Google enters nuclear fusion clean-energy race

July 26, 2017 by  
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Nuclear fusion is the holy grail of sustainable energy — a potentially unlimited source of pollution-free energy that can power the world. No greenhouse gas emissions. Only helium and a neutron are produced. Now Google has jumped into the race to commercialize nuclear fusion technology, teaming up with California-based fusion company Tri Alpha Energy to develop a new computer algorithim that optimises plasma — an ionized gas that conducts electricity. “Google is always interested in solving complex engineering problems, and few are more complex than fusion,” wrote Ted Baltz, senior staff software engineer, Google Accelerated Science Team, on Google’s research blog . “Physicists have been trying since the 1950s to control the fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium, which is the same process that powers the Sun. The key to harnessing this power is to confine hydrogen plasmas for long enough to get more energy out from fusion reactions than was put in. This point is called ‘breakeven.’ If it works, it would represent a technological breakthrough, and could provide an abundant source of zero-carbon energy.” Related: These mini spherical reactors could help scale fusion energy by 2030 The research was published Tuesday in the journal Scientific Reports . The Optometrist Algorithm achieved a 50 percent reduction in the energy loss rate and an increase in ion temperature and total plasma energy. Other private and public entities are racing to become the first to bring nuclear fusion to scale. Experimental testing includes the Iter project in France, the Wendelstein 7-X (W7X) stellarator in Germany and the Tokamak ST40 reactor in the UK. General Fusion , a Canadian company, is also working to develop nuclear fusion technology. + Tri Alpha Energy + Achievement of Sustained Net Plasma Heating in a Fusion Experiment with the Optometrist Algorithm Via The Guardian Images via Tri Alpha Energy , Google Research Blog

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These mini spherical reactors could help scale fusion energy by 2030

May 16, 2017 by  
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Scientists have long sought to replicate with fusion reactors the sun’s ability to produce energy through nuclear fusion . But it’s taking too long for Tokamak Energy , a UK-based company that wants to speed up the progress with mini reactors. Their small Spherical Tokamaks makes it possible to accelerate tests, which is difficult in other laboratories because of the specific conditions required; they hope to provide commercially-available fusion energy as soon as 2030. Nuclear fusion is difficult to replicate on Earth because it requires extremely high temperatures and pressures. Scientists have broken records on the path to fusion energy for all, but there’s still a long way to go; a recent record hit only 70 seconds of high-performance plasma operation , and that was still an exciting milestone. But Tokamak Energy thinks they could accelerate us closer to fusion energy with their mini tokamaks. Related: Germany’s massive nuclear fusion reactor is actually working Spherical Tokamaks can “achieve a much higher plasma pressure for a given magnetic field than conventional tokamaks,” according to the company, which they say means their smaller reactors are more efficient. The tokamaks’ small size also offers an advantage in contrast to other fusion reactors being developed around the world, which have cost billions of dollars. At the end of April this year, Tokamak Energy switched on their third reactor in five years. They hope the ST40 will hit 100 million degrees Kelvin – seven times hotter than the Sun’s center and required for controlled fusion – next year. The company is working to be the first to offer commercially viable fusion, in just a little over 10 years. When his company turned on the ST40, Tokamak Energy CEO David Kingham said, “We will still need significant investment, many academic and industrial collaborations, dedicated and creative engineers and scientists , and an excellent supply chain. Our approach continues to be to break the journey down into a series of engineering challenges, raising additional investment on reaching each new milestone. We are already halfway to the goal of fusion energy, with hard work we will deliver fusion power at commercial scale by 2030.” Via the BBC and Tokamak Energy ( 1 , 2 ) Images via screenshot

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Germany’s massive nuclear fusion reactor is actually working

December 8, 2016 by  
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A little over a year ago, Germany turned on the world’s largest nuclear fusion reactor and faced sharp speculation over whether the machine could function as intended. Now, tests conducted by US and German researchers confirm that the experimental Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) stellarator is indeed producing magnetic fields that make controlled nuclear reactions possible, and with a high degree of accuracy and incredibly low error rate. With these test results, new confidence and hope are spreading through the renewable energy industry, as nuclear fusion could be the key to ending fossil fuel dependence worldwide. W7-X is the first of its kind to be put into regular operation. Its processes mimic those that occur on the sun, which is a natural nuclear fusion reactor (or “stellarator”). A team of researchers from the US and Germany worked together to test the stellarator after it went online in order to learn whether it is capable of producing the sort of magnetic fields necessary to trap scorching balls of plasma long enough for nuclear fusion to occur. And it is. Related: Germany’s Wendelstein 7-X stellarator passes new test, bringing us closer to nuclear fusion energy The research team found that W7-X is generating magnetic fields just the way its design intended: strong, twisted, and 3D. “To our knowledge, this is an unprecedented accuracy, both in terms of the as-built engineering of a fusion device, as well as in the measurement of magnetic topology,” the researchers wrote in a report. Combined with an error rate less than one in 100,000, the tests conclude the W7-X stellarator has made history. It could become the first power plant on Earth to use little more than saltwater to create a safe, clean, long-lasting source of energy for generations to come. The research results were recently published in the journal Nature Communications. Via Science Alert Images via Wikipedia and NASA

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MIT’s fusion reactor sets new world record

October 14, 2016 by  
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MIT ‘s nuclear fusion reactor Alcator C-Mod set a new world record on its last day of functioning at their Plasma Science and Fusion Center . Due to lack of government funding, the experimental reactor closed the end of September, right after scientists broke the plasma pressure record. MIT set the previous record over a decade ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0SzyJr73uE Fusion energy powers the sun, but it’s not so easy to replicate on Earth. In order for scientists to successfully generate fusion energy, plasma must reach a certain temperature, be confined for a certain amount of time, and reach a certain particle density. Density and temperature create pressure, which according to MIT is two-thirds of what scientists require to successfully create fusion energy, so pressure records are a big deal. Related: Princeton experimental fusion reactor breaks after $94 million upgrade The last record, set in 2005, sat at 1.77 atmospheres. The new record of 2.05 atmospheres means MIT improved pressure by around 15 percent. When Alcator C-Mod set the world record, the temperature inside the reactor was more than 35 million degrees Celsius, which is roughly twice as hot as the sun’s center. Other fusion experiments have attained such high temperatures, but at much lower pressures. The plasma in the reactor generated a staggering 300 trillion fusion reactions every second. The area required for this feat was tiny; according to MIT, it was just 1 cubic meter, or about the size of a coat closet. Alcator C-Mod operated for 23 years until Congress decided to stop funding it in 2012. They ultimately decided to fund Alcator C-Mod for three more years, a time period that ended September 30, 2106. Scientists praised MIT’s accomplishments. Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory former deputy director Dale Meade said in a statement, “The record plasma pressure validates the high-magnetic-field approach as an attractive path to practical fusion energy.” If you have questions about nuclear fusion energy or the reactor, MIT scientists, faculty, and students will participate in a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on October 20 at 1PM EDT. Via MIT News Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Lockheed Martin Announces a Major Breakthrough in Nuclear Fusion

October 16, 2014 by  
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It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, with secret laboratories and futuristic technologies , but this movie is real. Lockheed Martin’s stealthy Skunk Works division recently revealed that is has created a compact nuclear fusion reactor that could completely alter the way we power our world. Speaking to Aviation Week , researchers explained that they have been quietly working on a device that could produce cleaner, safer and more powerful energy than ever before. Read the rest of Lockheed Martin Announces a Major Breakthrough in Nuclear Fusion Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: clean nuclear power , clean power , CNF , Compact Nuclear Fusion , lockheed martin , Lockheed Marting fusion , new atomic age , nuclear fusion breakthrough , nuclear fusion reactor , Skunk Works , Skunk Works fusion

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New Fusion Reactor Concept Could Generate Unlimited Clean Energy Cheaper Than Coal

October 10, 2014 by  
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Fusion energy is often associated with Hollywood fantasy – think Tony Stark’s miniature Arc Reactor in “Iron Man.” But could a virtually unlimited source of zero-emission power actually become a reality? University of Washington engineers have designed a fusion reactor concept that could be cheaper than a coal-fired power plant with a similar electrical output. According to the results of their analysis, which will be presented at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Fusion Energy Conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, a fusion power plant producing one gigawatt of energy would cost $2.7 billion compared to $2.8 billion for a coal plant. Read the rest of New Fusion Reactor Concept Could Generate Unlimited Clean Energy Cheaper Than Coal Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: coal , coal fired power plant , dynomak , fossil fuels , fusion reactor concept , nuclear fusion , radioactive-free , university of washington , zero emission

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Livermore Scientists Announce Critical Milestone for Nuclear Fusion Power

October 8, 2013 by  
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Researchers at the National Ignition Facility in Livermore , California just made a major breakthrough for nuclear fusion by focusing 192 beams from the worlds most powerful laser on a tiny pellet of hydrogen and actually generating more energy than was absorbed by the fuel. If unlocked, nuclear fusion could supply the entire planet with a virtually unlimited source of clean energy. Scientists have been working towards nuclear fusion for many years. It’s the same process that powers the sun, and if it were replicated on Earth it could massively reduce the planet’s dependency on carbon-based fuels . Unfortunately, it has long been relegated to the realm of science fiction and comic books – but that could change with the National Ignition Facility in Livermore ‘s new findings. Until now, experiments have always used more power than they created – but in the facility’s latest trial the amount of energy released through the fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel. This is the first time this had been achieved at any fusion facility in the world. The result was achieved by using 192 beams from the world’s most powerful laser to heat and compress a small pellet of hydrogen fuel until nuclear fusion reactions took place. The amount of energy released marks a huge milestone in the quest to achieve fusion power. However what scientists really want to achieve is ignition, which occurs when the nuclear fusion reaction generates as much energy as the laser’s supply. Currently, there are inefficiencies in the fusion system which mean that not all the energy supplied through the laser is delivered to the fuel, but give it a few years and scientists could make another massive leap towards a fossil fuel-free future. + Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Via BBC News Images via Lawrence Livermore’s National Ignition Facility        

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Livermore Scientists Announce Critical Milestone for Nuclear Fusion Power

Scientists Fire World’s Most Powerful Laser and Move Closer to Developing Fusion Energy

July 16, 2012 by  
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Scientists in California fired up 192 laser beams simultaneously onto a single, tiny, two-millimeter target, producing and unbelievable 500 trillion watts of energy . To put it into context, that’s about 1,000 times more power than the entire United States uses at any given time. Scientists aren’t just firing off super-powerful lasers for fun, though; the team at the National Ignition Facility ultimately hope that by aiming the 10-story laser at a compressed pellet of hydrogen they’ll be able to kickstart a nuclear fusion reaction and produce an unlimited supply of clean energy. Read the rest of Scientists Fire World’s Most Powerful Laser and Move Closer to Developing Fusion Energy Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “clean energy” , fusion , fusion energy , fusion ignition , lasers , lawrence livermore national laboratory , national ignition facility , NIF , nuclear fusion , renewable energy , world’s largest laser

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Scientists to Use World’s Largest Laser to Create Star on Earth

April 28, 2010 by  
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Images via CNN According to scientists at a government lab in Livermore, CA, all we need to do in order to save our planet from its energy woes is create a star right here on Earth . It’s that simple! All joking aside, researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are 100% serious and believe they’ve come up with a way to use the world’s largest laser (it’s about 3 football fields long) to trigger a nuclear reaction so powerful that it will make a star form right on the surface of the Earth.

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