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Power Science

Ultra-Dense Deuterium Produced 355

Omomyid was among several readers writing in about the production of microscopic amounts of ultra-dense deuterium by scientists at the University of Gothenberg, in Sweden. A cubic centimeter of the stuff would weigh 287 lbs. (130 kg). UDD is 100,000 times more dense than water, and a million times more dense than deuterium ice, which is a common fuel in laser-ignited fusion projects. The researchers say that, if (big if) the material can be produced in large quantities, it would vastly improve the chances of starting a fusion reaction, as the atoms are much closer together. Such a D-D fusion reaction would be cleaner than one involving highly radioactive tritium. Many outlets have picked up the same press release that Science Daily printed pretty much verbatim (as is their wont); there doesn't seem to be much else about this on the Web. Here's the home page of one of the researchers. The press release gives no hint as to how the UDD was produced. Reader wisebabo asks: "I can easily imagine a material being compressed by some heavy duty diamond anvil to reach this density, the question is: what happens when you let the pressure off? Will it expand (explosively one would presume) back to its original volume?"
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Ultra-Dense Deuterium Produced

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  • by Bob the Super Hamste ( 1152367 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @04:26PM (#27927531) Homepage
    Out of curiosity I looked up the density at the center of the sun [wikipedia.org] and got an answer of "150,000 kg/m3 (150 times the density of water on Earth)" which to me is less than "100,000 times more dense than water" So my question then became how does this not spontaneously fuse?
  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wjousts ( 1529427 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @04:29PM (#27927593)
    We're talking about density here. Besides a single atom of helium weighs more (than a single atom of D). It has two protons and two neutrons.
  • by Fuji Kitakyusho ( 847520 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @04:43PM (#27927795)
    If it doesn't move and it should: WD-40. If it moves and it shouldn't: duct tape.
  • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @04:47PM (#27927883)

    Hey, one thing at a time :-)

    If we want off earth for any length of time, we need a power plant that will sustain a manned spacecraft for a long journey. Fusion beats the hell out of fission in that department.

    So consider this one small step on the way to a future in which star trek looks antiquated. If it works, that is (I have my reservations upon looking at the claims in TFA).

  • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @04:56PM (#27928073)

    Thin glass is all you need. Tritium is a beta emitter - skin won't necessarily stop it, but just about anything else will. If it leaks out, it'll be as a diffuse gas that will react with oxygen to produce slightly radioactive water - with the quantities in your watch, that's no big deal. It is still somewhat energetic though (probably where they're getting "highly radioactive").

    I can see why the method from TFA, if it works, might not be wise to use on tritium. An ultradense block of material that, upon returning to regular atmospheric pressure, expands into a radioactive gas... not a great idea. Tritium, like human beings, is only mostly harmless :-)

  • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @05:02PM (#27928165)

    While that would be a bad thing as far as fairness goes, it would still be an improvement over what we have today.

    Plus, in the long haul, all it takes is for the tech to miniaturize to the point where you can install it at home and go off the grid. Failing that, if the technology is cheap enough, smaller utilities might be able afford the start up costs and enter the market, which will introduce competition.

    That being said, "cold" fusion is very likely a pipe dream. Fusion power generators will almost certainly be inertially or magnetically confined - "hot" fusion in other words. However, since the tech in TFA is applicable to inertial confinement fusion, the cold fusion debate is not applicable here.

  • by StCredZero ( 169093 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @05:03PM (#27928173)

    Fine, lets just solve our enrgy crisis then. *kicks rock, wishes for holodeck*

    If we really wanted to, we could solve it quite easily. There's many centuries of Uranium and Thorium to burn in fission reactors, and nuclear waste is solved technically. (Again, the problem is political.) We haven't taken more than the first step to tapping the potential of wave energy, there's a lot more wind to harness. Solar Thermal could benefit from economies of scale and improved distribution, and there's tremendous potential untapped in the world's deserts.

    There's even a market for Orbital Solar Power Satellites -- namely for remote military outposts that would otherwise need to truck in fuel for generators. (An order of magnitude greater cost is acceptable in that case, but this would start the cycle of industrial innovation and reduction of costs from economies of scale, and would lead to widespread Solar Power for civilian use.)

    We could stop using fossil fuels right now, from a technical standpoint. It's just that we don't want to, for a variety of economic, political, and superstitious reasons.

  • by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @05:20PM (#27928437)

    Vitamins don't grow on trees

    Uh. That was a joke, right?

  • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @05:31PM (#27928615)

    I'm not sure where you are in the world, so my comment may or may not be applicable. But my general experience with electric companies doesn't suggest they have to compete to stay in business.

    In many parts of the world, the local electric company has a monopoly. In other places, there exist cartels (official or otherwise) that avoid competing with each other. In neither of the above cases do prices get driven down by competition.

    Doubtlessly some people would blame this on state-sponsorship, and that is part of the problem. A larger issue underneath however is the high cost associated with building a power plant and the infrastructure to connect it to your paying customers.

    Competition occurs most readily when start up costs are low, and customers can freely chose which source they want to get their goods and services from. When the barrier to entry is this high, no new companies come into being, and some of the existing companies would never have existed in the first place if they weren't founded or propped up by the local government.

    OTOH, cheap fusion would probably drop the bottom out of the energy market, which might be a good thing. Realistically though, fusion won't be cheap until a long time after we have a working power generator.

  • by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @06:04PM (#27929033)

    Nope, he's serious. How many tree-grown products do you eat? I'm betting three or four types of fruit, at most.

    Well ... in no particular order .... oranges, tangerines, peaches, pears, apples, cherries, plums, avocados, bananas, mangoes, lemons, limes, pineapples, kiwi, and coconuts, to name a few.

    I don't like grapefruit or quince but I do eat them sometimes, and I LOVE pomegranate but rarely get the chance to eat it, so it wouldn't be fair to add them to the list. Regardless, that still quadruples your "three-or-four". There's also various forms of nuts (walnuts, chestnuts, almonds, pecans, and pistachios, for me, primarily), plus products such as maple syrup.

    So ... if you're right, and he really was being serious ... well, I don't know how to put it any more politely than "he's an idiot".

  • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @06:05PM (#27929043)

    It's the entry on earth under the HHGTG that lists it as "mostly harmless". I've always taken that to mean the population, not the planet itself. YMMV.

  • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <yliruj>> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @06:43PM (#27929617)

    Rule #1 of internet discussions: if you're not sure about something, act like it, and people will research the answer for you.

  • by TheTurtlesMoves ( 1442727 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @03:51AM (#27934523)

    Also you'd get more K out of a stick of broccoli than an entire cow.

    But the cow tastes better!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @10:42AM (#27937701)

    http://www.redheadmania.com/ [redheadmania.com]

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer