Posted by Admin on Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
Can you imagine – a nuclear fusion reactor that would cost half as much to run annually as coal- burning fossil plants, because the fuel is accessible and inexpensive, and because safety measures are minimal due to the greatly reduced radioactivity the reactor would produce. It would require just about 200 grams of boron to run a 100-megawatt reactor per day at a cost of only a few dollars.
The reactor would not produce so-called greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming and Energy in the form of electricity and helium gas would be the reactor’s only products. If complications arose during operation, the reactor would quickly shut itself down.
According to researchers from UC Irvine and the University of Florida the developing safe and cost-efficient new sources of energy is imperative, because existing nuclear fission power plants built in the 1950s and ’60s must be closed down within this decade as their operation licenses expire. A license typically is valid from 40 to 50 years; the plants must be closed due to radiation damage, and many components must be buried due to high levels of radioactivity.
The english news service Independent.co.uk in its January 11th, 2010 edition has published an article by Pat Pilcher that states such a reactor has been devised by UCI physics professor Norman Rostoker, UCI research physicist Michl Binderbauer, and University of Florida physics professor Hendrik Monkhorst. The principle of this reactor is based on a collision of beams of boron and hydrogen particles that would be sent into a reactor where magnets would cause the beams to bend, causing the nuclei to collide and fuse. The fusion would create energetic-charged particles that could then be converted directly into electrical power at an efficiency of about 90 %, compared with, at most, 40 percent for a traditional coal-burning power plant or a deuterium-tritium Tokamak fusion reactor – which has been a long-planned project for a $10 billion research facility, but which would not lead to a viable reactor in the opinion of the researchers.
The newly proposed technology is the product of five years of investigation, that have been devoted mainly to reactor design questions, instead of focusing on fusion experiments and theory that eventually might lead to reactors, Rostoker explained, and it could be implemented into a commercial reactor – funded by private investors – within 10 years.
The article in the Independent has cited the NZ Herald as source of this information, where the same article by the same author has been published on the same date. Interestingly, this information has been released on November 20, 1997 (not a typo! – also see Science Blog ) and by now we should all have clean, green, cheap energy! I leave it up to you to draw your conclusions, but I feel it would have made a good topic at the recent CO2penhagen summit for fundraising!
Well, obviously it is something that has not been shelved completely and work in this direction is going on, as we can learn from this youtube video (hope it’s not just tinkering with it to keep the students busy…). So we might hope to see it some day.
The comment on youtube for this video reads as follows:
We are a group of students at UMass Lowell that are building a type of fusion reactor called a Farnsworth Fusor.
Fusion has been conventionally done by heating a gas to such a high temperature that the average particle of gas has enough energy to overcome the coulombic repulsion of another particles nucleus so that it can fuse.
Instead we use 2 concentric spherical grids one of which is at a high negative potential to produce an electric field that accelerates the ionized gas to high enough velocities to fuse. The associated technology and cost of operations is many times less that the big budget fusion projects like ITER, while still producing a continuous nuclear fusion reaction.
The system consists of a vacuum system which evacuates our stainless steel vessel. We then use a variable autotransformer to control an input voltage for our high-voltage transformer. The transformer supplies anywhere from negative 10,000 to 50,000 volts to our central grid.
This video highlights our first plasma achieved. No fusion is actually ocurring in this video as the chamber is filled with air at medium vacuum pressure. To actually produce fusion reactions we will fill the chamber with it’s fuel, deuterium gas.
Deuterium gas? – thought it’s just hydrogen and boron… well anyway, please be careful not blow up the lab!
BTW: There are many different private efforts to make this work, here just an example: http://www.thermonuclearfusionreactor.co.uk/