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Power Science

Two-Laser Boron Fusion Lights the Way To Radiation-Free Energy 140

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-love-it-when-energy-doesn't-try-to-kill-me dept.
ananyo writes "Fusion unleashes vast amounts of energy that might one day be used to power giant electrical grids. But the laboratory systems that seem most promising produce radiation in the form of fast-moving neutrons, and these present a health hazard that requires heavy shielding and even degrades the walls of the fusion reactor. Physicists have now produced fusion at an accelerated rate in the laboratory without generating harmful neutrons (abstract). A team led by Christine Labaune, research director of the CNRS Laboratory for the Use of Intense Lasers at the Ecole Polytechnique in Palaiseau, France, used a two-laser system to fuse protons and boron-11 nuclei. One laser created a short-lived plasma, or highly ionized gas of boron nuclei, by heating boron atoms; the other laser generated a beam of protons that smashed into the boron nuclei, releasing slow-moving helium particles but no neutrons. Previous laser experiments that generated boron fusion aimed the laser at a boron target to initiate the reaction. In the new experiment, the laser-generated proton beam produces a tenfold increase of boron fusion because protons and boron nuclei are instead collided together directly."
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Two-Laser Boron Fusion Lights the Way To Radiation-Free Energy

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  • Hooray for fusion! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lgw (121541) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @06:27PM (#45086441) Journal

    Hooray! Fusion power is now only 20 years in the future! The absence of fast neutrons really is a breakthrough, though: the less radioactive a reactor itself becomes over time, the easier the cleanup at the end of its life.

    • This sounds cool, I wonder if this technique couldn't be applied to "clean up" radio active waste? And allow me to turn on the light in my bathroom?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        No. It has nothing to do with heavy medium half-life isotopes.

      • by lgw (121541)

        It's Boron! It has the cleaning power of a 20 mule team! [wikipedia.org] So, no, not really.

      • by wagnerrp (1305589)

        That's easy. Use filtration and centrifuges to separate out the short and long life products from the medium life products. Short half-life products are nasty, but you only have to store them for a few years, so no one cares. Long half-life products have too slow a decay rate to worry about, and some of them are useful as fuel. Whatever is left, just bombard it with more neutrons, or protons, whatever would be appropriate for transmuting it into something with a more convenient decay path.

        The trouble is

        • Long half-life products have too slow a decay rate to worry about

          While I agree that France has done well to follow approximately this mix in their fuel cycle, it isn't a panacea. you always end up with a nasty mix of the long lived stuff at the end that is too hot to declare not a problem and not readily converted via the process you describe.

          • by wagnerrp (1305589)
            As far as I know, the only reprocessing being done is refining, to separate out that small portion of mid-life product. No one is further transmuting that into something more desirable, because it simply doesn't make sense with respect to the energy requirements.
        • by RockDoctor (15477)
          Filtration and centrifugation will separate part of your mixture on the basis of physical properties, specifically their density. Density does not cleanly distinguish between the nice stuff and the nasty stuff. If it did, re-processing fuel would be a doddle. The rotting tanks at Hanford, and the slime pits at Sellafield/ Calder Hall/ Seascale / Seafield (whatever it's name is this year) and I'm sure something horrible in the French re-processing plant all suggest that re-processing is not actually a doddle
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hooray! Fusion power is now only 20 years in the future!

      They're planning to build the first reactor in Brazil. It's the country of the future, you know.

    • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @06:33PM (#45086497) Homepage Journal
      As long as we don't run out of the other stuff [wikipedia.org], anyway. The Earth's crust contains about 5x as much Boron as Uranium, but we already use quite a lot of it for other applications and are extracting it at almost seventy times the rate.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @06:55PM (#45086613)

        Too bad we can't get fusion energy from morons instead, we would have unlimited energy...

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          No but we get some confusion energy.

        • by AbRASiON (589899) *

          Watchout the reddit lurkers might get angry and start replying to hassle you!

        • by Xyrus (755017) on Thursday October 10, 2013 @09:02AM (#45090221) Journal

          Too bad we can't get fusion energy from morons instead, we would have unlimited energy...

          Scientists have tried moron-moron fusion, but it simply takes more energy to fuse two morons than the reaction produces. Worse, moron fusion by-products are inherently unstable and result in dangerous moronic radiation. There is no known shielding that can prevent moronic radiation from escaping into the environment. At best, you can only hope to slow it down. But eventually, it finds a way to break out of even the most solid, fool-proof containment.

          If your unfamiliar with what moronic radiation is capable of, there are some well-known cases. These days though we have better equipment and facilities to ascertain and study this form of radiation. In fact, there is an ongoing experiment at the Washington, D.C's Large Moron Collider inside the Capitol Building Research Facility. There they often collide long lived moronic particles called Senators and short lived moronic particles called Representatives, producing all kinds of particles ranging from the softer ignorance particles to the elusive yet massive stupid particles.

          The unique rotunda design of the top shield was supposed to contain reactions and radiation from the moronic collisions. Unfortunately it seems that despite their best efforts moronic radiation still escapes into the environment.

          Some scientists have apparently found a way to at least channel and control the radiation. The research group at the Fox Institute of Truth, for example, has found that they can channel the moronic radiation from the LMC by converting it into electromagnetic radiation in the television spectrum where it harmlessly dissipates into the environment.

          However, new research indicates moronic radiation is not so easily defeated. A growing body of research shows that even though you convert moronic radiation into another form, it still retains it's dangerous properties. This hints at deeper mysteries behind the nature of moronic energy.

      • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:05PM (#45086709) Journal

        I can just imagine the Mad Max-style wars of the future when Boron is scarce and armies of scientists with makeshift weapons battle: should the boron go to the fusion reactors, or to make Pyrex glassware? Two scientists enter, one scientist leaves (with borax).

        • by bdwebb (985489)
          I think that if they are armies of scientists the weapons would be anything but makeshift. We're talking mechs powered by mini two-laser fusion reactors blasting each other with plasma rifles and missile volleys to weaken the energy shield around the Borax mine's defenses.

          Fuck. Yes.
      • by Tim the Gecko (745081) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:14PM (#45086775)

        The Earth's crust contains about 5x as much Boron as Uranium, but we already use quite a lot of it for other applications and are extracting it at almost seventy times the rate.

        However, 80% of extracted Boron is B-11, whereas only 0.7% of naturally occurring Uranium is U-235.

      • by AnotherBlackHat (265897) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:38PM (#45086953) Homepage

        If I'm crunching the numbers correctly, 1 gram of Boron produces 25,000 kWh of electricity - assuming perfect capture, 100% boron-11 and no other loses. (Granted, all unrealistic assumptions, but it's a starting point.)

        If we replaced all electric generation on the planet (about 20 trillion kWh / year) it would take 800 tonnes of boron per year.

        Turkey has the largest known Boron deposits at over a million tonnes or 1,200 years worth. And there are several other countries with large (thousands of tonnes) deposits as well, and that's just the Boron we know about.

        All really rough estimates, but I don't think will run out of Boron fuel any time soon.

        • by bdwebb (985489) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @09:21PM (#45087637)
          Another poster above you mentioned that 80% of extracted Boron is B-11 so ~1,000 years worth is more accurate if all the Boron in the Turkey mines were used for energy generation only...nevertheless, your post shows exactly why this technology is pretty enticing. B-11 is much, much easier to obtain than U-235 and, if the technology doesn't go the way of vapor, has the potential to change everything. Looking at this article [todayszaman.com], it appears that your estimate may be a bit off, though, regarding Turkey's Boron reserves:

          Although having 72 percent of the world's known boron reserves and being the biggest producer of boron in the world, Turkey has no monopoly on the global boron market. Total boron reserves in the world amount to as much as 4 billion tons. But the amount of boron minerals used as chemicals in industry is no more than 4 million tons a year. This means boron reserves, even when excluding Turkey's supply, are adequate to provide the world with enough boron minerals for almost 300 years.

          Going a step further, it looks like Turkey's deposits account for at least 2.88 billion tons of the total 4 billion tons in reserves around the world...definitely enough to keep us running for a while. Considering that we're already using 4 million tons a year for other industry and accounting for future growth (let's throw a random number at it and say 150% for a total of 10 million tons a year), then adding the current power requirements of the world, we get 10.0008 million tons a year of usage. Even using those numbers (and the 80% extraction rate), we're at 319.97 years of boron resources left.

          And shitballs...looking at Eti Maden's site [etimaden.gov.tr], I just found the following that makes me wonder about my previous source:

          In the world, Turkey, USA and Russia have the important boron mines. In terms of total reserve basis, Turkey has a share of %72.20, the other important country USA is %6.8.
          Total world boron reserves on the basis of B2O3 content are 369 million tons proven. 807 million tones probable and possible, as a total of 1,176 million tons. With a share of %72.20, Turkey has a total boron reserves of 851 million tons on the basis of B2O3 content .

          I don't know if the first article is believable or not so I'll just say that we have between 94.07 and 319.97 years of power and industry in Boron...which isn't amazing but it isn't bad either.

          • Industrial (current) uses of boron do not deplete our supply. It stays on earth, in the form of boron. Therefore it can be recycled. We won't run out of boron until we use it all up in the reactors. That will take a thousand years .. by which time we'd be mining other planets not for boron but other exotic fuels.

            • by bdwebb (985489)
              Good point. Although there are a ton of other uses such as borosilicate glass and ceramics where we may not be able to recover it as easily (or at all) for use in reactors so that does have to be considered as loss. Until we're desperate enough and we start stealing beakers from labs to recycle the boron heh.
        • I would hope after 1000 years that we would a) find an alternative fuel, and b) be sufficiently "off this rock" that we can get what we need.

          Of course, significant "off this rock" activities are liable to accelerate energy consumption by orders of magnitude, so that's a dangerous bit of progress to hope for.

        • by delt0r (999393)
          Thing is the amount of power we use is going up, not remaining constant. And its going up exponentially, at like a few % we are talking about using more energy than the sun in a few 1000 years. Even DD fusion won't last long if we don't adopt a more physically realistic economic model. Perpetual growth just does not work. There is a very strong argument to correlate energy use with economic growth and production.

          Of course this "invention" is 99.9% bullshit. They like fused a few million *atoms*. 10 fold
      • And hooray for Helium generation!

        Oh, aren't Helium nuclei also called Alpha particles?

        • Yep. There are five basic types of nuclear emission: proton emission (rare, but occurs in e.g. cobalt-53 decay), electron emission (also called beta minus decay, occurs when a proton becomes a neutron), positron emission (also called beta plus decay, occurs when a neutron becomes a proton), neutron emission (e.g. helium-5), and EM ray emission (such as gamma or X-ray emission; these are the result of much more high-powered events.)

          However, several different kinds of more complex things can happen. During a

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not only that, but if you were to use something like free electron laser on a chip [slashdot.org] aimed at something like a copper target to generate your proton beam, you might be able to get the fusion reactor down to a size that would fit in a Tesla Roadster. Who wouldn't think it'd be cool to own the first fusion powered car in their neighborhood, which might only need to be refilled about once a year or so?

      Of course it's still 20 years into the future.

      • 30 years in the future, you can buy a "Mr Fusion" to power your car. It runs on any organic waste, like old banana peels.

    • by Trogre (513942)

      Yeah, this is great news. We could even capture the by-product and help alleviate the helium shortage!

  • produced fusion at an accelerated rate in the laboratory without generating harmful neutrons

    ... Okay, sooo... less "harmful" neutrons... buuuut still a raging inferno trapped in a magnetic field that we're shooting with lasers. Which, I guess, isn't harmful. This must be a new definition of 'harmful' of which I was previously unaware.

    [disclaimer: for those utterly lacking in a sense of humor, the above is not meant to be taken literally. If you reply with a 'that's not what they meant' comment, I will put up the internet bat signal and will send geeks armed with EMPs and death rays to your residen

    • Re:Er, wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @06:48PM (#45086565) Homepage Journal
      Well, nuclear reactions that we can turn off like laser-initiated fusion are a lot nicer than the alternatives. The inside of your car engine is a raging inferno shot with electric sparks and compressed with inexorable steel cylinders. That doesn't keep you from going on a nice drive with your sweetie.
    • for those utterly lacking in a sense of humor, the above is not meant to be taken literally

      So.. Funny is what you were going for here?

      *silence, followed by booing and heckling*

  • by harvey the nerd (582806) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @06:36PM (#45086509)
    This experiment sounds like the first step in the practical small scale direction since Farnesworth's fusor was developed into a commercial neutron source for hospitals and oilwells.
  • by syukton (256348) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @06:48PM (#45086571)

    Robert Bussard's fusion project at Energy Matter Conversion Corporation was aimed at investigating Proton-Boron fusion, because it is clean and produces no high-energy neutrons. I was really hoping this was a follow-on to that work. The device Bussard called a Polywell [wikipedia.org] actually shows some serious potential to revolutionize nuclear power globally. It even shows enough promise that the US Navy has been funding some small-scale experiments. It's unfortunate that Bussard died before he could see the potential of the Polywell realized, but it would be nice to see it succeed none the less.

    • I thought collecting interstellar hydrogen atoms with giant magnetic scoops while accelerating to near lightspeed and using them in a fusion ramjet was what Bussard was working on...

      • by mdielmann (514750)

        I thought collecting interstellar hydrogen atoms with giant magnetic scoops while accelerating to near lightspeed and using them in a fusion ramjet was what Bussard was working on...

        The guy was profligate! He had at least two ideas over the span of his career!

        [End sarcasm] I wish I didn't believe that was needed.

  • no "radiation"? (Score:2, Informative)

    by fatphil (181876)
    OK, it it's generating energy, then that would be electromagnatic radiation, a la x-rays and gamma rays.

    And as it's starting with no electrons ("fuse protons and boron-11 nuclei"), the "helium particles" will surely be alpha-radiation.

    So is there anything that this reaction emits that *isn't* radiation?

    Apart from publish-or-perish papers promising potential future miracles that will be used to extract more funding from the national science budget, that is?
    • by mhotchin (791085)

      Almost certainly what the summary/title is trying to say is that the new technique does not make its surrounding radioactive, i.e. that once the fusion reaction stops, so does the radiation.

      This is the popular / layman's idea of 'radiation' - an inimical influence that cannot be removed from its host material.

      • Almost certainly what the summary/title is trying to say is that the new technique does not make its surrounding radioactive

        I agree, but it's worth mentioning that it's not that huge of a problem with the existing systems. If you've ever been to a tokamak, the inside is lined with copper. The neutrons do make the copper radioactive, but just a little bit, and it's back to normal copper in a few decades.

        It's more of a maintenance downside than it is one of nuclear waste - if the copper gets too radioactive

        • by toQDuj (806112)

          Don't you mean beryllium? That has the benefit that if a few beryllium atoms leave the surface and enter the plasma, you don't immediately collapse your plasma. Also, beryllium is one of the nastier materials to machine.

          B.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        The funny thing is many scientists dismissed cold fusion merely because of the lack of neutron generation.

        Goes to show how many scientists are really scientists.
  • by boorack (1345877) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @06:52PM (#45086593)

    There was something called "focus fusion" that utilized boron-hygrogen fusion but I'm not sure it did work out well. Regardless, I'm less and less confident if it makes sense. Solar cells and wind turbines are becoming cheaper every year and have passed nuclear energy cost (in $/kWh) some time ago (was it 2010? I don't remember...). Like computers, those devices are becoming cheap commodity and are on their way to take carbon in terms of dollars per kWh. In other worlds, renewables (along with smart grids and energy conservation techniques) are on their way to become new "traditional" energy sources. Bucky Fuller was right after all: nuclear energy (in all its forms) is only marginally better than fossil fuels, renewables take the play to whole new level. We've just missed it for some time because fossil was too cheap (to be frank - partly thanks to stealing fossil fuels from 3-rd world countries by western powers)

    Having said that, it does not mean we shouldn't do any research in this area. Basic research is THE basis of achievements of our civilization but please call spades the spades. Don't think it will magically solve our energy problems but there is a chance it will become breakthrough in many ways we don't expect.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by ChrisMaple (607946)
      Oil extraction is done by companies (not by governments except in the country of that government, sometimes) under the terms that the government of the area sets. That government has complete control of the terms and payment for the oil extraction, and frequently (Venezuela, most mideast countries) will seize the equipment once it's been established. Your leftist claptrap - "stealing fossil fuels from 3-rd world countries by western powers" - is almost to stupid to be understandable, once some thought is ap
    • by QuasiEvil (74356) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:24PM (#45086851)

      I'll take fusion any day over "renewables" - fusion should be able to pack a few GWe into a few hundred or thousand acres of space. Renewables, because of their inherent low energy density, will force us either to conserve or use most of our available open land for energy production. The promise of fusion is really low cost energy without limits. Given that everything we do and everything we aspire to requires more and more energy, I'd much prefer a pure fusion-driven future where conserving energy was a quaint notion.

      Also, which fossil fuels exactly have we stolen from third world countries? Most of our power generation in the US comes from coal, which we produce almost exclusively domestically. Most of our natural gas comes from Canada, which isn't exactly a third world country. The only thing we import in scads in oil, and I guarantee, those who control the oil aren't getting stolen from. They're being paid very well. The wealth may not be very evenly distributed in the destination country, but that's hardly because the West "stole it".

      • by jbengt (874751)

        Most of our power generation in the US comes from coal . . .

        Coal accounts for significantly less than half of current US electricity production - natural gas is a close second & closing.

        Most of our natural gas comes from Canada. . .

        Most of our natural gas comes from fracking in places like Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania.

        The only thing we import in scads in oil, and I guarantee, those who control the oil aren't getting stolen from.

        "Those who control the oil" being the operative words here. His

      • There's one area where renewables can win out, and the space they take up doesn't make any difference.
        If a law were to be passed where every new house had to have, say, a 5kW photovoltaic system on the roof, it would take up zero additional space, would be cheaper to implement at the design stage of a new house and all new houses would be largely self-sufficient for power, with the ability to feed extra power into the grid.
        As a bonus, on those really hot (and, coincidentally, sunny) days where everyone has

      • Given that everything we do and everything we aspire to requires more and more energy

        I aspire to using less and less energy, so should you.

        • by delt0r (999393)
          Nothing wrong with that. But if you run the numbers its not enough. We still need alternatives to coal, oil and gas.
      • by olau (314197)

        The promise of fusion is really low cost energy without limits.

        The same can be said of fission plants. Only here, we actually have commercially available plants so people can see the price tag and see through the bullshit.

        Large-scale fusion is never going to work in practice unless it can compete economically with new fission plants (the actual fuel for fission is only a small part of the overall cost). That is a loooooong way off.

        And even if that happens, it will also have to compete with renewables that are currently falling (exponentially as far as I know) in price.

      • by delt0r (999393)

        The promise of fusion is really low cost energy without limits.

        Fusion right does not promise that. Right now it promises massive, expensive unlikely to compete with renewable s. This "breakthrough" is nothing of the sort. They are fusion a few million atoms. They are further away from anything that remotely maters than traditional fusion was 40 years ago. Its has worse performance than the fusors people make for a hobby.

      • by mattack2 (1165421)

        Renewables, because of their inherent low energy density, will force us either to conserve or use most of our available open land for energy production.

        (BTW, I don't have solar, and it might actually not make sense for me because of my already low energy usage....)

        Your roof isn't "doing anything". In fact, covering your roof with solar would make use of otherwise unused space, and doesn't it potentially help keep your house cooler? (Not heating up the roof which by convection heats the attic and the house

    • If Wind, solar or geothermal could do it, we would be using it. Unfortunately they only make sense in unique areas. Also, production of all 3 cause great ecological damage. The amount of silver needed in solar panels is significant and silver mining is VERY toxic and produces a lot of CO2. Wind turbines are made from exotic alloys that, while not as bad as solar panels, again produce a lot of CO2 and toxins during mining. Both Wind and Solar would have a significant impact on the environment if they were us

  • When Boron releases a helium nuclei, isnt it fision then?

    • by mhotchin (791085) <slashdot@hotchinNETBSD.net minus bsd> on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:15PM (#45086777)

      Although similar in concept, that particular nuclear mechanism is always refered to as alpha particle decay. Fission is typically used when
      a) a heavy nucleus
      b) splits into two similar sized pieces, plus some detritus.

    • by jbengt (874751) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @08:13PM (#45087219)
      No. Boron first absorbs a proton (fusion) and becomes an unstable isotope of carbon, which then splits (fission) and gives off X-rays, gamma radiation, and alpha particles, and a few neutrons.
      • No. Boron first absorbs a proton (fusion) and becomes an unstable isotope of carbon...

        That can't be right, can it? B-11 + H-1 would be C-12, which I'm pretty sure is a rather stable isotope.

        • by russotto (537200)
          It's not a carbon-12 nucleus at ground state. However, it could decay to that by emitting a gamma (instead of breaking apart), or it could spit out a neutron (oops) and become a carbon-11, which then spits out a positron to give you boron-11 back.
      • by delt0r (999393)
        No neutrons. There is a slight amount of neutrons from side reactions, not from the B11+p IIRC
    • by thrich81 (1357561)

      IANANP (I am not a nuclear physicist) but my take on this is, after considering all the other replies on this thread, is that you are technically correct. The proton initiates the breakup of the Boron 11 nucleus into three He 4 nuclei. Whether or not a short lived highly excited, Carbon 12 nucleus is an intermediate isn't so important. Similarly when a U235 nucleus is hit with a slow neutron, an intermediate highly excited U236 is formed which breaks up in traditional fission. I think that nuclear reac

  • by joe_frisch (1366229) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @07:03PM (#45086691)

    The lack of neutrons in this reactions is nice, but the protons and boron nuclei still need to overcome the Coulombe barrier. Generating practical fusion power still needs a combination of pressure, temperatures and containment times that have not yet been achieved in fusion machines. Accelerator base fusion works (for p-B, or hydrogen, but too many of the particles scatter rather than reacting so you can't reach break even.

    This scheme sounds nice for R&D, but not at all clear that it can lead to break-even

  • where we're going we don't need roads.

  • I am not a particle physicist, but do wonder if this dual laser Boron fusion method is likely to be a more simpler device than the one Tri-Alpha Energy has been working on for the last half dozen years?

  • No one mentioned the obvious; sounds like another fusion success story. Or am I way off base here?
  • Have you seen 'Star Trek - Into Darkness' yet? Yeah, it's almost exactly like the reactor in that..
    • by Lije Baley (88936)

      "Looney bin or brewery?"

      Watch the movie Strange Brew sometime for better look at what powers the Enterprise now.

  • Since I am stupid, I need to ask: if you have no neutrons flying out of the center, what are you going to capture to get that thermal energy to boil water to spin a turbine? Helium nuclei? Isn't that a big problem?
    • Re:So, um (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @09:37PM (#45087719)

      It's not a problem, it's an advantage.

      You get a 3X +2 Helium nucleus (aka alpha) at 8.7 GeV. Since the particles are charged, you can convert their energy to a usable electrical current directly. (Think field windings of a generator, except there is no winding, just a moving charge.) Neutrons have the disadvantage of _requiring_ a thermalization process to capture their energy.

      The disadvantage of the alpha is that it is _easily_ thermalized. You need to keep everything out of it's way until you can extract its energy. This implies super deep vacuum, or a super tiny machine so that the energy conversion device is within the slowing down length of the alpha. The slowing down length of an alpha in air is on the order of a centimeter, IIRC.

      Of course, I'm assuming that direct conversion is superior to thermal conversion. If thermal conversion is superior, then just thermalize the alpha just like a neutron, in a big tub of water. Just make sure your tub is grounded to prevent charge buildup.

  • but does it produce more energy than the lasers provide?

  • Nobody Doesn't Like Molten Boron! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21Ty3O0Vac4 [youtube.com]
  • by manu0601 (2221348) on Wednesday October 09, 2013 @09:16PM (#45087617)
    For anyone that wonders: french research agency CNRS has thousands of small research teams, which are each commonly led by a research director. A CNRS research director is like a university professor, except he/she is not in charge of any teaching.
  • Thank goodness that helium is the byproduct of this fusion process, because a world without balloons was just unthinkable!

  • Sure p+B11 is aneutronic.. but there's other stuff in there like helium (as a reaction product). so when the protons hit the helium, they'll cause a different fusion reaction. Oh, and what about protons hitting the wall of the chamber. Or, how about the Boron 10 (about 20% of natural Boron). I'm sure they'd do some sort of isotope enrichment, but it's not going to be perfect.

    For instance, Wikipedia tells us that there's a alpha + B11 reaction that produces Nitrogen14 + n + 157keV. Since the p+B11 is pro

  • Before they toot the "no radiation" horn too hard, how much radiation does an antimatter-matter reaction cause? I would think with pure hydrogen, it'd be none while heavier elements would blast off at least beta radiation.
    • Matter-antimatter reactions give off a lot of gamma radiation and gamma is hard to shield against.
      Besides, matter antimatter reactions are not a source of energy. It is a potential energy storage, although the efficiency is horrible (far below 1% currently).
      Boron is a potential source of energy.
  • So a proton plus B11 yields one or more s (aka He), and if it's one, the remaining nucleus would be Be, but that likes to be Be10 (which decays by a to B10). That requires a couple of extra neutrons, so seems unlikely. ISTM then that 3 s is more likely; can't get just 2, 'cause what's left is another. Sounds more like fission than fusion. Since the binding energy curve goes the wrong way at small atomic mass (less binding energy is required per unit mass for larger nuclei than for smaller ones), this seems
  • As usual with physics articles, a non-paywalled version [arxiv.org] can be found at the arXiv [arxiv.org]. The intorduction is quite readable.

    This is an interesting result, but this is very far away from realistic power generation. They do not mention the efficiency (or I missed it), and I think this isn't at the stage where one even cares much about it.

  • I would much rather have a distributed energy system furnished by renewables. The older I get, the more done I feel with centralized command-and-control structures like the traditional energy grid. It's forced dependency, and it rankles. Fusion boosters might spin tales about how cheap such energy would be, but they fail to remember that the fatcats at ConEdison like the paychecks they get now, and even want more, and if they find a way to provide energy with fusion at a vastly cheaper rate it does not m

  • This doesn't light the way to radiation-free energy.

    http://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/11412 [mit.edu]

    "Although there have been a few proposals for fusion reactors employing plasmas far out of thermodynamic equilibrium (such as migma and inertial-electrostatic confinement), there has never been a broad, systematic study of the entire possible range of such devices. This research fills that gap by deriving fundamental power limitations which apply to virtually any possible type of fusion reactor that uses a grossly n

  • See the nice wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aneutronic_fusion.

    Protons with a kinetic energy of about 500,000 electron volts have a good chance of producing 3 alpha particles with about 17 times as much energy when they hit a boron-11 nucleus. Unfortunately, a .5 MeV proton beam penetrating solid boron loses energy to electrons at about 100 times the rate that it produces energy via the induced fission. Thus you must move the electrons aside before you can start making money.

  • At last! A power supply for my flying car!

  • The common "crank" fusion claims are awfully similar to this article. Many "crank" LENR claims like those "Blacklight power" makes involve short pulses of operation pumping light into a metal plasma, with no neutron radiation and some other "cranks" make similar claims including claiming helium as a bi-product. So if this research indicates fusion is possible without neutron radiation, that is a big deal because it means missing neutron radiation may not be proof against fusion. Example: "Rossi's 2011 de

The test of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts. -- Aldo Leopold

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