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New Wave of Fusion and Robot Innovation at MIT 90

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-cold-fusion-the-real-kind dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Popular Mechanics has been getting some great access inside the labs at MIT all week, and they've gotten some interesting looks at developing technologies. Robot-assisted rehab with gaming-style controllers comes out of the biomechanics lab, blind and crash-proof UAV testing with F/X cameras is being done at the aerospace controls lab, and work on electric scooters with super-cheap assembly is proceeding at the Media Lab. Perhaps most exciting is a fight for funding while the holy grail of clean fusion power in reach at the plasma center. The article on fusion predicts, "We'd see economically feasible fusion power by 2035, at the earliest, and increasingly efficient commercial reactors somewhere in the middle of the century."
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New Wave of Fusion and Robot Innovation at MIT

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  • FYI (Score:5, Informative)

    by djupedal (584558) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:15AM (#22597246)
    Link directly to the info/scoot photo... []

    Bypassing the ever-silly: /.Soulskill/anonymous(again /.)/PM biz ...enjoy.
    -=-=-= -=-=-=

    Scooter with ITRI and Sanyang Motors

    RoboScooter - Clean, Green Mobility for Today's Crowded Cities

    The RoboScooter is a lightweight, folding, electric motor scooter. It is designed to provide convenient, inexpensive mobility in urban areas while radically reducing the negative effects of extensive vehicle use - road congestion, excessive consumption of space for parking, traffic noise, air pollution, carbon emissions that exacerbate global warming, and energy use. It is clean, green, silent, and compact.

    People Ryan Chin, PhD Candidate, Smart Cities, Media Lab Yaniv Fain, Sloan School Michael Chia-Liang Lin, MSc Candidate, Smart Cities, Media Lab Arthur Petron, Mechanical Engineering Raul-David "Retro" Poblano, MSc Candidate, Smart Cities, Media Lab Andres Sevtsuk, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Urban Studies & Planning

    SYM/Sanyang Motors Grand Wu Wan Ching Chang

    ITRI Wen-Jean Hsueh Eugene Hsiao Ying-Tzu Lin Barbara Yeh
  • Funding chart (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:35AM (#22597360)
  • by Goldsmith (561202) on Friday February 29, 2008 @01:56AM (#22597448)
    That's a great question!

    I worked for two years at General Atomics trying to model and understand the interaction of fusion plasmas with the reactor walls. I've seen people here who have done more.

    Like many other people who have worked/are working on fusion, I don't think it's going to be commercially viable this century. The problem is materials. It's simply too expensive to build these things.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 29, 2008 @05:58AM (#22598296)

    Currently, I can't think of many things more idiotic than burning carbon fuels to make energy at low efficiency, which is transmitted at low efficiency to a plant, which is harnessed at low efficiency to make hydrogen, which is transported by a familiar large infrastructure of energy using vehicles, to a station where you can fill up your hydrogen car that can burn the hydrogen at low efficiency.

    That isn't a hydrogen economy.

    A hydrogen economy is using renewable but intermittent sources of energy to make & store the hydrogen, then burning the hydrogen in an efficient fuel cell in your electric car, along with other efficiencies such as regenerative braking.

    There is no carbon in the cycle at all ... exactly zero carbon emissions. All of your "energy using infrastructure" would also use hydrogen.

    And what exactly are "renewable but intermittent sources of energy" you may ask?

    The answer is any, or all of the following:
    (1) Solar
    (2) Artificial photosynthesis (eliminate other steps in the process ... generate hydrogen directly from sunlight),
    (3) Wind turbines
    (4) Wave energy
    (5) Tidal energy
    (6) Waste heat (say from a smelter or from a microbiological sewerage treatment plant) coupled with the new high-efficiency thermal engines
    (7) Crop waste burn-off
    (8) Deep Ocean Thermal Energy
    (9) Geothermal

    Any source of flaky, "unreliable" (in the sense that it might not be there the exact moment you need it, and it might be abundant when you don't need it) renewable energy is viable in a hydrogen economy. That is because storing the energy as hydrogen removes the imperative of having a power station that can produce "energy on demand".
  • Re:The lecture (Score:3, Informative)

    by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Friday February 29, 2008 @06:21AM (#22598364)
    Well, perhaps it is in part my physics background, but I didn't get that impression at all. It is a brilliant idea, and even if you aren't familiar with Dr. Bussard, the man knows what he is talking about. He was simply old, somewhat bitter, and impatient--seemingly with good cause. Sadly, he won't see the results of his endeavors, but the research is solid, and thankfully, the navy is following it up.

    In any case it has nothing to do with conspiracy theories or blaming fellow scientists. The fact is, basically nothing aside from Tokamak research is funded at a significant level.

  • Re:20 years... (Score:2, Informative)

    by darthdavid (835069) on Friday February 29, 2008 @09:39AM (#22599106) Homepage Journal
    I'll give your a hint about just such an energy source. It starts with N and ends with uclear Power.

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