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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 tlhIngan (30335) <slashdotNO@SPAMworf.net> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @06:36PM (#46233167)

    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.

    What did you expect? The funding, building and research the NIF does is provided by the DoD. The primary interest IS to find ways to increase yield on weapons. The fact that the research can also be used towards civilian energy interests is a pleasant bonus.

    Unfortunately, doing science like this has to be done under the auspices of other interests or it doesn't happen. Things like alternative fuels, climate change, etc., are happening under the DoD because of it. (Yes, climate studies are done because they're of vital interests to maintaining security. And alternative fuels as well as not having to rely on diesel trucked in has strategic interests - considering by the time it's all said and done, the fuel cost is around $400/gallon. Not counting lives lost)

    Hell, any science done that isn't in a nation's interest is also cut. E.g., Canada cut funding to scientists with "inconvenient" topics (like pollution, fish habitat protection, environment, climate change) because they went against let's go sell oil around the world damn the earth mentality.

  • by nojayuk (567177) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @06:42PM (#46233225)

    The best performance of a tokamak I know of was the JET run back in the 90s where they got about 22MJ out of plasma in about 1.5 seconds, a rate of 15MW for that time. It was nowhere near "ignition", it took significantly more energy to create that plasma than it emitted while it lasted.

    The NIF people talk about "ignition" because that's what they do, it's in their name after all. Magnetic fusion people talk about Q factor. Q=1 is breakeven where the same amount of fusion energy is produced as is pumped in to make and heat the plasma. I think the best Q figure JET has ever achieved is about 0.6 and only for a very brief time.

    The ITER tokamak under construction on France is expected to return values of Q > 10 eventually, with 50MW input producing more than 500MW of thermal energy in a fusion plasma that can be sustained for hundreds of seconds and hopefully it won't have to be rebuilt after every run.

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