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MIT-Italy-Russia Collaborate on New Fusion Reactor

Posted by: sanman - Mon May 10, 2010 6:33 pm
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MIT-Italy-Russia Collaborate on New Fusion Reactor 
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Post MIT-Italy-Russia Collaborate on New Fusion Reactor   Posted on: Mon May 10, 2010 6:33 pm
MIT, Italy and Russia are joining hands to work on a new fusion reactor, which they call the Ignitor:

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2010/fusi ... -0510.html

http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100430/ ... 0.214.html

This reactor, while being significantly larger than MIT's own Alcator-C, is still much smaller than the proposed ITER design, and thus significantly cheaper than it.

Its main advantage is that it will generate a stronger magnetic field, which is expected to produce higher plasma pressures and plasma currents.

Image

I've always wondered if a burning plasma, lasting 10 minutes or so, would be enough to power a launch vehicle to LEO. Once you overcome the gravity well, your power requirements drop drastically. So why wouldn't the energy output of a burning plasma fit the demand profile of an Earth-to-Orbit launch?

Fusion research is a worthy goal to free mankind from the energy constraints we increasingly live under. If it could be further leveraged for space travel, then it would free us from being prisoners of gravity as well.


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Post Re: MIT-Italy-Russia Collaborate on New Fusion Reactor   Posted on: Mon May 10, 2010 8:51 pm
It may be tinfoil hat territory but i think the reason they gave up on atmospheric testing of H-bombs was the one in nineteen hundred and something chance of setting the atmosphere on "fire". As much as i think humanity needs to expand into space as a way to avoid spiraling into a less than zero sum game fighting over diminishing resources down here i think it might not be a good idea to use an open ended fusion reactor as a source of propulsion just in case the guy who did the maths got his sums right, on the bright side he also came up with the idea of multiple parallel worlds so you would have nineteen hundred and something successful launches for every broken blue marble but are you willing to bet on it not being yours.:twisted:

Once off planet in large enough numbers i am all for building buzzard ram jets and other interesting toys but there is an old adage about not defecating in your own nest i think not playing with matches unless you know your nest is fireproof is also a good idea.

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Post Re: MIT-Italy-Russia Collaborate on New Fusion Reactor   Posted on: Sat May 15, 2010 2:55 am
They stopped testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere because of all the radiactive crap that they put into the global atmosphere, not that there was any chance of "igniting the air".

Plasmas, with or with out a fusion reaction are high energy states, and such produce high energy and high velocity particles, which are very good for propulsion systems. The trick is to produce it as fast as you use it for thrust. We can't do that yet. It will require mastering fusion reactions first before a fusion/plasma drive becomes feasible.


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Post Re: MIT-Italy-Russia Collaborate on New Fusion Reactor   Posted on: Sat May 15, 2010 4:33 pm
I had thought http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Everett_III had done the calculations and testified to congress about it but i cant find the references so maybe i am wrong or in the wrong parallel world ;-) It was one of those things that was put about during the hot bit of the cold war before the Internet made conspiracy theories easy to spread and i heard it from more than one source it was that the odds were 1 in nineteen hundred and something i cant remember the exact number now but thats what made it sound plausible was the specific number you would have thought it would have been rounded to 1 in 2000 but it always being quoted as 1 in 19xx made it sound like a lot of hard maths had gone into getting it exact based IIRC on a 100 megaton explosion(which was where we we heading towards at the time) odds dropping the bigger the bang.

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Post Re: MIT-Italy-Russia Collaborate on New Fusion Reactor   Posted on: Mon May 17, 2010 12:11 am
Don't believe everything you read on the internets, esp. Wikis.

Sustained nuclear reactions, even in isotopes prone to fission, require ideal highly compressed conditions. Fusion is even more picky. Chemical combustion requires both a fuel and an oxidizer. The Earth's atmosphere has the oxygen in it, but the other major component, nitrogen, makes for a poor fuel. There is nothing in the Earth's atmosphere that could sustain any kind of run-away chain reaction.

The universe is make of pretty resilient stuff. You have to twist it much harder than we can to break it.


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Post Re: MIT-Italy-Russia Collaborate on New Fusion Reactor   Posted on: Mon May 17, 2010 10:17 pm
I hope your right because the other thing that made it sound plausible was the CNO fusion cycle that happens in older stars considering that our atmosphere contains water a source of H and the rest is mostly CNO that type of fusion is supposedly harder to start but then again the conditions in the kind of artificial fusion reactions that occurs in our nastier weapons are not what would naturally occur in early or late stages stars. I do wonder in my more pessimistic moments if the answer to the Fermi paradox http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox is that water soluble carbon based technological civilizations eventually figure out how to make cheap energy without a stop button before population problems make the need to emigrate to space sufficiently attractive to a breeding population. Maybe the Drake equation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation for our galaxy is less than equal to one at any given time.

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Post Re: MIT-Italy-Russia Collaborate on New Fusion Reactor   Posted on: Wed May 19, 2010 3:00 pm
And MIT is so good it it can also build an inside out version.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/01/26 ... n_reactor/

Now where is the brown paper bag as i am not flexible enough to kiss my a$$ goodbye if it goes wrong. :wink: :twisted:

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