30 a.m., cut me some slack. ;)

But do you really think cold fusion will be that obsolete compared to other forms of energy production? What about for space travel, etc.?

FiENDx
03-06-2002, 07:36 AM
i predict windpower will become so widespread that eventually the wind will die because too much force against it and the earth will stop spinning.... or

a big wind surge will start all the fans and they will push the earth into a faster rotation and we will spiral into the sun.

Eidelon
03-06-2002, 07:37 AM
didn't you try to get this thread started yesterday before the forum craped?

Somec
03-06-2002, 07:38 AM
eh... cold fusion (if it can even happen) will still be a good energy source. The desktop fusion thing in the article doesn't say they've found a way to do cold fusion - just that they've found a way to make a fusion reaction in a relatively small area

Prophecy
03-06-2002, 07:45 AM
Well, its like this...this is a theory I have so try to stay with me on it.

There are many forces in the Universe, many that we have no explanation for.

We know that if we burn fossil fuels, they provide heat energy which is convertable. We know that fission is an excellent form of energy but has some nasty byproducts. Fussion of course would be a logical step. We know fussion exists because we see it in the sky everytime we look at the sun. But we also have an energy source that exists that has a zero input to a huge output. Gravity.

Other than the preexisting mass of an object there is nothing that has to be added to the equation to produce a huge amount of energy. The problem is the conversion to a usable medium.

In all other energy we produce it involves eventually using heat as your energy source. Gravity exists without heat, and is seen everyday. How do we harness gravity and magnetism to be used by us ? THat is the question and science is now learning and theorizing exponentially. I think it is a matter of time before we discover what we need to know about it to manipulate it to our needs. I am going to try and find a link to something I read a few years back, it was extremely intereting.

Bounty
03-06-2002, 07:47 AM
Originally posted by Edelon
didn't you try to get this thread started yesterday before the forum craped?

Sure did. ;)

I'm persistent, eh?

That sounds cool Prophecy -- let me know what you dig up. I'm no scientist, by any means, but I do dig this kind of stuff.

Prophecy
03-06-2002, 07:50 AM
Check this out, this is what got me thinking...its deep in its theory but light in the reading.

Think of the possibilities if it is true :

http://www.wired.com/wired/6.03/antigravity.html

Bounty
03-06-2002, 08:35 AM
Just finished reading that article -- VERY interesting stuff! Thanks, man. ;)

T-Funk
03-06-2002, 08:38 AM
so basically the chicken came before the egg? :o

jotun
03-06-2002, 08:41 AM
ok, um... so if that thing actually DID start a chain reaction, that could be like a miniature H-bomb going off

[MoM] Gort
03-06-2002, 08:50 AM
Originally posted by jotun
ok, um... so if that thing actually DID start a chain reaction, that could be like a miniature H-bomb going off
H-Bomb = fission

A chain reaction in a fusion reaction would be like a miniature sun.

Bounty
03-06-2002, 08:50 AM
Well, H-Bombs use "fission", not "fusion".

jotun
03-06-2002, 09:04 AM
yes, H-bombs do use fission...

Let me explain.

The first atomic bombs worked by taking fissile material (uranium or plutonium) and putting it into a sphere or two seperate pieces. To make the explosion, the sphere is collapsed, or the two pieces are smashed together to achieve a critical mass for a fission chain reaction, which makes the big boom...

Fusion is what goes on in stars. There's so much heat and pressure that atoms get smashed together and release gobs of energy that allow even more fusion to happen (chain reaction). After getting fission bombs, people realized that the energy from those could be used to set off fusion reactions, which release even more energy than a fission chain reaction alone... H-bombs (hydrogen bombs) use a fission explosion to trigger a fusion reaction. The bomb has stores of tritium and deuterium (isotopes of hydrogen) which, when subjected to the forces of the fission explosion, fuse together, releasing a lot more energy. Most of the energy from H-bombs comes from the fusion reaction.. The most powerful ones surround the bomb in a jacket of uranium or plutonium which goes into a second fission chain reaction when the high-energy neutrons released from the fusion reaction slam into it..

Most of the energy from h-bombs (HYDROGEN bombs) comes from the FUSION of HYDROGEN (isotopes). Hydrogen doesn't undergo fission... it really can't.

Daemon
03-06-2002, 09:18 AM
Originally posted by [OPs]Prophecy
Check this out, this is what got me thinking...its deep in its theory but light in the reading.

Think of the possibilities if it is true :

http://www.wired.com/wired/6.03/antigravity.html

very, very interesting. =)