Mr. Fusion sooner than later?

in General Discussion edited January 2014
CNN story:

<a href=""; target="_blank">Tiny Bubbles Create Nuclear Fusion -- Maybe</a>

The operative word being "maybe" but if it's true, this could be a huge paradigm shift in energy supply and a leap in safety, convenience, environmentalism, politics and quality of life.


[quote]Washington Post story:

<a href=""; target="_blank">'Tabletop' Fusion Report Elicits Mixed Reaction</a>

By Shankar Vedantam

Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, March 5, 2002

Nuclear physicists split yesterday into camps of excitement and skepticism after a group of scientists announced it may have created nuclear fusion -- the awesome power that fuels the sun -- in a device the size of two coffee cups stacked one atop the other.

The work, so simple and elegant, could create a virtually endless source of clean, renewable energy and change the world. But it also could be just another false alarm, like a 1989 report about "cold fusion" that drew huge attention before being dismissed as a dud.

"At first blush, we were very excited about it," said Lawrence Crum, a physicist at the Applied Physics Lab at the University of Washington in Seattle. Closer examination suggested that skepticism was in order, he said, adding, "the researchers might be deluded by Mother Nature, whose principal object in life is to make fools of scientists."

Creating "tabletop" nuclear fusion has been one of the most heated races in modern physics. Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee were careful yesterday to couch their claims in caveats, stressing that the results needed to be confirmed and, even if true, may not necessarily mean nuclear fusion power plants were imminent.

Unlike the "cold fusion" controversy, in which researchers went public before opening their findings to scientific scrutiny, the current report is being published in this week's issue of the journal Science, and was first evaluated by independent scientists. Still, such scientists as Nat Fisch, a physicist who directs Princeton University's Graduate Program in Plasma Physics, were unconvinced.

"The peer review process is important, but it's uneven," he said. "The fact an article is peer reviewed is not sufficient to guarantee quality."

Richard Lahey, one of the scientists who conducted the experiment, countered that criticism of the experiment was "political" and that the finding threatened scientists with big budgets for expensive, conventional fusion techniques.

The scientific journal yesterday issued some unusually blunt advice to both camps: "The premature critics of the result, and those who believe in it, would both do well to cool it, and wait for the scientific process to do its work."

Both nuclear fusion and its cousin fission convert matter into energy according to Albert Einstein's famous formula e = mc{+2}.

In fission, heavy atoms such as uranium break up into lighter particles. In fusion, two light atoms, such as hydrogen, are fused into a heavier element. In each case, some matter gets converted into energy.

Fission requires elements such as uranium, which are difficult to find, purify, handle and store, and it leaves radioactive waste that can last for decades or centuries. So scientists have long sought to acquire a simple means of nuclear fusion: Hydrogen is plentifully available and potentially safer.

But fusion is difficult to achieve, since very high levels of energy are required to force atoms of hydrogen together. So far, nonmilitary, man-made fusion has required high-energy accelerators or lasers.

In the Oak Ridge experiment, the researchers took advantage of a phenomenon called sonoluminescence. When sound waves are passed through certain liquids, they can create bubbles that pop with a flash of light.

The phenomenon is not completely understood, but the scientists thought they could use the popping of the bubbles to create the temperatures and pressures needed for fusion. The researchers created a sound wave in a container filled with the chemical acetone. The wave created oscillations -- and powerful vacuums -- about 20,000 times a second.

"If you have a bottle of water sitting at the desk and you put a stopper in the top and start pulling a vacuum, at some point it will start to boil at room temperature," said Lahey, a professor of engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. He explained the vacuum created in the experiment "is way, way down below that. That liquid wants to boil, it's hungry to boil; if you can just get it started, that bubble will grow like mad and evaporate."

The scientists fired neutrons into the liquid to "seed" tiny bubbles that rapidly grew to about twice the size of the period at the end of this sentence. As the sound wave oscillated, the low-pressure vacuum turned into a high-pressure zone and the bubble collapsed with intense force, creating temperatures as hot as the sun for a few trillionths of a second -- enough to force atoms of a form of hydrogen in the acetone together.

The researchers couldn't see the actual fusion -- they only measured its byproducts. These included a form of hydrogen called tritium, and neutrons that are produced in such reactions. While the experiment used up more energy than it produced, Lahey hopes scientists will find ways to use the energy produced to repeat the process -- setting up a chain reaction.

"It could be a tremendous resource for mankind," said Lahey. "Potentially, it really has the potential to solve a lot of the problems we've had in nuclear energy with radioactive waste, safety, and the availability of fuel. If this thing can be made to work, those problems could go away."

The publication of the results was delayed when other scientists at Oak Ridge could not reproduce the findings.

"I view this as an interesting research paper at this point that needs to be verified," said Fred Becchetti, a professor of nuclear physics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He added dryly, "somehow the words 'tabletop' and 'fusion' trigger a reactive response" among the media.<hr></blockquote>

Odd what hapenned to the CNN article... <img src="confused.gif" border="0">

[ 03-05-2002: Message edited by: BuonRotto ]</p>


  • Reply 1 of 12
    wrong robotwrong robot Posts: 3,907member
    Now don't that just beat all?
  • Reply 2 of 12
    groveratgroverat Posts: 10,872member
    Ah... controlled Nuke Fusion... RSN

  • Reply 3 of 12
    outsideroutsider Posts: 6,008member
    I don't think they duplicated it, but if they can and harness the energy cheaply then we may just have something here.
  • Reply 4 of 12
    andersanders Posts: 6,523member
    It would be freaking awesome. You could compare the effect of this to the world economy to if we could make computers by mixing water and air in a blender and transport ourself and things by just imagine it. And off course it would have a huge positive effect on the environment. Unfortunetly I think "maybe" in that sentence actually means "certainly not"
  • Reply 5 of 12
    airslufairsluf Posts: 1,861member
  • Reply 6 of 12
    noahjnoahj Posts: 4,503member
    Should have posted the article here. The link is dead and a search of CNN shows a story but that leads to a dead link too. Maybe the story is in your browser cache?
  • Reply 6 of 12
    powerdocpowerdoc Posts: 8,123member
    The last time i propose a hot fusion with a lady she slap me in the face.

    Can someone explain me why ?perhaps she prefer a cold fusion
  • Reply 8 of 12
    buonrottobuonrotto Posts: 6,368member
    *** fixed the top post to include the Washington Post article and the full story too. Sorry it's so loooooooooong.
  • Reply 9 of 12
    amorphamorph Posts: 7,112member

    They've known for some time that the explosions triggered by bubbles popping are powerful enough to pit the steel hulls of ships. It's cool that someone's trying to do something interesting with all that power.

    I hope they can turn this around into something practical. It sounds good. But, as the journal warned, we'll have to wait for the scientific process to do its work.
  • Reply 10 of 12
    Now if only we could gather enough energy to warp sace time effectivley moving faster than light

    Just had to completley derail the thread
  • Reply 11 of 12
    outsideroutsider Posts: 6,008member
    Well I had a thread about a month ago where Prim goes into detail about the energy required to warp space time enough to acheive faster than light travel. I'd bump it up but I'm too lazy now...
  • Reply 12 of 12
    hhoganhhogan Posts: 117member
    "Aye, when that much matter and anti-matter combine, we sure will"
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