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back to article Dr Hurricane unleashes FUSION POWER at Livermore nuke lab

Scientists in California have made a major breakthrough in fusion power research, but the path to unlimited clean energy remains long and difficult. The scientists described the significant result – which was recorded last year at the National Ignition Facility in Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory – in a paper published in …

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They are seriously letting a "Dr Hurricane" work on creating fusion power?

Have they learned NOTHING from comic books?

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Coat

But...

... does he have an assistant called Cyclone Boy?

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Re: Cyclone Boy

No, only a puppy mascot. The Typhoon Terrier.

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More power to him. It would be fantastic if he did get it figured out. However, somebody is always on the verge of making it work. I never pans out though. I honestly wish him the best.

Regardless of how it works out, Dr. Hurricane will never be hurting for work. The possibilities are great! He could be a meteorologist, a weather channel anchor (lots of syndication opportunities there), the spokesperson for Canada's weather control machine, a sales rep for coastal storm insurance, a sex therapist, the face of Hurricane malt liquor, a bowsprit on a cruising yacht, just so many choices! Lucky bastard.

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Anonymous Coward

@Don Jefe

"More power to him."

I see what you did there!

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What's In A Name...

"National Ignition Facility"

As names go, they don't any more ominous than that.

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Re: What's In A Name...

Living in the U.K, the 'International Ignition Facility' could be a lot worse!

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Flame

Re: What's In A Name...

We should be OK - as long as they don't start calling firehouses that way.

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"National Ignition Facility"

Hopefully it doesn't do what it says on the tin! :D

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Bad description of the process

"In the sense where we are with this is we've assembled the stick of dynamite with the fuse and can light the fuse – all we need to do now is get that fuse to light all the way down to the stick of dynamite," Hurricane explained.

No, they built this immense hammer to explode their stick of fusion-dynamite. It takes lots of energy to lift the hammer, and the hammer blow blows the dynamite all over the place with a very little bang. But they hope that if they fiddle with the hammer a bit, they can get a few more dynamite grains to explode.

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Re: Bad description of the process

"No, they built this immense hammer to explode their stick of fusion-dynamite. It takes lots of energy to lift the hammer, and the hammer blow blows the dynamite all over the place with a very little bang. But they hope that if they fiddle with the hammer a bit, they can get a few more dynamite grains to explode."

Rather apt. I'd have said that they made a skyscraper sized bonfire to light that fuse, getting a few grains of dynamite to explode.

I'm wondering though, why they try to utterly eliminate all turbulence, rather than capitalizing upon that turbulence to add pressure into sections of the plasma stream, which then fuse, expand, add more energy into the mix, adding more turbulence.

Rather than eliminating turbulence, guide and support it in designated areas.

Stars do it trivially. Regrettably, we don't have the gravity to help us with that, but we can scale forces as required. We can substitute momentum over pure, brute force of gravity.

Whoever manages to get all of the traded off values to combine in an efficient manner with significant gain over input energy will be the one who finally answers the question of fusion power and should be remembered by humanity until the heat death of the universe!

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Re: Stars do it trivially

Not really. Stars do it with quadrillions upon quintillions upon sextillions of tons of mass, so much mass that when the fusion process starts, the turbulence is contained by the x-septillions of tons of mass bearing down on it.

When there is no longer a stable reaction is when stars bloat to red giant status, or explode in nova or super-nova.

Hardly trivial matters. Then again, I acknowledge that it is difficult to wrap one's head around the fact that our Sun contains 99.5% of all matter in our Solar System.

And that there are billions upon billions of others just like it in the vast void of our Universe.

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Re: Bad description of the process

"Stars do it trivially."

Hard to impress, aren't you?

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Joke

Re: Stars do it trivially

Then perhaps we should just plug into the sun instead of reinventing the process. Way more efficient than converting only the visible light. All we need is a REALLY long extension cord. Or three.

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Boffin

We need fake gravity..

If we could fool nature into realizing the necessary gravitational forces, the turbulence will subside, and the test will be a success. This is where the 'theory of everything' comes to order. Use the new math Boffins!

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Re: We need fake gravity..

In the interest of understanding, if we make something (fake gravity) that's identical to something natural (gravity) is there a need for differentiation?

On second thought, if somebody did create fake gravity they could probably call it anything they wanted.

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Joke

Re: We need fake gravity..

"All" they need to do is place an order with CERNs retail arm for a jar of Higgs-Bosons!

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Turbulence will be the least of Fusion problems

The biggest problem of fusion are high energy neutrons. Successful fusion reaction spits out >14MeV neutrons. These can neither be slowed down, nor shielded effectively by anything sane. They also will play merry "radiation corrosion" hell with the reaction construction. It destroys everything in its way. The only way of getting something useful out of them is to have a combined fusion-fission reactor or fusion-reactor/fission-breeder. That has even more interesting non-proliferation aspects - we will be producing Plutonium at a rate which will make any nuclear arms expert have a heart attack.

In any case, it will not be a clean energy source. It will be as dirty as current generation of nuclear plants if not more.

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Re: Turbulence will be the least of Fusion problems

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aneutronic_fusion

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Mushroom

Re: Turbulence will be the least of Fusion problems

Ninja'd by the previous poster. Personally, I'm a lot more interested in Lawrenceville's Plasma Focus approach (which arguably belongs to neither of the two methods quoted in the article) - I've been following their progress for a while now, and it looks genuinely promising; even more so considering the shoestring budget they work on. They expect to approach break-even soon too, and they don't even need giant lasers or fuel pellets to do it.

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Coat

Re: These can neither be slowed down, nor shielded effectively by anything sane

Don't worry, if we can't find a sane solution, we'll find an insane one !

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@Pascal Monett

"If we can't find a sane solution, we'll find an insane one!"

Now ain't that the story of human civilization .

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"There are currently two main approaches..."

If you had bothered to look at Wiki, or had any familarity with the field, you would know about three more. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_power#Possible_Approaches

Tokamaks are widely regarded as a dead end for power generation purposes, although they are wonderful science experiments that can secure funding for a physics department for decades.

My money is on the Polywell: it is being developed by the US Navy. That should tell you something.

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Re: "There are currently two main approaches..."

Tokamak is the white elephant in the room, some good research has come from JET (ITER's predecessor), but a large proportion of governments are putting all their eggs in one basket.

My money is on some form of DPF.

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Re: "it is being developed by the US Navy. That should tell you something."

Oh it does. It tells me that there is some prize Defence Budget pork that has been secured by a private company whose CEO and board and going to live comfortably for decades to come.

It also tells me that there will be cost overruns, delays and assorted problems with the tech for decades to come.

Finally, it tells me that there may well be a final product, but it will not perform as per specifications and it will be more expensive to maintain than was initially planned.

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Re: "it is being developed by the US Navy. That should tell you something."

Sorry, I mistyped: it's being FUNDED by the Navy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polywell#Navy_contract_for_12_million

Compared to what has already been spent on Tokamaks and other Magnetic Confinement designs, this is peanuts.

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Mushroom

Dr Hurricane

As condition of your sentence I forbid you to return to Death Mountain.

Aww, but all my stuff is there.

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Coat

With a name like Hurricane

He should understand turbulence well. Good man for the job I'll wager.

well -- its ALMOST Friday.

Yes, yes, mines the one with the "candu reactors for idiots" in the pocket

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Anonymous Coward

Ok, that's a bit better than the Guardian's take

I thought the scientists were claiming a first for something that had already been achieved in Britain back in 93/94 (Taurus?); namely getting the reaction to generate enough energy both to power the thing and to produce some useful output.

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Mushroom

Can someone let me know when they get it small enough to sit on the back of a De Lorean?

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Anonymous Coward

Mr Fusion!

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Joke

Timescale?

Hmmm, so I guess that practical fusion power is now, what, say 20 years away?

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Meh

Increase by 10x in energy output

Ever notice how fusion physicists are very cagey about how far to go?

And judging by how far they've got left it's a long way down.

Personally I've always had a soft sport for muon catalyzed fusion.

But that never gets funding.

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Well I'm blessed

I did a project on nuclear fusion at secondary school (1978 or so), and was fascinated by the images of SHIVA and the like as shown in the National Geographic magazine. I equally eagerly poured over reports on JET and the like. Many stories told how scientific break-even (as much energy into the reaction as out) was one or two decades away. Clearly development has not been as nearly as fast as anticipated, but I am well pleased to hear of this progress.

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Happy

Re: Well I'm blessed

Heh. I did a project on both nuclear fission and fusion at High School (preparatoria in Spanish) back in 1997. Same thing here, I was fascinated on tokamaks and the NIF thingy, though I was also kind of let down when I saw that break-even was still pretty far down the road. Yet I'm seeing progress in this area, so we'll probably crack it sometime during my lifetime, and hopefully we will.

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put the lasers inside a vacuumed pipe surrounded by electro magnets so light/particles have nothing to bettle against

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