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Power Science

Fusion Power Breakthrough Near At Sandia Labs? 358

An anonymous reader writes "An achievement that would have extraordinary energy and defense implications might be near at Sandia National Laboratories. The lab is testing a concept called MagLIF (Magnetized Liner Inertial Fusion), which uses magnetic fields and laser pre-heating in the quest for energetic fusion. A paper by Sandia researchers that was accepted for publication states that the Z-pinch driven MagLIF fusion could reach 'high-gain' fusion conditions, where the fusion energy released greatly exceeds (by more than 1,000 times) the energy supplied to the fuel."
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Fusion Power Breakthrough Near At Sandia Labs?

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  • Re:great! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @03:49PM (#41378329) Homepage Journal
    No, see as you approach feasibility, your likelihood of being bough by a competing producer to be extinguished (see gasoline) becomes multitudes greater. You will never actually reach production with things like this, for the same reason you will never reach a wall by moving in increments of 1/2. Tee short of it, there is too much money to be made to have something as valuable as energy become a low-cost commodity.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @03:49PM (#41378335)

    All the previous vaporware and false claims about fusion are about "cold fusion". This is not the same thing. Accusations of being vaporware would only be valid if the word "cold" appeared in the summary, which it does not.

  • by chemicaldave ( 1776600 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @03:52PM (#41378373)
    The name comes from Sandia Base [] where the first labs were located which happened to be next to the Sandia Mountains, which, according to popular belief, got its name due to the reddish color of the mountains at sunset. []
  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:11PM (#41378687)

    The Tokamak's have been scientific breakeven for more than a decade, ITER is supposed to achieve fiscal breakeven. What's the difference? Scientific breakeven means you extract more energy than you put into it, but you don't actually try to collect any of the energy. Fiscal breakeven is that added step where you actually try to collect the energy and use it.

    See Fusion has this problem in that it's pretty easy to trigger fusion, it's not easy to keep it going and it's damn near impossible to collect any energy from it because all the stuff you have to start the fusion is in the way of collecting any of the energy and all the neutron and alpha particle emissions tend to destroy any materials you put in there to collect the energy.

    This is EXACTLY the point of ITER, it's supposed to test the actual engineering of real world (not laboratory) fusion at an economic scale. This testing is costing a lot of money (US contributions are in the $2 Billion dollar range, total economic input from all the partner nations is 25X that amount).

  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:23PM (#41378825) Homepage

    Yeah, I remember when we had the MIT fusion research Slashdot Interview, and they showed the graph that was presented in the 70s showing how soon they could have fusion given various funding levels.

    The saddest part was of the various scenarios like "fusion in 10 years", "fusion in 20 years", there was a "fusion never" line where funding was never sufficient to yield breakeven fusion, and then there was overlaid a new "actual funding" line which was significantly lower than that. :(

    P.S. Personally my money is on Sandia, but that's just because the old Z-Machine was the most fucking awesome thing ever. EVER. [] I admit this is not a rational scientific argument, and that a working Z-pinch fusion device would not look like that at all, but come on!

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @04:26PM (#41378875)

    And how low cost will it be actually?

    Let's assume that the Sandia technique/technology results in sustained net-positive fusion by the end of 2013. The results are so positive that a small-scale concept plant that will push to the grid gets built, by, say 2020.

    This works well enough and there's enough refinement that a full-scale 8 GW plant can be built. By what, 2035? This plant is so successful that by 2050 there are maybe 4-5 more built an in operation.

    So we have a lead time of 2050 for less than 50 GW of power. Considering total production is something like 1300 GW, it hardly seems like a threat to anything or a source of the vaunted "free" energy.

    Even if you manage increase production by a factor of 10 to 500 GW capacity, what will fund the grid expansion to deliver all this free energy? Will the cost of electrically powered stuff go down -- or up, now that "everything" is made to run on electricity and the demand for rare earths, copper and other related materials goes way up?

  • Re:great! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by inode_buddha ( 576844 ) on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:03PM (#41379429) Journal

    There are patents that were filed by Henry Yunick among others in the early 1980's which had a working model Buick getting ~50 MPG's on the road. The patents were sold to GM which subsequently sat on them for ~20 yrs due to interlocking directorships with Exxon Mobil. They are now owned by a holding corp. I'll dig out the relevant patent numbers shortly, theyre around here somewhere...

  • Re:great! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Tuesday September 18, 2012 @05:53PM (#41380101) Homepage Journal

    Search for any combination of "butamax gevo patent sue suit" etc etc.

    These guys are having to fight over obvious refinements of the ABE process for making butanol, you can look it up on Wikipedia or numerous other places.

    And when I say "these guys" I mean a company that wants to actually make and sell Butanol, a "green, clean" 1:1 replacement for gasoline with lower emissions versus Butamax, which is owned by BP and DuPont, who has sued them to prevent them from producing fuel.

    I hear it is theoretically possible to get a permit to operate a still for the purpose of producing fuel, and you might even be able to use it for road fuel if you're willing to pay the taxes on it.

A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any other invention, with the possible exceptions of handguns and Tequilla. -- Mitch Ratcliffe