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Fusion Power Breakthrough Near At Sandia Labs?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.

Power 358

An anonymous reader writes "An achievement that would have extraordinary energy and defense implications might be near at Sandia National Laboratories. The lab is testing a concept called MagLIF (Magnetized Liner Inertial Fusion), which uses magnetic fields and laser pre-heating in the quest for energetic fusion. A paper by Sandia researchers that was accepted for publication states that the Z-pinch driven MagLIF fusion could reach 'high-gain' fusion conditions, where the fusion energy released greatly exceeds (by more than 1,000 times) the energy supplied to the fuel."

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No! (0, Flamebait)

alendit (1454311) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378271)

You know how it is...

Re:No! (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378839)

You know how it is...

20 years away?

Vaporwareized? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378277)

What do you call something that smashes things together but doesn't exist?

Re:Vaporwareized? (4, Funny)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378303)

Two flying cars?

Re:Vaporwareized? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378611)

Mitt Romney with things to smash together and enough brain power to do so?

Re:Vaporwareized? (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378669)

What do you call something that smashes things together but doesn't exist?

A headline! Juuuuust kidding, it's not a headline. It's a PR press release. Look how every sentence is phrased in the future tense and says might or will or could.

great! (2)

P-niiice (1703362) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378283)

so the 20-50 year estimate that never shrinks may actually get reduced some?

Re:great! (4, Interesting)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378329)

No, see as you approach feasibility, your likelihood of being bough by a competing producer to be extinguished (see gasoline) becomes multitudes greater. You will never actually reach production with things like this, for the same reason you will never reach a wall by moving in increments of 1/2. Tee short of it, there is too much money to be made to have something as valuable as energy become a low-cost commodity.

Re:great! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378375)

Tee short of it, there is too much money to be made to have something as valuable as energy become a low-cost commodity.

You mean like selling fusion energy at slightly lower prices than your competitors? Assuming it does cost less than other sources of power.

Re:great! (4, Insightful)

Abreu (173023) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378431)

Is there any evidence (real evidence, not YouTube videos of guys in their basements) of any "revolutionary, clean energy technology" being bought out and extinguished by the oil industry?

Re:great! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378481)

Of course not, they buy out and extinguish the evidence, duh!

Re:great! (5, Funny)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378665)

I made a working engine that ran off of tap water. Then the oil companies had me killed.

Re:great! (4, Funny)

boristdog (133725) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378867)

You were lucky. The oil companies beat me around the head and neck with a broken bottle, sliced me in two with a bread knife, then danced around my grave singing "Hallelujah!"

Re:great! (1)

Skarecrow77 (1714214) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378803)

of course not. that's part of the conspiracy. that's how you know it's the truth!
the only way it could be MORE truth is if there was evidence directly contrary to the conspiracy, because that'd have to be planted evidence. lack of evidence is just THEM being tricky.

ow my head hurts.

Re:great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378543)

What bullshit.

Do you understand what energy costs today compared to 100 or 1000 years ago? (Better to compare about 4 years ago than now but that's a different point).

Do you people ever use your brains?

Close, but no cigar (2)

srussia (884021) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378667)

You will never actually reach production with things like this, for the same reason you will never reach a wall by moving in increments of 1/2.

Zeno's Dichotomy Paradox has a resolution. This is more like the Rockefeller Contraction (apologies to Hendrik Lorentz).

Re:great! (4, Funny)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378683)

> No, see as you approach feasibility, your likelihood of being bough by a competing producer to be extinguished (see gasoline) becomes multitudes greater.

I'm not necessarily disagreeing, but do you have a reference?

My own suspicion is that as you approach feasibility, government grant money tends to increase, but if you *achieve* practical feasibility, grant money evaporates. Therefore, to maximize funding, you must asymptotically approach feasibility.

But I'm willing to hear a different theory.

Re:great! (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378837)

No Profit, No Fusion! I think that's the case for just about every new advance technological idea that could benefit us all.

Re:great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378849)

Paranoid conspiracy theory.

But what's the timeline for "low cost" energy? (3, Interesting)

swb (14022) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378875)

And how low cost will it be actually?

Let's assume that the Sandia technique/technology results in sustained net-positive fusion by the end of 2013. The results are so positive that a small-scale concept plant that will push to the grid gets built, by, say 2020.

This works well enough and there's enough refinement that a full-scale 8 GW plant can be built. By what, 2035? This plant is so successful that by 2050 there are maybe 4-5 more built an in operation.

So we have a lead time of 2050 for less than 50 GW of power. Considering total production is something like 1300 GW, it hardly seems like a threat to anything or a source of the vaunted "free" energy.

Even if you manage increase production by a factor of 10 to 500 GW capacity, what will fund the grid expansion to deliver all this free energy? Will the cost of electrically powered stuff go down -- or up, now that "everything" is made to run on electricity and the demand for rare earths, copper and other related materials goes way up?

Re:great! (1)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378349)

Yes, it will be reduced all the way to "twenty minutes into the future".

Re:great! (2)

funwithBSD (245349) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378467)

Or

Two Minutes to Midnight

Re:great! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378585)

To kill the unborn in their woooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmb!!!!

Re:great! (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378695)

Irwin Allen notwithstanding, fusion reactors don't spectacularly detonate.

Re:great! (2)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378841)

Two Minutes to Midnight

Is that you Eddie [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:great! (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378943)

You're saying that Channel XXIII will buy them out?

Re:great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378429)

Ha. It is just a crumb to keep the funding at the grade-A, pork level.

Re:great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378701)

Nope. It stays the same. The articles mentions nothing about cost and scalability. Input 1W, output 100W machine for USD 100M won't matter anything outside the lab. Even if they achieve gain of 100x, it is still based on energy input to fusion system and does not include the whole facility energy use.

Re:great! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378731)

No. This always get modded down everytime, but the truth is, we are extremely far away from any real source of fusion. Actually being able to sustain it is still a long ways away. Next is actually extracting that power. We've not even started there. Worse, most methods which hope to extract power rely on materials which don't even exist today.

Most machines which create fusion today require hours, days, and even weeks between runs because so many components require replacement. Yet to sustain fusion, you need to be able to compress that cycle into tens per second - at a minimum. We've not even started here and its a very hard problem to crack.

Realistically, we are at least 100 years away from any viable source of fusion which can provide power to mankind. That is, short of many miraculous breakthroughs in multiple science domains. The physicists whom I'm spoken to on this, and the articles I've read, all suggest these individual problems are roughly of equal magnitude of fusion itself. There are roughly a half dozen of such problems before we have an actual fusion power source. Some basic math says 20-50*~6; which makes for 120-300 years away. Many agree if we throw more money at it, the timespan can likely be reduced, but you're still looking at roughly 100 years before we can hope to have viable fusion for mankind.

I know nothing of physics, but... (5, Informative)

Abreu (173023) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378291)

...I just want you guys to know that "Sandía" means "watermelon" in Spanish.

Oh, also: I hope this leads to a new, efficient and clean type of energy.

Re:I know nothing of physics, but... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378351)

Now that watermelon gag in buckaroo banzai makes sense. They were working on fruit-based fusion!

Re:I know nothing of physics, but... (1)

radiumsoup (741987) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378455)

I love it when people bring up that movie - it's one of my favorites in the SciFi genre, introduced to me by my NT4 MCSE instructor.

Yes, it was one of the only practical things I learned in that class that I didn't already know.

Re:I know nothing of physics, but... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378369)

...I just want you guys to know that "Sandía" means "watermelon" in Spanish.

AMERICA! Fuck yeah!

Re:I know nothing of physics, but... (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378377)

Nothing new about fusion. Ask our friendly neighbor, the Sun. El Sol. Le Soleil. Die Sonne. La Suno.

Re:I know nothing of physics, but... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378389)

gamma rays are not new.

Re:I know nothing of physics, but... (2)

leromarinvit (1462031) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378407)

So this new fusion tech is not only going to be green (at least on the outside), but also delicious? Sounds like a win to me!

Re:I know nothing of physics, but... (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378583)

That's because this project is green on the outside and in the red on the inside.

Re:I know nothing of physics, but... (2)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378713)

"Why is there a watermelon there?"

"I'll tell you later"

Beryllium? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378293)

Sphere? Cmdr. Peter Quincy Taggart would be proud.

Re:Beryllium? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378459)

Would someone please think about the minors.

Re:Beryllium? (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378581)

Miners, not minors!

Great! (3, Funny)

Type44Q (1233630) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378309)

Practical applications are now only fifty years away! :p

Financing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378319)

Must be time to renew a budget..

Re:Financing (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378845)

Or a reaction to the upcoming budget sequestering.

Newton was right. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Not to worry, citizens, fusion is still $DECADES away!

Energy Independence (1)

Vintowin (1476905) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378323)

Only when fusion is realized will we gain energy independence... Very positive news..

Re:Energy Independence (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378697)

Thus creating an internal energy monopoly. Somehow I doubt it'll be a win-win.

Re:Energy Independence (0, Troll)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378707)

You are American, yes? If you all drove small 1 litre 50 horsepower cars instead of 6-litre 400 horsepower SUV monstrosities, you could also gain energy independence that way. (just a wild out-there blue-sky suggestion.)

Re:Energy Independence (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378815)

Wait a sec.... so american "engineers" can manage to get 400 BHP out of a six liter now?

Another few decades of practice and they might make a car worth owning.

Stop hating. "cold fusion" != "fusion" (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378335)

All the previous vaporware and false claims about fusion are about "cold fusion". This is not the same thing. Accusations of being vaporware would only be valid if the word "cold" appeared in the summary, which it does not.

Re:Stop hating. "cold fusion" != "fusion" (1)

Ragzouken (943900) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378409)

Even warm fusion has fun poked at it for being constantly "fifty years away".

Re:Stop hating. "cold fusion" != "fusion" (4, Informative)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378571)

Which it hasn't really been for a decade now, and wouldn't have been like that if fusion had been receiving the funding it deserves. Of all non-service industries energy has the lowest research funding to revenue ratio, and super-majority of that has been towards fracking and ethanol.

This is a self-perpetuating myth if ever there was one. My money's on FocusFusion to beat sandia to net+ though.

Re:Stop hating. "cold fusion" != "fusion" (2)

Vintermann (400722) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378769)

Nuclear energy research has been funded the same way the internet was funded, the usual way research gets publicly funded in the US (or for that matter, elsewhere): The promise of military applications.

Re:Stop hating. "cold fusion" != "fusion" (5, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378825)

Yeah, I remember when we had the MIT fusion research Slashdot Interview, and they showed the graph that was presented in the 70s showing how soon they could have fusion given various funding levels.

The saddest part was of the various scenarios like "fusion in 10 years", "fusion in 20 years", there was a "fusion never" line where funding was never sufficient to yield breakeven fusion, and then there was overlaid a new "actual funding" line which was significantly lower than that. :(

P.S. Personally my money is on Sandia, but that's just because the old Z-Machine was the most fucking awesome thing ever. EVER. [sandia.gov] I admit this is not a rational scientific argument, and that a working Z-pinch fusion device would not look like that at all, but come on!

Re:Stop hating. "cold fusion" != "fusion" (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378603)

That's really unfair. Warm fusion is probably only constantly 20 years away.

Re:Stop hating. "cold fusion" != "fusion" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378633)

All the previous vaporware and false claims about fusion are about "cold fusion".

No they are about commercially viable hot fusion being persistantly the same multiple of decades away.

This is not the same thing. Accusations of being vaporware would only be valid if the word "cold" appeared in the summary, which it does not.

Considering we currently have no commercially viable fusion cold or hot and no idea when if ever this will change they are both vaporware.

No? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378343)

I didn't read the article, or the summary, but the title has a question mark at the end; it's probably safe to assume the answer is "No"

captcha: thighs

Re:No? (1)

bbecker23 (1917560) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378515)

captcha: thighs

I think you're doing that wrong.

near end of 2013? (3, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378345)

so uhh.. call us in a year if it works, ok? that the parts which are known to work do work isn't really news you know.

can we do this again -- without the wordsmithing? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378347)

The last sentence of the summary could be interpreted by a cynic to mean that the current state of the art is (1000 - epsilon), and they've just found a way to "potentially" increase by epsilon to reach 1000.

What is the current state of the art? How much more efficient is the new technique.
Repost the summary with the details everyone actually cares about.

Tubes Eaten Away (5, Funny)

bazald (886779) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378363)

How much energy goes into the production of the liner tubes, which are apparently eaten away throughout the course of the fusion reaction? Obviously this is all preliminary research, but I still think I'm missing something.

Re:Tubes Eaten Away (1)

P-niiice (1703362) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378511)

Make the liner tubes out of used 20oz water bottles

Re:Tubes Eaten Away (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378621)

We're saved!!

Tubes? You mean the Interwebs? (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378545)

Oh. Never mind.

Re:Tubes Eaten Away (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378649)

Dude, it's magnetic containment. That's kinda the point. It keeps the really hot particles from ever touching the tube. It takes a buttload of energy to run but compared to fusion, not that much.

Re:Tubes Eaten Away (2)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378725)

Read the article. The liners are being crushed by the magnetic field. The whole point of this experiment is that they've found a thickness of liner that will last _just_ long enough to finish crushing the fusible elements together before being completely destroyed itself.

And presumably they can construct the liners for less (both in terms of money and energy) than they feel they will eventually be able to get out of the fusion reaction. It's not like every other method of producing energy doesn't have some kind of upfront cost that needs to be paid. Just as one example, look at how much infrastructure it takes to get a train car full of coal to a coal plant

Re:Tubes Eaten Away (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378953)

You should read the article. Passing such a high current through the tube causes it to ionise.

Re:Tubes Eaten Away (5, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378785)

Time for a world famous /. vlm engineering estimate.

The tubes are vaporized by the magnetic crunch. Optimistically they're getting a thousand times the power out as in, or far more than a thousand times the power it takes to vaporize the tube (because most of the power is going into squashing the contents, otherwise whats the point...).

I'm sure they're using beryllium because of its legendary stiffness, not because they love toxic dust. Lets say they use aluminum in a later model. Both light low Z metals of decent strength although beryllium is better. If beryllium oxides were not so toxic we've have airplanes made out of it, not just space satellites and the occasional exotic RF transistor ceramic heatsink. But I digress. Off the top of my head it costs about 5 KWh as an order of magnitude engineering estimate to electrorefine a pound of aluminum. It takes immensely more energy to vaporize a pound of aluminum. An hour in a 5 KW ceramics kiln might melt a pound aluminum... but vaporization is much harder. I'll estimate incredibly low and say you can vaporize a pound of aluminum with only 5 KWh. LOL this is probably 1 or maybe even 2 orders of magnitude low, but its best to be extremely pessimistic... I'm not counting the machining energy or transport, both of which will be much smaller.

So I'd feel fairly confident that a pound or so of aluminum tube, costing about 5 KWh to refine, should generate about 5000 KWh when the deuterium inside the tubes gets squooshed. Not bad.

Another crappy engineering order of magnitude estimate is you gotta burn a pound of coal to make a KWh. And you can earn a tidy profit burning coal to make electricity, for better or worse... WRT materials handling transport and mining/ore/coal processing and storage standpoint, those are not an issue as long as you can get more than one KWH out of a pound of the "stuff", since it's clearly no issue with coal at a pitiful KWh per pound. This thing is getting 5000 KWh out of a pound of aluminum tubes (well, once they're filled up with D2).

No as a first approximation I'm not seeing any fundamental issues with the tubes. This isn't like using up 2 barrels of crude oil to grow and refine 1 barrel equivalent of ethanol. The tubes will be a substantial fraction of the operating expense. Not as significant as jetfuel to a airline, or coal to a powerplant, but more significant than say, the cost of in flight cookies to a airline.

Finally a chance to play god (2)

partyguerrilla (1597357) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378383)

Take that, Sol! Now we don't need you for anything!

Betteridge's Law of Headlines (5, Insightful)

iamjonah (1702570) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378387)

Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word "no".

Re:Betteridge's Law of Headlines (2)

esldude (1157749) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378489)

A simulation shows that experiments scheduled for next year could work. And if they do work, they would maybe be a breakthrough. Yes, I think the proper answer to the query posed by the headline is clearly....NO! Get back to us with breakthroughs once you have actually done it for real one time.

Re:Betteridge's Law of Headlines (5, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378719)

A simulation shows that experiments scheduled for next year could work.

Not exactly. This was an actual experiment showing that previously done simulations were correct. They needed to figure out the correct thickness to make the liners to balance implosion speed with vaporization due to extreme current, the simulations said this was a sweet spot, and the experiment said that indeed this would work.

Of course this is just one more step in the design - simulate - experiment cycle, but still, at least it is about a real result.

Also, I'm just glad to be hearing about further progress from the Z-Machine folks at Sandia since I hadn't in quite a while. So even though it's not the final goal, it's still good news.

Re:Betteridge's Law of Headlines (1)

P-niiice (1703362) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378547)

And it can't start with How or What

Re:Betteridge's Law of Headlines (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378549)

I hereby introduce Maxwell Demon's Law of Headlines: Whenever a headline ends in a question mark on Slashdot, there will be no shortage of comments mentioning or implicitly referring to Betteridge's Law Of Headlines.

Re:Betteridge's Law of Headlines (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378807)

Are we trying to make a meme out of this?

Or vagina?

"breakthrough near" my ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378399)

tell me when it's done

Re:"breakthrough near" my ass (2)

punker (320575) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378609)

tell me when it's done

I expect you'll know when it happens.

Recycling thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378421)

Is this story: 10, 20, 30, or 50 years old?

mod uP (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378423)

This post 3rought open platform, Resulte3 in the

I knew.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378439)

MILF fusion. I knew it worked.

Flame bait powered fusion a reality (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378479)

110% bu11$h1t

It's "MLIF", not "MILF" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378509)

Although both terms are hot... one is several million degrees hotter than the other

Re:It's "MLIF", not "MILF" (4, Funny)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378909)

Although both terms are hot... one is several million degrees hotter than the other

Both take 40 years to begin production.

The most beautiful science (5, Informative)

conorpeterson (2718139) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378553)

The photos of the Z machine have to be seen to be believed, and even then, it is grade A sci-fi: http://www.sandia.gov/z-machine/ [sandia.gov] The "Z pinch" is an alternative method of containing the hot plasma. Tokomak reactors use magnetic confinement of a continuous plasma, while the Z machine uses inertial confinement for shorter lived plasmas. IIRC the web of lightning shown in Sandia's publicity photos is produced when thousands of tungsten filaments are vaporized in order to generate x-rays. The fuel pellet sits in the center and the X-rays compress it into criticality -- if it sounds like an H-bomb, that's because it probably is.

Re:The most beautiful science (2)

TheSwift (2714953) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378935)

The photos of the Z machine have to be seen to be believed, and even then, it is grade A sci-fi: http://www.sandia.gov/z-machine/ [sandia.gov]

Middle right photo - Pretty sure I've seen that room before. Shortly thereafter I was hitting head crabs with a crowbar.

obligatory xkcd (2)

NikeHerc (694644) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378573)

Go to http://xkcd.com/678/ [xkcd.com] , pick your own time line.

Great! (1)

32771 (906153) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378593)

Now I don't have to start becoming a farmer after all. Not that it is a bad thing but starting it at mid 30 seems late in the game.

Considering that factor of 1000 sounds like a great EROI should be possible, much better than this puny cold fusion stuff.

Now if they could get rid of this metallic liner they are talking about made out of a potentially scarce resource the whole thing
could look perfect once they get beyond the simulation stage.

And we should have it working... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378605)

...in only 50 years.

Fusion is a series of tubes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378661)

Fusion is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes.

Muahhhh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378679)

This is just the standard press release blub stuff those labs put out. This is not going to change our lives anytime soon.
The real question is: why did this blub end up on slashdot?

Scientific Breakeven, not Fiscal (4, Interesting)

rahvin112 (446269) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378687)

The Tokamak's have been scientific breakeven for more than a decade, ITER is supposed to achieve fiscal breakeven. What's the difference? Scientific breakeven means you extract more energy than you put into it, but you don't actually try to collect any of the energy. Fiscal breakeven is that added step where you actually try to collect the energy and use it.

See Fusion has this problem in that it's pretty easy to trigger fusion, it's not easy to keep it going and it's damn near impossible to collect any energy from it because all the stuff you have to start the fusion is in the way of collecting any of the energy and all the neutron and alpha particle emissions tend to destroy any materials you put in there to collect the energy.

This is EXACTLY the point of ITER, it's supposed to test the actual engineering of real world (not laboratory) fusion at an economic scale. This testing is costing a lot of money (US contributions are in the $2 Billion dollar range, total economic input from all the partner nations is 25X that amount).

Re:Scientific Breakeven, not Fiscal (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378897)

Tokamak's have just reached Q~1 if J-60 were to switch from deuterium to a D-T mix. This is to say that the amount of fusion power being generated is on par with the amount of heating power applied. This is a little short of the "scientific breakeven" you describe, as it does not include power for magnets (and other equipment, but that is much smaller). A more useful goal is a Q~5, since the neutrons carry away about 80% of the power, a Q~5 is would mean the alpha particles left behind in the plasma will be providing about as much as heat as external sources. To account for other inefficiencies, a more practical Q would be a little higher.

ITER's goal is to achieve a Q of 10 for shorter duration plasmas, and to get a Q of 5 for long durations that would be more indicative of a steady state reactor continuously running. These are all in terms of fusion power within the reactor vs. heat applied. ITER will not produce any electricity from the fusion power, it will not be a test of "fiscal breakeven" as you describe it. The plan would be for the successor to ITER, potentially DEMO, to actually produce electrical power and work towards determining economic feasibility and dealing production issues in an actual industrial, instead of research, setting.

The apparatus works (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378709)

But why is that news? They tested it empty, fuel won't even be added until 2013, and analyzing the results of the actual experiment might take even more.

I believe (1)

mark99 (459508) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378765)

because I am an idiot and a slow learner.

Energy and..... defence? (1)

gallondr00nk (868673) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378779)

an achievement that would have extraordinary energy and defense implications.

Says a lot about the times we live in (or the short sightedness of TFA) when the second biggest benefit of a breakthrough in fusion would be fucking weapons.

I'd be looking forward to a revolution in energy usage and a massive increase in living standards for the entire planet myself, but hey.

Types of fusion and funding (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378789)

There are about 36 types of fusion being explored (of which "Magnetized Liner Inertial Fusion" is just one), categorized roughly into 6 main types. Here's a list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Fusion_methods [wikipedia.org]

'Unlimited' energy would be such an amazing thing (eclipsing even say lithium-air battery tech, 200" OLED screens, super conductors, or cheap-as-peanuts aerogel) by an order of magnitude or two. If a quarter of the money that went into the Defense budget went into fusion, we'd all be laughing by now.

Nope, False Alarm (1)

phrackwulf (589741) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378791)

This is actually the denoument of the final season of "Breaking Bad." An multi-million anonymous donation from a mysterious "Senor Heisenberg" leads to sustainable fusion research all to late to redeem the hapless Walter White and his family.

The key to Fusion has been right in front of us! (1)

kybur (1002682) | more than 2 years ago | (#41378793)

You just need a series of tubes!

Slashdot take seems a little too forward looking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41378865)

The Slashdot take on it:

"An achievement that would have extraordinary energy and defense implications might be near at Sandia National Laboratories"

From the actual article at Sandia:

"“This work is one more step on a long path to possible energy applications,” said Sandia senior manager Mark Herrmann."

I enjoy the science coverage on Slashdot, but would prefer a less hyperbolic intro.

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