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National Ignition Facility Takes First Steps Towards Fusion Energy 127

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-you're-thinking-with-lasers dept.
sciencehabit writes "As it approaches its fifth birthday, the National Ignition Facility (NIF), a troubled laser fusion facility in California, has finally produced some results that fusion scientists can get enthusiastic about. In a series of experiments late last year (abstract 1, abstract 2), NIF researchers managed to produce energy yields 10 times greater than produced before and to demonstrate the phenomenon of self-heating that will be crucial if fusion is to reach its ultimate goal of 'ignition'—a self-sustaining burning reaction that produces more energy than it consumes."
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National Ignition Facility Takes First Steps Towards Fusion Energy

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  • by benjfowler (239527) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @05:03PM (#46232245)

    Never mind ignition, as big an achievement it'll be. It'll be the engineering challenges of building a fusion power plant that'll bring them unstuck.

    I'm keen to see how they're going to cheaply and automatically manufacture, load and position the targets to micron-accuracy in the chamber. I'm also interested in seeing how they're going to engineer the chamber to harvest the energy from the reaction, and to withstand the tremendous punishment it'll have to take, being jackhammered by tiny fusion explosions 10 x a second.

  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @06:09PM (#46232895)

    What the NIF is all about is compressing D-T fuel by radiation pressure and finding out what kind of profile of the radiation pressure pulse has the highest yield. That's exactly what you do when you want to get a bigger bang out of the nuclear weapons you have, because your NATIONAL DICK isn't big enough yet to properly display your "patriotic" manlihood to the rest of the world that you feel like you have to dominate completely in order to feel like you've accomplished something.

    By the way, the rest of the world doesn't agree with you oversized national libido, even if most countries officials don't say so openly.

    Currently, they put in over 100 times as much energy into the lasers as they get out in term. Not to mention the energy it takes to engineer the fuel capsule or the inconvenient fact that it takes hours or days to properly set up and align everything, or that lasers at this kind of power level tend to wear down rather quickly. What they get out is 17kJ per shot. In order to get as little as 1MW of electricity out of this thing, you'll need a yield of 200.000.000.000 kJ per day. Plus whatever you need to keep the lasers running. (Currently 2000 kJ per shot.)

    The "this is a potential fusion power plant" argument is a red herring.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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