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Science

19 million Amps 457

Posted by Hemos
from the coursing-thru-their-veins dept.
deblau writes "On July 27, scientists at the National Nuclear Security Administration's Nevada Test Site said they generated a current equal to about four times all the electrical current on Earth. During the few millionths of a second that it operated, the 650-ton Atlas pulsed-power generator discharged about 19 million amps of current through an aluminum cylindrical shell about the size of a tuna can. Official news release is available from the DOE (PDF)."
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19 million Amps

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  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Monday August 01, 2005 @09:21AM (#13213647)

    In operation, the 650-node Slashdot news-for-nerds generator successfully discharged nearly 19 million hits of HTTP requests through the NNSA Nevada Site Office News webpage, or PDF, on a server about the size and shape of a tuna can. The requests caused the server to implode at extreme speeds, with unrivaled symmetry, precision, and reproducibility.
  • Wowf (Score:2, Funny)

    by Stanistani (808333)
    I wondered why my cat has been so tense lately...
  • current == power? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    "current equal to about four times all the electrical power on Earth" riiiight.
    • Re:current == power? (Score:4, Informative)

      by stinerman (812158) <nathan DOT stine AT gmail DOT com> on Monday August 01, 2005 @09:27AM (#13213699) Homepage
      Sure.

      I = V/R
      If R->0, I->INF.

      Its certainly possible.
      • Obviously current and power aren't the same thing, but I was making the assumption that the submitter simply used them interchangeably, making a layman's error.
    • Re:current == power? (Score:5, Informative)

      by InvalidError (771317) on Monday August 01, 2005 @10:11AM (#13214073)
      From later in TFA: "During the few milionths of a second that it operates, Atlas generates electrical energy roughly four times the Earth's entire energy production."

      This is almost technically right except for "Atlas generates"... Atlas is only a huge capacitor bank, it does not magically "generate" energy, it only stores existing energy.

      Now, if worldwide production is something like 25GW and the pulse lasts 10us, we have 25GW * 4 * 10us = 1MJ, a balievable finite quantity.
  • Math (Score:5, Funny)

    by dsginter (104154) on Monday August 01, 2005 @09:22AM (#13213652)
    I did the math for everyone... it works out to One point twenty one jiga-watts, Marty!
    • Re:Math (Score:4, Funny)

      by wowbagger (69688) on Monday August 01, 2005 @09:49AM (#13213922) Homepage Journal
      That would require about 64 volts of potential across the target at the stated current, at a resistance of 3.3 micro-ohms of resistance in the target.

      Given the "few millionths of a second" duration, the total energy would be about a kilo-joule to ten kilo-joules - about the same as the chemical energy in a single gumdrop (there's a new /unit for you!)
      • Re:Math (Score:3, Funny)

        by springbox (853816)
        about the same as the chemical energy in a single gumdrop (there's a new /unit for you!)

        I look forward to the day when the phrase "gumdrops per second" appears in physics text books. I promise to use it every chance I get.
      • Re:Math (Score:3, Funny)

        by Mercano (826132)
        I've been using a Tic-Tac as a unit of energy. Just one (kilo)calorie.
      • Re:Math (Score:3, Insightful)

        by eugene259 (871089)
        resistance of a conductor [wikipedia.org] is:
        R=rho*L/A
        where
        rho - resistivity of the material in Ohms/m
        L - length of the conductor
        A - cross-sectional area in m^2 (in this case pi*r^2).
        rho for Al [alu-info.dk] is 26.5x10-9.
        I am not sure what size can of tuna they were comparing the aluminium liner to in the official release but say it is a big can, say 5cm in heights, 12cm in width.
        This makes the resistance:
        R around 1.17x10-7 Ohms which makes the power:
        P = VI = I^2*R ~ 42293215 or 0.042 gigawatts at about 2.2V
        A bit short of 1.21 (28 time
    • Gotta love those flux capacitors...
  • by Winckle (870180) <mark@NosPaM.winckle.co.uk> on Monday August 01, 2005 @09:22AM (#13213657) Homepage
    Now that was how Pink Floyd should have played.
  • How much was the voltage? Would the power be more than 1.21 Gigawatts?

    Was it part of a modified DeLorean travelling at 88 mph?
    • From a Z-machine article, which claims that its 290 trillion watt output is 80 times world production, world production is 3.625 trillion watts. Times 4 is 14.5 trillion watts. Divided by 19 million amps (wattage is voltage time amperage, right?) is about 760,000 volts. But we don't need that number, just the 14.5 terawatts. Which is 11,983 times 1.21 Gigawatts. I'm estimating that the weight of a DeLorean is about a ton? Which means this thing, with appropriate flux capacitance, of course, can send a
  • Pure nonsense (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    they generated a current equal to about four times all the electrical power on Earth.

    Sounds like apples and oranges:
    units of current = Amps
    units of power = Watts

    The statement is pure nonsense.
  • by jav1231 (539129) on Monday August 01, 2005 @09:24AM (#13213674)
    "about four times all the electrical power on Earth"
    Wouldn't that be all of the OTHER power on Earth? After all, this test was conducted on Earth, making even this discharge a subset of the "all the electrical power on Earth," but I digress. It's really amazing, though, to think this was pulse through a tuna-can sized hunk of aluminum. You'd think it melt. Tuna...melt....I really should stop.
    • ...all of the OTHER power on Earth?

      No, I think they can stand by the all the power generated on earth. because their system does not actually generate any power. It just stores up power from The Grid for a longish while and then dumps it in a (quote) few microseconds. The power being dissipated in that chunk of plasma-ball-former-aluminium-puck is indeed excess to all the power being currently generated (Well, actually, converted from some existing source of potential or chemical energy, if we want t

    • "\"about four times all the electrical power on Earth\" Wouldn't that be all of the OTHER power on Earth? After all, this test was conducted on Earth, making even this discharge a subset of the \"all the electrical power on Earth,\" but I digress."

      Stop spreading that sentence, damnit. My brain overflows its stack every time I try to read it.

    • by dattaway (3088)
      I've seen 1/1000th of this current used on a daily basis through 14 guage wire as part of the wire making process. When I worked on wire drawing and annealing machines, I measured a constant 1900 amps on the wire at about 2000 feet per second. The voltage drop was about 30 volts for about 15 feet. The magnetic field was pretty strong and the wire got hot enough to soften it. If the wire were stationary, it would take about a second or two to melt it. If I were to take 10,000 strands of that 14 guage co
  • What? (Score:5, Informative)

    by callipygian-showsyst (631222) on Monday August 01, 2005 @09:25AM (#13213679) Homepage
    ...Test Site said they generated a current equal to about four times all the electrical power on Earth.

    ...

    During the few millionths of a second that it operated, the 650-ton Atlas pulsed-power generator discharged about 19 million amps

    Um....unless things have changed in the 25+ years since I took a college physics class, we measure POWER in WATTS, and CURRENT in AMPS. So the number you quoted in AMPS that you claims is eqaual to four times the POWER in amps doesn't make any sense. Of course, that never stopped our /. Editors before!

    • Actually, it wouldn't matter. This was just a garbage press release.

      "Hey, look! We can *still* do what we did before to simulate the "computer codes" we use to simulate the nuclear testing we can't do"

      So, this is a re-test of a POC of a nuclear weapons testing system. It's hardly science, and it is definately not news, since this existed what, 3 years ago?

      Sheesh.

      -WS
    • by Otter (3800)
      Obviously, "power" refers to its colloquial meaning of "generated electricity" (as in "The power is out!"), not to the scientific definition of the term.

      C'mon...

    • unless things have changed in the 25+ years since I took a college physics class, we measure POWER in WATTS, and CURRENT in AMPS. So the number you quoted in AMPS that you claims is eqaual to four times the POWER in amps doesn't make any sense.

      Well, it seems to me, in the kind of physics they are engaging in, the actual voltage does not matter a white. So long as it is sufficient to pass the required current through the sample. So, to fix up the sentence to offend your eyes less:

      they generated

    • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Saggi (462624)
      The article is vague, but it don't state the same as the editor on SlashDot...

      During the few millionths of a second that it operates. Atlas generates electrical energy roughtly four times the Earth's entire energy production.

      It doesn't say if it the Earth (magnetic field etc.) or the human energy production....

      The statement is just after describing the Earth atmosphere pressure etc. so it could be related to earth it self.

      And as the quote above states, it doesn't indicate that the energy production is measu
  • Hmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by leshert (40509) on Monday August 01, 2005 @09:25AM (#13213681) Homepage
    On July 27, scientists at the National Nuclear Security Administration's Nevada Test Site said they generated a current equal to about four times all the electrical power on Earth.

    Where did they do this experiment--Mars?
  • by Ingolfke (515826) on Monday August 01, 2005 @09:25AM (#13213683) Journal
    to power the beowulf cluster I just imagined.

    Laugh kids... it's kinda funny.
  • Two points (Score:3, Informative)

    by TildeMan (472701) <gsivek.mit@edu> on Monday August 01, 2005 @09:25AM (#13213684) Homepage
    1. Current != power. Power = I^2 R, or any equivalent formula.

    2. They did this on Earth, so it was actually only 80% of the electrical power (or insert appropriate noun here, see point 1) on Earth. Assuming it was four times the normal power levels without this extra current.
  • 11? (Score:5, Funny)

    by ryanvm (247662) on Monday August 01, 2005 @09:25AM (#13213685)
    I'll bet this amp goes to 11.
    • Re:11? (Score:4, Funny)

      by adrianbaugh (696007) on Monday August 01, 2005 @09:30AM (#13213734) Homepage Journal
      Nah, they just made 10 louder ;-)
  • I thought I felt a disturbance in the force.
  • Although, having read the press release, I do believe the four times the net energy production figure; without telling us what voltage this few-microsecond pulse is at, it is impossible to know what the instantaneous power is.

    One would need to scrounge around in Wikipedia or something for the total worldwide electricity production, multiply by four, do the arithmetic, and know the peak voltage. But maybe they meant the energy dissipated in those microseconds, which case you'd need to know the discharg

  • One of the researchers was quoted as saying.

     
  • A group of lab-coated engineers having a barbecue using a 48 million dollar grill.
  • How much is all the electrical power on Earth? It doesn't give numbers.
  • Umm, okay that's interesting and all, but are there any practical uses besides using this thing to simulate nuclear weapons material tests? Or is this just another huge money sink for the good ol' US Gov't?

    Do we really need to keep reasearching nuclear weapons anyway, with the Cold War long over and the ban on them and all?
    • The idea isn't (only) to determine the accuracy of modeling for new weapons. Those same models (IIRC) are used to predict the yield and failure rate on current warheads that were constructed years agoand have been "sitting around" since.

      While I don't see the US using these, it's still a good idea to build models that let us predict what would happen if we did and at what point the risk of failure warrants switching old devices out for new (or deactivating them).

      In this case, the more data the better.
    • Of course you need nuclear weapons. Saddam didn't have any, and look what someone did to him.
  • ... Sandia National Lab's Z-Machine is about 20-times more powerful (http://www.sandia.gov/media/z290.htm [sandia.gov])
  • 19 Million? (Score:3, Funny)

    by iamdrscience (541136) <michaelmtripp&gmail,com> on Monday August 01, 2005 @09:30AM (#13213735) Homepage
    19 Million Amps, eh? Now all they need is 19 million guitars and the whole planet can rock out.
  • Black Mesa (Score:3, Funny)

    by Chairboy (88841) on Monday August 01, 2005 @09:31AM (#13213756) Homepage
    Of interest, the testing work here in Nevada has been farmed out to a private corporation. We now call it the Black Mesa Research Facility. Dr. Freeman and I have just started working together, and we have a number of exciting experiments underway. This last one in the story just happened, and it was very...

    hold on, there's something moving out in the hallway, I've got to go check.

    )#($)
    NO CARRIER
    • I wanted to scream, "It's alliivvee" after reading the parent post.

      Were they really trying to juice Frakenstein's Monster back up?

      Things that make you say Hmmm...
  • How the hell was it generated? A capacitor farm? 32 trillion hamsters on exercise wheels?
  • During the few millionths of a second that it operated, the 650-ton Atlas pulsed-power generator discharged about 19 million amps of current through an aluminum cylindrical shell about the size of a tuna can.


    That's one über wi-fi.

    I can only imagine the wi-fi range they'd get with a Pringles can.

  • Current != Power (Score:2, Informative)

    by thoolie (442789)
    "...they generated a current equal to about four times all the electrical power on Earth..."

    Last I checked, Power = Volts * Current. So, unless I'm missing something, I'm not sure how that works out. According to the CIA World Fact book, the world uses 15.29 trillion kWh of power a year, so, if there are 86400 hours a year, then we use 1.769676e-4 Trillion kW a year. This computes to 5.61161e-12 TkW a second. So, if this thing ran for .02 seconds (I think they said for "milliseconds" then, they would need t
    • MY EYES! (Score:3, Informative)

      by imsabbel (611519)
      1.Dont use bastard childs like TkW
      2.Power =! Work. So its Watt. Not Watt/s. or anything. WATT. So the Power rating wont change if you make it shorter.
      3. Scientific notation, growing out of your ass: 5.61161e-12 TkW you write... well, thats just 5.61kW... maybe you mean something different?!
      and 2.36e-12 Trillion Volts... well, thats 2 AA cells, definitively archivable ;)
    • Re:Current != Power (Score:3, Informative)

      by Binestar (28861) *
      According to the CIA World Fact book, the world uses 15.29 trillion kWh of power a year, so, if there are 86400 hours a year, then we use 1.769676e-4 Trillion kW a year.

      *blink* *blink* Typo? We would use 17,696,760 kW/hr (I'm human, I don't mind rounding long numbers when the answer doesn't need to be perfect)

      This computes to 5.61161e-12 TkW a second.

      295,945 kW/sec

      So, if this thing ran for .02 seconds (I think they said for "milliseconds" then, they would need to generate (4x) 1.12232111e-13 TkW
  • by Cyclotron_Boy (708254) on Monday August 01, 2005 @09:40AM (#13213853) Homepage
    This is a fun project. I was able to get about 18kA repeatably through a variety of objects [niell.org] from a small cap bank using low inductance leads and vacuum triggered spark gap. Lots of people do fun projects like this at home in their garages

    For example
    Bert Hickman's coin shrinking [205.243.100.155]
    Thaltech's capacitor experiments [thaltech.com]
    Sam Barros's Power Labs page [powerlabs.org]
    Bill Beaty's webpage [amasci.com]
    and many others...

  • Yeah it sure does.

    But the impressive part isn't the current. It's the pulse. It's surprisingly easy to get really high currents... as long as you only want them for fractions of a second.

    Sure the total current achieved here is impressive... but what about watt hours? I would imagine the number of watt hours here is surprisingly low compared to the current...
  • 1.21 Gigawatts (Score:2, Informative)

    by MikeyToo (527303)
    Given: 19MA generated(That's ninteteen megaamps as opposed to ma which is milliamps for those of you who avoided engineering). 1210MW (Again that's megawatts, or 1.12GW for you Back to the Future types) Then using Ohm's Law (E=P/I) They needed to work at 63.68MV (mega again). I wonder how long it will take them to get all this equipment packed in a DeLorean.
  • ... as the current surges, it crushes the liner at velocities of 12070 m/s ... achieves pressures approximates the center of the earth (millions of atmospheres) ... the few microseconds it operates.

    19 megaAmps @ 1V would be 19 megaWatts and need about 40Farad of capacitor banks 19 megaAmps @ 1mV would be 19 kWatts and need about 40,000 Farad of capacitor banks 19 megaAmps @ 1000V would be 19 gigaWatts and need about 40,000uF of capacitor banks

  • The article is about a machine that can produce a very high pressure, generated in a short amount of time. This is actually much more interesting (of cause a matter of opinion) than the ability to generate a lot of amps.

    Amps without voltage don't really say anything after all. Besides it's the high level of voltages that are exciting, just think of lightning. Having a lot of amps stored in some battery or something similar is just not that exciting....

    But back to the article. This machine can generate a ver
  • ...and I'd never need to plug into a wall socket again. Ahhh... the future's so bright I gotta wear shades. ;P
  • I RTFPDF (funny abbreviation), but I have not seen any details on what was thesolution to, in my opinion, the greatest challenge: the switch.

    Since I graduated electrical engineering, there has been great progress in the field of solid-state switches. Yet, I think the losses incurred in such a switch would make this experiment unviable.
    A mechanical switch is definitely out of the question, unless they managed to accelerate one of the contacts in some, to me inimaginable way. Maybe with explosives.
    In the hihg
  • ...they remained on the earth during this run, they were merely making 80% of all the current on the earth. Currently. Well, currently at that time...

  • Power Calculation (Score:5, Informative)

    by superstick58 (809423) on Monday August 01, 2005 @10:13AM (#13214082)
    If we consider the resistivity of Aluminum as 2.82x10^-8 Ohm-meters and the dimension [pccrafts.com] of a soup can is .2159m length by .0889m diameter, we can calculate the approximate resistance of the aluminum and therefore the power.

    resistance = resistivity*length/area

    It turns out that the resistance is near 1 ohm at .981 Ohms. This means that the power would be found with the following equation.

    P = I^2*R

    Therefore we can estimate the total power to be a huuuuuge amount, 354.14x10^12 Watts.

    • Let me make a correction. I used a soup can when they said tuna can. My mistake. Assume a tuna can of dimensions of dimensions [slcc.edu] .0381m length and .04206m diameter. That would lower the resistance of the aluminum to .781x10^-9 (I also forgot some decimal places in my previous equation :P). That means the total power would be:

      (12x10^6)^2*(.781x10-9) = 112.464kW.

      That's not much power. In addition, it only lasted a few milliseconds so it wouldn't come close to the total power usage of the world in a year.

  • useful? What was this actually good for?

    Maybe TFA mentions it, but, you know, this is /.

    So, what's the big deal?
  • This reminds me of when I was a child, my grandmother has this "appliance" that would pass electrical current through hotdogs to cook them.
    http://www.exo.net/~pauld/activities/electric/hotd oggfi/hotdogcooker.html [exo.net]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 01, 2005 @10:42AM (#13214350)
    My home electric stove+oven has 2x 50A circuit breakers; my electric water heater, 2x 40A; my electric clothes dryer, 2x 30A (all 230V service in US). There are at least 15 million houses in the US with similar electrical service. Some industrial plating baths use 6000 Amperes at less than 3V. So 19 million amps is a serious underestimate of the current being used in the world.
    • MOD PARENT UP (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rco3 (198978) on Monday August 01, 2005 @11:10AM (#13214602) Homepage
      Seriously, people. Is there anyone on the /. editorial staff who can do basic math?

      There are easily 19 million electrical service drops in the U.S. alone, counting homes and businesses and such, and I'll bet each and every single one of them uses more than one ampere ALL THE TIME.

      Who lets this crap through, anyway?
  • I just... (Score:3, Funny)

    by shawnce (146129) on Monday August 01, 2005 @11:07AM (#13214577) Homepage
    I just heat my tuna in a microwave... sure it is a little slower but my microwave doesn't weight 650 tons.
  • by sacrilicious (316896) on Monday August 01, 2005 @12:06PM (#13215151) Homepage
    During the few millionths of a second that it operated, the 650-ton Atlas pulsed-power generator discharged about 19 million amps of current through an aluminum cylindrical shell about the size of a tuna can.

    Sounds like the love scene from a Bulwer-Lytton romance novel contest.

  • by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918 AT gmail DOT com> on Monday August 01, 2005 @12:28PM (#13215393)
    Sandia National Labs' Z-machine has been pumping out 20+ million amps for quite some time.

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