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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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:47PM (#46232075)

    Temporal control circuits are being used to superimpose our world views against a finite set of realities that are not congruent with excursions created in regards to the 4th and nth gates of the NWO.

    • by crutchy (1949900)

      meh... the "new world order" will be broke soon anyway... what's the point of hoarding a fuckload of cash that isn't worth anything? ...unless by "new world order" you mean the chinese government, which has been hoarding gold.

      • Yeah many years ago one of the Rockefeller's said China was the model society,
        and thus the shift in manufacturing there.

        As they setup the CFR, and Hillary admits on video they take their orders
        from the CFR, I'd say the die has been cast.

      • by wagnerrp (1305589)
        I thought the NWO was some professional wrestling event.
      • Gold is still only as valuable as people perceive it. Gold as a currency is still a goddamn currency. Sure, it may have utility in the modern age (electronics)..but if half the NWO conspiracy actually happened the shit would hit the fan so to speak.

        In an SHTF scenario (in which technology is completely or mostly wiped out..or at least the highest tiers of fabrication) I've always held the belief that gold will be valuable - sure - but goods with actual utility will be much more valuable.

        If things got super

        • by crutchy (1949900)

          gold was widely valued for jewellery and money long before the age of electronics

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G... [wikipedia.org]

          so if you trip over a huge gold nugget after SHTF you'll just leave it?

          also, in SHTF scenario, all fiat currencies would be wiped out and unless you had something of real value to barter you would starve... pound for pound, gold has been one of the most highly valued commodies in the world since before the ancient egyptians... no action by any NWO will change that

          • Salt was more valuable than gold. Many other spices as well. Currency was only useful in cities in ancient times. Cities are working economies - a post economic world would have no use of currency. Barter would be the norm. Possibly with some trade (scheduled exchanges of goods between communities).

            The only scenario this is even remotely plausible is one where at least 999 of every 1,000 people died catastrophically and in an equal distribution around the globe (leaving about 7 million people worldwide and

            • by crutchy (1949900)

              Salt was more valuable than gold. Many other spices as well

              in what universe?

          • gold was widely valued for jewellery and money long before the age of electronics

            Jewelry has no utility, and in those times (my understanding - I could be wrong) the elite/ruling class were the only ones with gold jewelry.

            In a really bad scenario I feel there wouldn't be a highly-priveleged "elite" for a period of time. What I mean by that is I don't think many people will be seeking out jewelry - they'll be seeking out food, tools, etc.

            I think Fonik nailed it. I didn't even think of spices and salt, but historically there have been a ridiculous amount of wars fought over them. Salt in

            • by crutchy (1949900)

              elite/ruling class were the only ones with gold jewelry

              well duh... the elite/ruling class were the only ones who could afford such a valuable commodity

              I think I would stock up on salt like a mofo

              there's nothing wrong with salt (or other spices) as a commodity... they just aren't as valuable as gold (pound for pound)

              if someone with a pound of gold came up to you with your stockpile of salt, do you really think that pound of gold would only buy a pound of salt... in any scenario or any timeline?

              • Well of course a pound of gold is a more valuable commodity. However let's do a proper cost-to-cost comparison:

                A pound of gold is currently worth roughly $20,000 pre-SHTF. 25 pounds of salt costs $3.75-$4 if bought in bulk (50 cases at a time)...

                So for the cost of one pound of gold you could buy 133,000 pounds of salt. Of course no one can say for sure, but I think that's a kind's ransom worth of salt in an SHTF scenario.

                Of course no one (well most people) would stockpile THAT much even if they subscribed t

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:51PM (#46232131)

    Useful levels of fusion are still a long way off. "They didn't get more fusion power out than they put in with the laser," says , the head of a huge fusion experiment in the U.K. called the , or JET.

    Not sure if this is a rehash of the same fusion discussion here a few weeks/months ago...

    • JET is in the UK, NIF is in California.

      Where all those stupid Americans are you know...

    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @10:58PM (#46235121)

      "Not sure if this is a rehash of the same fusion discussion here a few weeks/months ago..."

      In part.

      The NIF did manage to spark a fusion reaction that actually output more energy than was input to the fuel pellet.

      However, it is important to note that it was not more energy than the total input to the system. The energy used to power the lasers was still more than the energy of the fusion reaction. So it wasn't "break even".

  • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:57PM (#46232185)

    I love this bit from TFA:

    In 2013, NIF researchers began to explore the problems more scientifically; there was also a change of leadership at the lab and new researchers joined the team.

    Apparently casting those chicken bones under the reactor had no effect and they had to switch to SCIENCE!

    Sigh. Journalism majors.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @05:15PM (#46232379)

      The issue is that the previous management were attempting to achieve ignition through an engineering approach. They assumed that the science was well understood and all they needed to do was tweak the knobs and dials on the laser until they got the result they wanted.

      When this spectacularly failed to work there was a change in leadership and the new guys are actually doing experiments rather than just firing the 'ignition' capsule over and over.

  • Woooo, install one in my Tesla Roadster! I'll make the Mr Fusion label if they handle the magnetic containment field not resetting my radio presets in the dash.
  • Why not just ask the Taelons?
  • by Goldsmith (561202) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @05:11PM (#46232319)

    If this keeps up, the magnetic fusion guys, who achieved break even (ignition) decades ago, are going to start crashing NIF press conferences so they can get noticed. The NIF press push and lack of discussion of the field as a whole has got to drive them crazy. I'm sure it's not doing any favors for their budgets.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      May be they should deal with the immense loss trough X-Ray issue?

    • 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.

      • What I don't see talked about is how much 'fuel' will this require. I've seen claims that a glass of water could power a city and such, but realistically what's the need in fuel amounts?
        • by nojayuk (567177) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @07:12PM (#46233465)

          Nobody really knows since nobody's ever got a significant amount of fusion to work for long enough to figure out the gas mileage, so to speak.

          The golden chalice is deuterium-deuterium (D-D) fusion which can be done with just heavy water, D2O which is expensive but abundant (it makes up about 1 part in 40 million of water molecules), it just has to be separated out from regular water using centrifuges or other processes. Assuming a lot of fusion power plants are built then there would be be cost savings per tonne of deuterium produced the same way uranium mining and processing is a lot cheaper today than it was during WWII. D-D fusion is hard though.

          The easier road to fusion is deuterium-tritium, so-called D-T fusion but tritium is only produced in small amounts in nuclear fission reactors. There is a way to produce tritium in a working fusion reactor by using a blanket of lithium to absorb neutrons but it's very experimental and unproven. ITER is being built in part to test the idea of Li breeding of tritium and it's likely JET will also be used to test the concept, it's being repurposed as a materials testbed for ITER.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by WalksOnDirt (704461)

            ...D2O which is expensive but abundant (it makes up about 1 part in 40 million of water molecules)...

            That 1 part in 40 million figure, while not wrong, is misleading.

            Quoting Wikipedia:

            It [duterium] has a natural abundance in Earth's oceans of about one atom in 6,420 of hydrogen.

            So the hydrogen in the ocean is 1/6420 deuterium. Getting two of the deuteriums into one molecule is rare, but we don't really care. Chemical bonds are unimportant energetically compared to nuclear reactions.

            • by nojayuk (567177)

              I did specify D2O as being 1 part in 40 million, not DHO which is a lot more common. Deuterium for plasma fuel needs to be reasonably pure at the moment, it's one of the things the ITER program is tasked with, to see just how crappy the deuterium:hydrogen ratio in fuel can be and still produce good Q levels and burn times. This will reduce the cost of producing fuel in the long run.

      • by Goldsmith (561202)

        I don't think JET ever reached Q of 1, but it can handle the most energy dense fuel of any current tokamak (The JET Q of 0.6 is still ~100x larger than NIF). However, a Japanese tokamak did reach Q of 1.25 in the mid 90s, and it wasn't something guys in the field I knew talked about as a problem by the late 90s.

        There's a big challenge in getting the energy out of a fusion reactor. There are parts of a reactor which need to collect energetic particles so they could even theoretically produce power. This s

        • by nojayuk (567177)

          I have a vague recollection the Japanese tokamak you mention (the JT-60?) was running on D-D fuel and they calculated that if they had used D-T they'd have got Q>1 but it wasn't set up to run with tritium. A moral victory if not a real achievement. The Japanese are in the ITER consortium and the JT-60 is being rebuilt and upgraded as part of the total research effort, like JET at Culham.

          ITER is being built right now and the designers believe it will give them several hundred seconds of 500MW of thermal e

    • Yeah there are are few projects out there that just get ignored because they don't profile
      for a long term huge cash cow for the revolving door crowd in DC.

      the revolving door is where corporate and government cronies switch jobs
      for awhile, whenever its time to change policy to the benefit of select fat cats.

      Wall Street and the Treasury department is one of the more obvious examples,
      but it happens at other branches of the government as well.

      This is what always happens, money, power, sex, drugs, and any other

  • Cue breathless, hysterical stories about how fusion energy will cause three-headed babies, global enturbulation, and the heartbreak of psorisis in 3... 2... 1...
    • by Tailhook (98486)

      Cue the anti-NIF greentard hate; "...but just use the big fusion reactor in the sky herp derp..."

      3... 2... 1...

  • What a beautiful world this will be.
    What a glorious time to be free!

    On that train all graphite and glitter
    Undersea by rail
    Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
    (More leisure time for artists everywhere)
    A just machine to make big decisions
    Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
    We'll be clean when their work is done
    We'll be eternally free yes and eternally young.

  • 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 th

    • by tp1024 (2409684)

      Yeah, I made a mistake there. It's either 200,000,000 kJ per day or 200,000,000,000 J per day or 200,000,000,000 kJ per day to get 1GW and not 1MW.

    • by tlhIngan (30335) <(ten.frow) (ta) (todhsals)> 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 tp1024 (2409684)

        It's just that the "pleasant bonus" isn't there. It's red herring.

        I would be much less upset if this wasn't being called a fusion power project, because it simply isn't. And it hurts the credibility of the very real fusion power projects out there that can actually be scaled to be what they claim to be. NIF is just going to be yet another example people will hold up when they claim that fusion power is a sham and shouldn't be funded.

    • Damned, already spent my mod points.

      Hey, idiots, this isn't a troll, it's insightful and informative.

      NIF is for bomb testing. It's nothing to do with power generation.

  • by bobbied (2522392) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @06:34PM (#46233145)

    So, let's get this straight. This is the FIRST STEP???? You guys have been at this for decades and have spend millions if not billions in the quest for "clean energy" and this "first step" is all we have to show for it? Besides cranking up a bunch of lasers all at once every now and again, what, exactly have you been doing?

    I seem to recall a story about fusion just a few months ago that said "We are only a decade or two away from FREE energy!" Fusion, it's Coming!!! etc. Pardon my skeptic bent, but I think we should skip to the chase on what's really going on and get an answer to the REAL question.

    How much money do you guys need now?

    I'm all for research, but lets not fool ourselves. We are not even close on this one. We might be barking up the wrong tree with this and I think we should double down on our investment and start another group to try some different ideas if there are any. So perhaps we should half the last contribution and solicit some other bright folks to do some research with the other half.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      First step has many meaning. Clearly it's not the very first thing they did.

      Lighten up, Francis.

  • They ALL take FIRST steps toward fusion energy. I'll get excited when one of these machines takes the LAST steps.

  • Rock you like a Hurricane!

  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @11:34PM (#46235315) Journal
    I bet we're only 50 years from a real fusion reactor.

    -Fusion reactor spokesman, 1960

  • We know how the physics of fusion works. What they are really trying to do now is design a cost-efficient device. That's an engineering task, not a task for physicists, and they don't seem to be very good at it.

    If you look at this result, billions spent to achieve a neutron flux that theoretically contains slightly more energy than a theoretical number grabbed out of a hat, it's useless and a gigantic waste of money. They are as far away from energy production as ever.

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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