Archives - Physics: Page 8
Author: Thrty2Mars (Mon Jan 29, 2007 3:25 pm)
Title: Using a Fusion Reaction as an Energy Source
Many people today are worried, or at the very least, concerned about the looming energy crisis. What will we do when fossil fuels are depleted? What if Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries decide to halt the export of oil to the United States? The more immediate threat of supply shock from our dependency on foreign oil, coupled with the long term threat of resource depletion are causing scientists to find a way out.
While current nuclear reactors use the process of "fission" to create energy for consumption, there are some who believe "fusion" is the way to go. A fusion reactor takes lighter atoms such as hydrogen, heavy hydrogen (also known as Deuterium) and Lithium and fuses them together. This process creates vast amounts of energy that can be harnessed and used. Unfortunately, this reaction must take place at 50 million degrees Celsius, and occur for a hundredth of a second to work.
Scientists at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL) have been researching and conducting fusion experiments since 1951. They have had some success with minor reactions at 10 million degrees C, but are still working on ways to increase the temperatures. One option is by a process known as a Toroidal Z pinch, whereby plasma is heated by a fast rising magnetic field that pinches and compresses the plasma. A large scale model of this process known as ZT-40 is being designed right now, with the hope of implementing a reverse in the process, presumably to lengthen the entire ordeal and generate more energy. The main fuel in a fusion reaction would be Deuterium, which is found in common seawater. One gallon of seawater could produce the equivalent of 300 gallons of gasoline. The applications of such power are nearly endless. Other advantages of the fusion process are that it involves much less fuel to run, which decreases the likelihood of explosions. Also, the process involves a byproduct of mainly helium, which is not harmful for the environment so containment would be much easier as well.
This is an exciting technology to learn about, and I hope we see the next stages come about in the near future. The United States, and the world for that matter, could use an alternative source of energy soon.
yeah, i'd feel real safe driving around with a nuclear reactor in my truck haha
Well the first real application of this technology would most likely be for homes and offices. We could use this process to generate electricity on a large scale without using fossil fuels. But yeah, I agree with you, it's not something that can be minimized into an automobile sized reactor.