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Power Science

Alternative to Tokamak Fusion Reactor 266

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the fun-with-government-spending dept.
Sterling D. Allan writes to tell us OpenSourceEnergy is reporting on a "far more feasible and profoundly less expensive approach to hot fusion". Inventor Eric Lerner's focus fusion process uses hydrogen and boron to combine into helium which gives off tremendous energy with a very small material requirement. Lerner's project apparently only requires a few million in capital investment which is a far cry from the $10 billion being spent on the Tokamak fusion project.
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Alternative to Tokamak Fusion Reactor

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  • Re:Eric Lerner (Score:5, Informative)

    by tartrazine (893277) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @01:23PM (#13958360)
  • More information (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 05, 2005 @01:27PM (#13958376)
    For more information see: http://focusfusion.org/ [focusfusion.org]
  • Re:Skeptical.... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Persol (719185) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @01:41PM (#13958440) Homepage
    Yeah, well if you follow the road past this project, the organizations involved aren't very 'mainstream'. The majority of the projects supporters appear to be free energy advocates (pesky law of energy conservation). This is scarily close to all the other slashtivements. The guy is looking for funding, doesn't really seem to have much in the way of scientific support, and is using a US Patent Officer (most intelligent people around) as his main public supporter. You'll notice on the site, and the sites it links to, a lack of scientific information. And no... I'm not usually this cynical.
  • Cooks and crackpots (Score:5, Informative)

    by Eukariote (881204) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @01:42PM (#13958449)
    Some simple checks can prevent this sillyness from perpetuating. Bob Park's "What's New" column http://www.bobpark.org/ [bobpark.org] is an amusing and up to date reference for this kind of thing. Here is what he has to say about the "Integrity Research Institute" (the name alone should have raised a red flag): http://www.searchum.umd.edu/search?q=%22integrity+ research+institute%22&site=&btnG=Search+UM&output= xml_no_dtd&sort=date%3AD%3AL%3Ad1&ie=UTF-8&client= UMCP&oe=UTF-8&proxystylesheet=UMCP [umd.edu]
  • by Frumious Wombat (845680) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @02:05PM (#13958555)
    The correct response to this article is,

    (a) yes, H-B fusion (aneutronic) is possible, but...

    (b) it requires very high temperatures, and suffers from a variety of energy loss mechanisms which make getting usable energy from it difficult. This is similar to when I was in grad-school, and everyone was whispering about Muon-catalyzed fusion, which turned out to be impractical for energy extraction as well.

    IANA(N/P)P (i am not a nuclear/plasma physicist), but the papers I skimmed suggest that you could use this method, mixed with a conventional Deuterium/tritium mixture, to get cleaner fusion and better burn rates. Of course, not being a physicist, it's possible that the journals I found the citations in are the physics equivalent of Journal of Pointless Chemistry.

    http://scitation.aip.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServ let?prog=normal&id=APCPCS000406000001000216000001& idtype=cvips&gifs=yes/ [aip.org]

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleUR L&_udi=B6TVM-3WN77X7-19&_coverDate=06%2F17%2F1996& _alid=331683658&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_qd=1&_ cdi=5538&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version= 1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=fad383390465b806fd1 b90abff541fee/ [sciencedirect.com]

    Probable Translation: Another backyard inventor who can read enough of the literature to be encouraged, but not enough to admit the drawbacks.

    Secondary Translation: I canna' change the laws of physics, Captain.
  • Re:Securing funding (Score:3, Informative)

    by drgonzo59 (747139) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @02:11PM (#13958573)
    I suspect he is a crock. I don't know enough physics to prove or disprove him wrong. For a present day physicist he doesn't have that much stuff published in scientific journals. I checked his publications on arXiv.org [arxiv.org] and he only has his paper talking about his new reactor and the other one how the universe is not expanding and some other one. Also claiming to build a "new" "clean" and "cheap" energy source that other scientists just couldn't figure out just sounds a little suspicious, if you know what I mean...
  • by deglr6328 (150198) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @02:15PM (#13958593)
    Wow Baldrson this must only be what, the 500th [google.com] time you've posted this nothing letter here as being something that "blows the doors off" the government's past projects in fusion energy? Goodness, are you perhaps hoping to get a better response here this time than you did when you posted nearly the exact same nuttery to the hyper-racist "Stormfront.org" where you apparently tried to tie the "inhibition of pioneering culture in the US" to..... wait for it.... yep THE JEWS [64.233.161.104]!? Hat's off to you! You truly are a first rate interweb whackjob!
  • by sco08y (615665) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @03:05PM (#13958853)
    The inside of a CRT is something like 100,000F. But it doesn't melt the glass and then 3 nanoseconds later the faces of everyone watching it.

    It's like walking on coals. Coals get red-hot at about 600 degrees Farenheit, due to black body radiation. People can walk on them, though, because human flesh is much denser. (It also helps if you do it right after the morning dew, and it's a bad idea to linger.) The coals are hot but the total amount of energy isn't that high.

    It's a bit like having a very high voltage but a low amperage in a circuit. Another example of a plasma having a very high temperature but very low total energy is the temperature of interstellar space [wikipedia.org]: it can be millions of degrees hot, but have a handful of atoms per cubic meter.
  • by cohomology (111648) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @03:07PM (#13958869)
    A teeny bit of fact checking is in order.

    The glowing praise in the article comes from the Integrity Research Institute,
    which doesn't even have its own domain name: http://users.erols.com/iri/>

    The web site lists three directors:

      Director 1: (also President and Chairman) Dr. Thomas Valone
          Physics, engineering, and teaching background

    Sounds good.

          Inventer of the Photonic Rejuvenation Energizing Machine and
          Immunizing Electrification Radiator

    what the fuck?

      Director 2: Jacqueline Panting Valone
            General Manager of M.A.M.S.I., a representative of several suppliers of
            microwave components and subsystems to OEM, military and commercial
            companies.

    Could have a solid technical background.

            Ms. Valone is also a strong advocate of holistic health, including
            electromagnetic medicine and is responsible for the Health programs
            of our Institute.

    Holistic health seems respectable. I am more than my symptoms.
    But "electromagnetic medicine?" Give me Maxwells Equations,
    not new-agey energy-fields-surround-us.

            In her spare time, she volunteered for The Hospice Program of Broward
            County where she assisted patients in their transition and helped family
            members cope with their loss.

    Very important work. She sounds like a good person.

            Ms. Valone is a doctorate candidate of Naturopathy at Trinity College of
            Natural Health and is certified through the College of Natural Health
            Professionals, CNHP.

    Never heard of them. What does this have to do with physics?

        Director 3: Wendy Nicholas

            EDUCATION

                  2001 Johns Hopkins University Rockville, MD

            * Continuing Education student in Telecommunications

    May be a wonderful, capable person. Why is she on the board of directors?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 05, 2005 @03:33PM (#13958998)
    I work in a nuclear facility so I'll say a little about safety of this device.

    Absorbing betas will not transmute elements. Betas are simply high-energy electrons, and will land on a piece of metal and create a negative charge. Beta emission also can't really cause damage to anything other than eye tissue as it is absorbed by the top layer of your skin. It can cause burns but seriously anything will shield against beta.

    Alpha is absorbed within 10cm in air and cannot penetrate your skin whatsoever. Alpha emitters are practically harmless unless eaten, and if the target is part of the electric circuit (i.e. supplied with the free betas) then they will simply combine with them to form ordinary helium.

    The problem: neutrons and gamma as mentioned in a post below. If they say this won't produce gamma... gamma rays are produced in almost every nuclear process due to excited nuclei. Gamma requires lead or concrete shielding, and neutrons require thick concrete shielding. Both cannot be fully absorbed, only attenuated - which is why they are dangerous.

    Of course who says this has to be in your house just because it is refridgerator sized. It will be in a power station behind some concrete blocks, and should be less dangerous than even a particle accelerator (where I work, very safe) due to low capability to activate surrounding elements. The facility should not become radioactive in any signifigant way, i.e. 1 day cooldown may be required before work, rather than 1 month.

    Safety is not an issue here, the issue is whether the science works or not.

  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @04:18PM (#13959249)
    & indeed also a manufacturing CFO on call.

    When someone states $200,000 to $300,000 to make a 20 megawatt generator, I just fall down laughing. You can't make a 20 megawatt transformer for probably 10-100 times that price, let alone the cost of the atomic "process equipment" and ion beam to electric current conversion.

    There may be no "radiation" of dangerous particles or left over radioactivity, but shielding everything and everyone within site from X-Rays is going to also cost a lot.

    This guy is looking for his next round of funding to keep himself alive. The people doing reputable work in this field are a small group of Phds who all know each other and have been in it for decades. If you search the scientific literature and read the articles (impossible as that is without a particle physics degree), you can see who is active and achieving results that are published.
  • Re:Eric Lerner (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dashing Leech (688077) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @05:16PM (#13959576)
    "If we were absolutely sure it were true, it wouldn't be called a theory, but rather a truth."

    Ahhh! Somebody has to shoot those worse than useless science teachers or imbecile media from which people get these ideas. There are an overabundance of people who think a theory is a concept that somebody came up with and a fact (or truth) is a theory that has been proven to be true. This is garbage. Science doesn't deal in facts. It's all models of how reality works. Newton wasn't wrong. His model works and works well for most things we'd normally encounter. Relativity improved upon it where Newton's model breaks down. But even relativity and quantum mechanics are in conflict so neither is a perfect model.

    "Theory" is not, I repeat not, and idea or concept. "Theory" is a description of the principles behind the model of how things work. I've studied gas turbine theory, for instance. Does anybody believe gas turbines don't exist? A thought up idea or concept to explain things is an hypothesis. Some will argue this is symantics; that "theory" is used by laypersons to mean what scientists would refer to as an hypothesis. Fine, except that the two meanings of "theory" are getting mixed. Big Bang theory is a description of the big bang model, not a reference that it is merely an hypothesis. Evolution theory is a description of the model of how evolution works, not a reference to it just being an hypothesis (which it isn't).

    Models always have flaws, and models get better. But none are ever meant to describe a fact or truth. The same results can occur from a Big Bang progressing forwards, or an intelligent designer creating all things a few thousand years ago to look exactly as if they had been produced by the Big Bang. The latter case is irrelevant to science because it can neither be examined, tested, or provide predictive results. The former case can do all of them. Note that this says intelligent design, for example, is possible but cannot be scientific nor can it be a required explanation. That it is internally inconsistent (and has been since the argument was formulated centeries ago) and doesn't do a thing for explaining where we came from also means it's not even intellectually useful.

  • by Homo Stannous (756539) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @06:12PM (#13959851)
    Dude, learn the difference between temperature and heat. It takes an equal amount of heat to heat 1 gram of H2 to 1 billion degrees as it does to heat 10 grams of H2 to 100 million degrees (ignoring the effects of the plasma phase transistion; IANA(N/P)P ). His device operates on a very small scale. Very little H2 involved, means very little heat energy required. Also, it doesn't say that the copper electrodes ever get that hot. They wouldn't, because there isn't much gas involved, there isn't much time for heat transfer, and those magnetic fields ought to be designed to focus the plasma away from the electrodes. I'm not saying that this thing will work as well as Dr. Lerner says it will, but your criticisms are at least as bogus as his claims.
  • by Cl1mh4224rd (265427) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @06:14PM (#13959860)
    This is the second time Mr. Allan has made a self-advertizing submission, and actually had it blindly accepted, in as many weeks. Remember "Wilma the Capacitor and Particle Accelerator [slashdot.org]"?

    This is Mr. Allan's personal website [sterlingdallan.com]. If the story itself isn't enough, you can judge Mr. Allan's credibility by looking at some the other websites he's founded and administers.

    This is truly shameful.
  • Re:Eric Lerner (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rei (128717) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @08:09PM (#13960369) Homepage
    Why is it that slashdot's editorial process is so bad?

    * "The Tokamak project" - a tokamak is a type of reactor, not a specific project. The specific project is ITER.

    * "Open Source Energy Network". Yeah, that's either A) a prestegious indedpendent journal, or B) a news source that has reviewed such a journal.

    Fusion is a very complex topic, and this article doesn't even begin to discuss it. Currently, fusion research projects are divided between the "big guys", such as ITER and NIF, and the "little guys" such as sonofusion, focus fusion, and interial electrostatic confinement. The "little guys" are jealous (somewhat rightfully) that the big-ticket items get funding, and their more long-shot but cheaper concepts don't get the little money that they need.

    Lets back up a bit and discuss the basics. The critical forces that we're dealing with are electrostatic force and the strong force. Since you're trying to ram nuclei together, the electrostatic forces between the protons in the nuclei are going to make it incredibly difficult for you. Once you get close enough, however, the strong force (which only acts over short distances) takes over, and dominates. Thus, there is an energy barrier that you have to get over - the coulomb barrier. If your particles aren't moving fast enough, or are angled incorrectly, you just bounce off, or worse.

    Worse? Well, we're not just talking about nuclei - there are electrons, too. The longer you spend in the vicinity of electrons, the more likely you are to hit them. A high energy particle that hits an electron wastes its energy as bremsstrahlung. It's also possible to lose energy from the core through synchrotron radiation.

    By the numbers, it looks like it'd be almost impossible to do. Thankfully, you have to big things working to help you out. One, particles in the core do not all share the same energy level; in fact, they'll vary by orders of magnitude from each other. So, while most of your core will be well below the required energy level, a few particles will be very energetic. The other thing that helps you out is quantum uncertainty - basically, since the positions can be uncertain, you can effectively tunnel past the coulomb barrier.

    Even still, it's an incredibly difficult problem. Stars cheat - they have gravitational confinement, making the problem quite easy to keep a tight, hot core. However, for us, all of the energy of the particles (and new energy released by fusion reactions) is incredibly hard to keep close together.

    The energy barrier depends on what reaction your looking at. Dt-Dt fusion is pretty low; so is Dt-T. Fusion involving helium takes a lot more energy, and wonderful fusion methods like B11-P (you can capture almost all of the energy released) take a huge amount of activation energy.

    Inertial confinement, like ITER, uses strong magnetic fields and fast-moving plasma. Charged particles moving through a magnetic field experience a force perpendicular to the direction of motion and the magnetic field, called Lorentz Force. The interesting thing about it is that it seems to scale up well; the downside is that scaling up means massive devices. Things like B11-P fusion are really right-out for now because of how much you'd have to scale up. But there's good confidence that it will work.

    Inertial electrostatic confinement fusion involves spherical acceleration of ions in a near vaccuum. If they miss colliding with other ions, they just bounce outward then fall back inwards for another pass. There are few electrons in the fuel to waste through bremsstrahlung. The problems are getting density and stopping collisios with the inner coil that attracts the ions to the center. Whether it's possible to overcome is a big question. As a note, these are popular for amateurs to build - see "Farnsworth Fusor". Since the devices are inherently small, they would scale to B11-p fusion.

    Focus fusion involves trying to get magnetic vortices that are incredibly intens

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