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Old 11-30-2009, 08:55 PM   #1
Fredkc
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Default Could This Lump Power the Planet?

Just found this a few min. ago. dunno diddley about it but...

Could This Lump Power the Planet?

http://www.newsweek.com/id/222792

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Lab are betting $3.5 billion in taxpayer money on a tiny pellet that could produce an endless supply of safe, clean energy. For some, that's hard to swallow.

It doesn't look like much from the outside—just a drab, 10-story building on the campus of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, about an hour's drive east of San Francisco. But as I'm walking across the parking lot on a sunny day in October I can't help thinking that someday I might be telling my grandchildren about the time I came to this lab and met Edward Moses and saw the technology that was about to change the world.

Maybe this means I'm an optimist. Or even a sucker; a fool. All I know is that when I meet Moses, the 60-year-old scientist who runs this place, and he shows me a tiny pellet, about the size of the multivitamin I take every morning, and swears it will provide an endless supply of safe, clean energy, I want to believe him. It seems so ridiculously simple, so utterly doable. The pellet Moses holds is a model, but the real version will contain a few milligrams of deuterium and tritium, isotopes of hydrogen that can be extracted from water. If you blast the pellet with a powerful laser, you can create a reaction like the one that takes place at the center of the sun. Harness that reaction, and you've created a star on earth, and with the heat from that star you can generate electricity without creating any pollution. Forget about nuke plants, coal, oil, or wind and solar. "This is the real solar power," says Moses.

What Moses is talking about is controlled nuclear fusion—fusing nuclei rather than splitting a nucleus, as happens in ordinary nuclear-fission power plants. In a fission reaction, the nucleus of a uranium atom is split into two smaller atoms, releasing energy in the form of heat. The heat is used to make steam, which drives a turbine and generates electricity. In fusion energy, the second half of this process (heat makes steam makes electricity) remains the same. But instead of splitting the nucleus of an atom, you're trying to force a deuterium nucleus to merge, or fuse, with a tritium nucleus. When that happens, you produce helium and throw off energy.

Scientists have been trying to produce energy with fusion for decades. So far, they keep failing. It's not that fusion itself can't be achieved. Fusion takes place in every hydrogen-bomb explosion. The trick is controlling fusion so that instead of a one-time blast you get a series of tiny, controllable explosions. The joke is that fusion energy is only 40 years away, and will always be only 40 years away.

Moses believes, however, that his lab, which is called the National Ignition Facility, or NIF, has cracked the problem. The big challenge fusion has faced is lack of power. Even the biggest lasers in the world could not generate enough energy to smash nuclei together and make them stick. But the reason the building we're in is so huge—it covers the area of three football fields—is that it contains an enormous laser, or actually a system that combines 192 identical lasers and zaps them into a round chamber, about 30 feet in diameter, where the tiny pellet of fuel awaits the blast. NIF's laser, which took a decade to build and was completed earlier this year, can produce 60 times more energy than any other laser ever built. Right now it's still being tested. But next year Moses and his scientists will fire it up with a full load of deuterium-tritium fuel, and Moses feels confident it will achieve "ignition," meaning a controlled burn in which you get out more energy than you put in. Moses, an award-winning laser scientist with a wry sense of humor, explains the whole thing as he leads me on a tour through the NIF facility. It's a vast, beautiful, awe-inspiring machine, mind-blowing in its complexity, with miles of metal tubes—all part of a system that starts with a tiny pulse of light, channels that light through machines that amplify its intensity and rocket the beam along using specially grown crystals and thousands of lenses and mirrors, and finally focuses these beams down to hit a target that is the size of a peppercorn—all in one millionth of a second.

But other scientists warn me that this is all just a high-tech fantasy. They say Moses is full of a certain kind of non-nuclear fuel, and that I should not believe anything he and his colleagues tell me. "They're snake-oil salesmen," says Thomas Cochran, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has tracked the NIF project from its inception in 1997. Cochran says the NIF laser is still not powerful enough. Even if it were, he says, "these machines are just going to be too big, and too costly, and they'll never be competitive." Other critics, like Stephen Bodner, a Ph.D. physicist who was director of laser-fusion research at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., until his retirement in 1999, say Moses's team has downplayed such technical problems as its inability to focus NIF's laser on a tiny target.

Moses says NIF has already demonstrated the ability to focus onto the target. He's aware of the skepticism but says he's confident that his team, which consists of 500 scientists and engineers, will succeed.

More at link.
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Old 11-30-2009, 09:12 PM   #2
Dantheman62
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Default Re: Could This Lump Power the Planet?

Here's some pics...

The NIF covers an area the size of three football pitches. Photo: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory



Jeff Wisoff, deputy principal associate director of the NIF, in the room where a single infrared laser is sent through almost a mile of lenses, mirrors and amplifiers. Photo: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory



The capsule containing the 'fuel' on which laser beams will be concentrated. The aim is to generate temperatures of more than 1,000 million degrees Celsius. Photo: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory



Inside the target chamber, where scientists will attempt to create an artificial sun. Photo: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
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Old 11-30-2009, 09:56 PM   #3
Seashore
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Default Re: Could This Lump Power the Planet?

I don't know, but I think this stuff is way cool to contemplate!!
_______________________________________________

"All I know is that when I meet Moses, the 60-year-old scientist who runs this place, and he shows me a tiny pellet, about the size of the multivitamin I take every morning, and swears it will provide an endless supply of safe, clean energy, I want to believe him."


Interesting that his name is "Moses."
_______________________________________________

"The pellet Moses holds is a model, but the real version will contain a few milligrams of deuterium and tritium, isotopes of hydrogen that can be extracted from water. If you blast the pellet with a powerful laser, you can create a reaction like the one that takes place at the center of the sun. Harness that reaction, and you've created a star on earth, and with the heat from that star you can generate electricity without creating any pollution. Forget about nuke plants, coal, oil, or wind and solar. 'This is the real solar power,' says Moses."

Interesting...

_______________________________________________

The one thought I have, though, is that the source is Newsweek, which is so mainstream, it worries me. Right away, I'm looking for a hidden agenda...
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Old 11-30-2009, 10:28 PM   #4
morguana
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Default Re: Could This Lump Power the Planet?

Nuclear fusion would be such a big step forward, thank you both for your posts, as seashore says interesting ...............on many levels
Bou x
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Old 12-02-2009, 03:30 AM   #5
Lorien
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Default Re: Could This Lump Power the Planet?

I've actually read some papers on this project a while back, and if things go as they expect, it should work. Question is exactly how much power will it generate and how stable will it be?
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Old 12-02-2009, 04:34 PM   #6
Fredkc
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Default Re: Could This Lump Power the Planet?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorien View Post
Question is exactly how much power will it generate and how stable will it be?
Ya know, I asked the same thing about Bush and Obama, meself.
Now what?

Opps! wrong thread!

Actually, for scientific purposes, the system need only achieve a modest rate of return to change the game. If all it does is serve as a "proof of concept" then we're on our way.

I mean if all they wind up with is say a 2-5% net gain; energy in, vs. energy out, then what you have is a whole lotta huffin' and puffin' for not much. Definitely not something you'd want in every basement in town.

We can then move on to the next questions:
1. At what rate of return will the utility companies decide that it p[ays them to invest in perfecting the technology?

2. At what point can we then wrest it from their grasp, and build a simple machine that everyone can keep around the house?

To my thinking that should be the ultimate goal.
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