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Power Science

Alternative to Tokamak Fusion Reactor 266

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 05, 2005 @02:24PM (#13958365)
    If it is so simple and cost effective why do we not have it now if not yesterday.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 05, 2005 @02:28PM (#13958389)
    Why does slashdot give time to cranks who purport to have achieve something revolutionary, but really have no idea what they're talking about?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 05, 2005 @02:38PM (#13958424)
    So as to not offend anyone's liberal sensitivies. This sort of politically-correct, offend-no-one, every-opinion-is-equal sentiment is perfect for nutcases and crackpots to dig their claws into.
  • Mmmmm... astroturf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @02:41PM (#13958442) Homepage Journal
    by Sterling D. Allan
    Open Source Energy News -- Exclusive Interview

    I suppose occasionally major scientific advances are announced in press releases, but since 99.999% of the time it's somebody jumping the gun, I think I'll let it go.

    I do find it interesting that the article describes him as an "inventor" rather than a "physicist". Somehow when proposing a radically different model of the universe, the former always rings of "I was puttering around and I found something I didn't understand, therefore it must be both correct and completely novel."

    None of this is proof that he's wrong, but the crank-o-meter is pushing towards the red zone. Which is too bad, because apparently he's an extremely smart man with a lot of valid research to his name.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 05, 2005 @02:42PM (#13958450)
    Some researchers are actually persecuted. They receive no funding. They are ostracized from the research community. Later, they are proved right. On the other hand, there is an even bigger community of nut cases and frauds. I have no way to tell which this guy is.

    Experiments have been done and results have been obtained. Until someone can adequately explain those results then they are worthy of research.

    Cold fusion is an example of something where there are some results that people have found worth researching. It's not like cold fusion will actually happen or that the process in tfa will actually produce economical power; that's not the important part. The process is worth studying until we can explain what's happening.
  • by jpgrimes ( 15330 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @03:16PM (#13958594) Homepage

    As a scientist I'm dismayed by the number of people who always believe in science conspiracies (like here where he says the only reason he didn't get funding was the tokomak). It's hard to decide how useful this method really is from the article as it's not a science article, but I have some doubts.

    What people need to realize about science like this is that if he can make this work he will be lauded and made very rich. Although science does make mistakes, occasionally supporting wrong theories and such, overall it progresses by natural selection (and those who are correct get high end jobs because of it). I would love to disprove dark matter or dark energy because that would make me really well known. But yet I read about how the entire field of astronomy is so stuck on it that they won't look at other possibilities (but we do and they don't work with what we know).

    If this guy is correct he should be able to convince most other scientists in his field (which he hasn't been able to do). This isn't always due to science (some people can't communicate and sometime politics plays a role) but generally it is.

    I wonder how many theories have been posted on slashdot now that are just like this. Slashdot has been around long enough that someone could go back and look at the current state of these theories. How many are still, "waiting for that big moment" even after they go some funding. More importantly, I think slashdot should make more of an effort to put up articles when they show something has been disproved (like that article a few weeks ago arguing against dark matter in galaxies which used the wrong gravitational potential). Somebody with a science background should at least edit the original slashdot post so that people could get a better background before deciding that the future of energy production is safe.
  • by CustomDesigned ( 250089 ) <> on Saturday November 05, 2005 @03:17PM (#13958596) Homepage Journal
    The coffee can sized device is very similar to a plasma rocket [] engine. The rocket engine trys to keep the plasma symmetrical for nice controlled thrust. Focus fusion "snaps" the plasma filaments like a whip. At the tip, where a leather whip exceeds the speed of sound, the magnetic compression in the plasma is enough to ignite fusion. The plasma is then ejected in one direction at high speed, like the rocket engine. Ironically, the major problem plaguing conventional magnetically confined fusion is that the plasma "leaks" out in high speed jets. Both plasma rockets and focus fusion recognize that this can be a feature rather than a bug.

    The neat thing is that the reaction ejects beta radiation (electrons) in all directions, but ejects the alpha particles with the plasma in one direction. The actual fusion generator is the size of a refrigerator, with the coffee can near one end. The larger device captures the beta radiation with a shell around the reactor and has a target at the other end to collect the alpha radiation. The result - fusion reaction produces current directly! The next refinement *decelerates* the speeding alpha particles through a magnetic field, converting their kinetic energy to electricity before it heats up the target. That is the "reverse particle accelerator" aspect. Beta radiation ejected in the same direction as the alpha beam is "lost" and becomes heat at the target. Future refinements will make the alpha beam as narrow as possible so as to minimize the number of beta particles it takes with it.

    After the proof of concept, engineering challenges include materials to collect beta radiation without becoming dangerously radioactive, materials to collect alpha radiation (hopefully low speed after magnetic decceleration) without becoming dangerously radioactive, and shielding to stop the occasional neutrons (from impurities, and the random nature of nuclear reactions). Will also need to store energy to "crack the magnetic whip" to drive the reaction, and meter precise amounts of ionized fuel. I'm not convinced that too much fuel won't be dangerous.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 05, 2005 @03:21PM (#13958619)
    Funny how it's the conservatives who seem to be asking to have their every-opinion-is-equal thinly-veiled creationism taught in biology classes.
  • Re:Eric Lerner (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ceejayoz ( 567949 ) <> on Saturday November 05, 2005 @03:29PM (#13958658) Homepage Journal
    The only question to be asked is: "Can Lerner's fusion method be verified, and is it viable?"

    If it were free, sure.

    If it costs millions of dollars to verify, then there are additional questions to be asked to establish whether that investment is worth it in the first place when it could go to other research studies as well.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 05, 2005 @03:33PM (#13958691)
    FTA "Imagine! At the flip of a switch, going from room temperature (or from the temperature of boiling water in the case of the liquid decaborane fuel), all the way up to a billion degrees, and then up to 6 billion degrees, all in a fraction of a second; then with another flip of the switch, when you are done, going back down to ambient temperature. And in the interim, you have produced excess energy from fusion -- safely, cleanly."

    A Billion Degrees! Are you kidding me. Alright, lets use the good old First Law of thermo. Now remember a Tokamak Fusion reactor reaches temperatures of 100 Million degrees C. Now I haven't crunched numbers but its obvious that the energy needed to raise the temperature of Hydrogen to 1 Billion degrees is a lot greater than the energy needed to raise the temperature to 100 Million degrees.

    Another problem from the above quote is the heat transfer. Now it was difficult enough to build a Tokamak that could withstand 100 million C but the article doesn't mention how a focus fusor will survive a temperature an order of magnitude higher.

    Another heat transfer issue from the quote is that apparantly they will fire this thing up for such a small fraction of a second that that the fusor can cool from 6 Billion degrees C to room temperature in no time flat. Yeah ok whatever you say. How much energy could you possibly produce in such a sort time. Not enough to breakeven I suspect. The power requirements to heat something to 1 billion degrees in less than a second must be greater than astronomical. What conductor could they possibly be using?

    Well thats what this AC has to say about that. This Idea is BS
  • by Talinom ( 243100 ) * on Saturday November 05, 2005 @04:07PM (#13958865) Homepage Journal
    But wait, there's more. Over here [] you can read up on some more of his theories as well as a link to a paper on his homepage [] titled Prospects for p11B fusion with the Dense Plasma Focus: New Results [] from 2002.

    Now if this is such promising stuff here then why has it been collecting dust for the past three years? Perhaps our local plasma experts can wade through the technical data in the above mentioned paper and enlighten the rest of us.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 05, 2005 @04:09PM (#13958878)
    I see in one link the "Integrity Research Institute" refers to the work of one "T. Townsend Brown" on "Gravitational Isotopes". Whats a Gravitational Isotopes? []

    See here for a site that references both T. Townsend Brown and Cattle Mutilations, Crop Circles, etc.

    I never heard of Eric Lerner until now but you have to ask yourself what he's doing hanging round the "Integrity Research Institute".
  • what a crock! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by delong ( 125205 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @04:09PM (#13958881)
    This guy is a quack.

    Here's a hint:

    1. Publication-by-press-release
    2. Few to none serious scientific citations
    3. Brilliant technology that would change the world but for government conspiracy to keep him down
    4. known nutjob that is ignored by the scientific community

    We have a winner! He's a nutjob!

    I'm dying to see a working commercial fusion reactor too, but let's try to keep a healthy sense of scientific skepticism.
  • DUDE (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zebra_X ( 13249 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @05:25PM (#13959292)
    This is the second article posted from "Open Source Energy". It is nothing but junk science.


    This isn't news - or anything it's just junk science written up by people who manage to take other people's money [] and waste it in the name "science".
  • Re:Eric Lerner (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jaseoldboss ( 650728 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @06:34PM (#13959669) Homepage Journal
    That thesis you quoted is powerful stuff and seems to rule such methods out completely. However how does this apply to, say a thermonuclear weapon in which the fusion fuel is inertially confined whilst fusion reactions take place. I seem to recall some hairbrained scheme for generating power from 'bombs' by letting them off underground and using the resulting heat to generate electricity. There was also Daedalus [] which was supposed to travel to the stars using just such a method.

    Let me highlight the areas that I have a problem with. First from the Daedalus article.

    Daedalus would be propelled by a fusion rocket using pellets of deuterium/helium-3 mix that would be ignited in the reaction chamber by inertial confinement using electron beams. 250 pellets would be detonated per second, and the resulting plasma would be directed by a magnetic nozzle.

    From page 122 of Todd Riders thesis:

    Transient nonequilibrium burning systems [are ruled out] which try to produce enough fusion power before the partible distributions equiligrate (eg. ICF, bombs, and pulsed beam methods).

    Essentially Lerners device is not in thermodynamic equilibrium it is effectively a small fusion bomb in which fresh fuel is confined and fired 1000 times per second. It doesn't recycle the errant particles back into the fusion reaction it allow the reaction to quench and starts another quickly afterwards.
  • Re:what a crock! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vandan ( 151516 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @07:02PM (#13959806) Homepage
    I don't think so. I've read his book "The big bang never happened", and he didn't come across as a quack. He was a little bitter about the mainstream scientific community, but that's understandable - they have a lot to answer for.

    His ideas about government conspiracy are also spot on. Look at the US government. One conspiracy after another - and the biggest one revolves around oil reserves, and was sold on the next biggest one - WOMD.

    I have no doubt that Dubya's team of neo-conservative swindlers and murderers are responsible for this technology being sidelined.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 05, 2005 @07:17PM (#13959874)
    Rather than going into detail, I would just like to remind you that "Intelligent Design" is no more a theory than Creationism or the existence of God. There's just no way to test, in the scientific tradition, the viability of ID. You should get off your high horse and face the fact that ID is not a theory, but wishful thinking on the part of a minority of Christians to think that their forcing of their theology and ideology onto others is proper and righteous.
  • Re:Eric Lerner (Score:5, Insightful)

    by deglr6328 ( 150198 ) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @07:47PM (#13959999)
    "Transient nonequilibrium burning systems [are ruled out] which try to produce enough fusion power before the particle distributions equiligrate (eg. ICF, bombs, and pulsed beam methods)."

    That is bizzare. I'm really at a loss to explain such a statement, though, IANAP. Obviously fusion bombs work and DO produce far more energy than they consume and ICF is capable of doing the same or this [] would not be currently under construction. I can't understand what he may have meant by such a statement. weird.

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly