Pondering Terrestrial Fusion
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12-10-2015, 11:04 AM
Pondering Terrestrial Fusion
The drive to create a practical fusion reactor on earth has been ongoing for some time; in recent press three different approaches are described, all of whose participants say success is imminent.

But is a terrestrial fusion reactor a truly cost effective means of producing long-term energy? (and by cost-effective I don't mean getting more energy than put in - that's a given - so the question applies AFTER that principal hurdle has been overcome):

1. Even if it uses water for fuel there's only so much water on earth. Would the earth's water sustain centuries of fuel supply without other effects?

2. There's already a practical fusion reactor that will last as long as the solar system just a hundred million miles away, the vast majority of its output streaming unused into space. Would it make more sense to build receiving satellites that store the energy or redirect it to receiving stations on earth - if the zenith of terrestrial solar energy collection is inadequate due to earth only getting so much sunlight?

Using the sun as much as possible to my mind doesn't risk fuel depletion or other potential disasters of terrestrial reactors going blooey in some unforeseen but catastrophic way. Which is smarter - building sun-power generators on earth that have to be managed to prevent injuring the earth, or just harvest energy from an extra-terrestrial source?
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12-10-2015, 11:09 AM
RE: Pondering Terrestrial Fusion
If the current trend continues, no matter what source of energy we harness, we will find a way to deplete it long before the predicted deadlines.

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12-10-2015, 11:23 AM
RE: Pondering Terrestrial Fusion
(12-10-2015 11:04 AM)Airportkid Wrote:  The drive to create a practical fusion reactor on earth has been ongoing for some time; in recent press three different approaches are described, all of whose participants say success is imminent.

But is a terrestrial fusion reactor a truly cost effective means of producing long-term energy? (and by cost-effective I don't mean getting more energy than put in - that's a given - so the question applies AFTER that principal hurdle has been overcome):

1. Even if it uses water for fuel there's only so much water on earth. Would the earth's water sustain centuries of fuel supply without other effects?

2. There's already a practical fusion reactor that will last as long as the solar system just a hundred million miles away, the vast majority of its output streaming unused into space. Would it make more sense to build receiving satellites that store the energy or redirect it to receiving stations on earth - if the zenith of terrestrial solar energy collection is inadequate due to earth only getting so much sunlight?

Using the sun as much as possible to my mind doesn't risk fuel depletion or other potential disasters of terrestrial reactors going blooey in some unforeseen but catastrophic way. Which is smarter - building sun-power generators on earth that have to be managed to prevent injuring the earth, or just harvest energy from an extra-terrestrial source?

One worry about using orbiting "energy farms" is the possibility of terrorism.

The most cost effective way to get the energy down from space is by a microwave beam. (think of it as the worlds biggest high frequency transformer).

It would have to be received in a relatively remote location -- and it is possible that someone could hijack a energy farm's antenna and beam the energy into a populated area.....

Think what it'd be like to microwave popcorn --- without the door in place...

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16-10-2015, 01:09 PM
RE: Pondering Terrestrial Fusion
I remember reading G Harry Stine's book The Space Enterprise in the early 80's. The space shuttle was just starting to go into space and he thought it heralded in a new age of low-cost access to space.

He was spectacularly wrong, the costs of going to space increased with the shuttle, surpassing the older but more capable Saturn V from the Apollo era.

Stine talked optimistically how we would build massive solar power satellites moving the majority of terrestrial power production off-world and building a space-fairing society in the process.

It was a bold vision, but a total fantasy. I'm hopeful maybe that some of this is changing with SpaceX lowering the cost of space access, but even if we get reliable access to space at $100/lb. or $220/kg to low-earth orbit, it's still a daunting economic prospect.

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Using the supernatural to explain events in your life is a failure of the intellect to comprehend the world around you. -The Inquisition
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16-10-2015, 02:42 PM
RE: Pondering Terrestrial Fusion
I doubt we will "farm space" in any meaningful (and profitable) way - until we conquer the gravity problem.

It's never going to be cheap - to sit on top of the world's biggest firecracker - to get shit into orbit.

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The difference between prayer and masturbation - is when a guy is through masturbating - he has something to show for his efforts.
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16-10-2015, 05:03 PM
RE: Pondering Terrestrial Fusion
(12-10-2015 11:09 AM)Aoi Magi Wrote:  If the current trend continues, no matter what source of energy we harness, we will find a way to deplete it long before the predicted deadlines.

How could we possibly deplete the sun?
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16-10-2015, 11:05 PM
RE: Pondering Terrestrial Fusion
(12-10-2015 11:04 AM)Airportkid Wrote:  The drive to create a practical fusion reactor on earth has been ongoing for some time; in recent press three different approaches are described, all of whose participants say success is imminent.

But is a terrestrial fusion reactor a truly cost effective means of producing long-term energy? (and by cost-effective I don't mean getting more energy than put in - that's a given - so the question applies AFTER that principal hurdle has been overcome):

1. Even if it uses water for fuel there's only so much water on earth. Would the earth's water sustain centuries of fuel supply without other effects?

2. There's already a practical fusion reactor that will last as long as the solar system just a hundred million miles away, the vast majority of its output streaming unused into space. Would it make more sense to build receiving satellites that store the energy or redirect it to receiving stations on earth - if the zenith of terrestrial solar energy collection is inadequate due to earth only getting so much sunlight?

Using the sun as much as possible to my mind doesn't risk fuel depletion or other potential disasters of terrestrial reactors going blooey in some unforeseen but catastrophic way. Which is smarter - building sun-power generators on earth that have to be managed to prevent injuring the earth, or just harvest energy from an extra-terrestrial source?

So, my thoughts?

Yes having terrestrial fusion is a good thing.

So, we have a wonderful/clever/charismatic science educator here.

Doctor Carl => https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Kruszelnicki

When I crossed paths with him at a Comic Convention and got him to sign a book I asked him.

"I remember a lecture you gave where you quoted how much solar panels it would take to power both our country and thence a good part of the world."

He almost instantly took out a pen and took out one of his 'For sale cheap' book marks and quickly wrote down some simple looking (But still way overm y head) maths and some simple pictures.

Basically, to power Australia we'd only have to cover a land mass the size of out Capital Territory (Canberra).

To generate a good portion of power to channel out into the world?

We'd only have to cover an area the size of Victoria (Southern most land connected state)

Currency, if you put both those circles pretty much any where on the Australian main land? All you'll cover is desert. Tongue

We have that much 'spare' space.

Of course... with out a means to 'store' the solar thermal energy from the day time your solar collectors don't work at night. (Again, there is/was an Australian engineer who wanted to generate power with solar heat... storing excess 'heat' energy in underground tanks during the night to speed up production the next day etc)

But, they've since gone off shore since they couldn't get any one to invest in their scheme here. Sad

If 'Nano-tubes'/'Buckminsterfullerine' tube can be grown long enough... or some form of 'atomic welding' can be developed. Then another idea is to build a 'Bean stalk' (Popularized by the late Sir Arthur C Clark) which would both allow a slow ride up into orbit as well as generating loads of electricity.

(Stick a piece of metal into a magnetic field and thence 'spin' said metal through said field. Electricity results)

We also now have light generators which don't dump a huge amount of waste out as heat. Amazing things.

I suppose the shorter answer is. To generate electricity currently, we have to burn stuff.

Burning things chemically? We need hundreds of box-cars of coal to generate the power. Or huge dams which take up large amounts of space 'Up wall'.

A fission plant 'burns' about one box car of uranium to generate what takes about 100 box cars of coal.

Atomic energy simply puts out more 'bounce per ounce' than chemical energy.

There's a 'relatively' limited amount of uranium/thorium about (And you have to mine it. Process it. Which generates more 'waste' and 'tailings' etc).

Water (Even if you're after the 'special' types of hydrogen) is abundant not just here... but on the Moon.. and further out into space.

Don't forget. If we harness fusion for generating electricity... we also come closer to making fusion 'candles' to push ships through the void. Smile

Sorry for the ramble. Blush
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17-10-2015, 01:35 AM
RE: Pondering Terrestrial Fusion
(16-10-2015 05:03 PM)wizardofthevoid Wrote:  
(12-10-2015 11:09 AM)Aoi Magi Wrote:  If the current trend continues, no matter what source of energy we harness, we will find a way to deplete it long before the predicted deadlines.

How could we possibly deplete the sun?

The more energy you can harness the more ways society will find to harness that energy until we reach the limit of what we can harness. At first we'll be really inefficient but as we reach the limits of what can be harnessed, the cost rises, and then there will be research into making things more efficient.
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17-10-2015, 08:03 AM
RE: Pondering Terrestrial Fusion
(17-10-2015 01:35 AM)Mathilda Wrote:  
(16-10-2015 05:03 PM)wizardofthevoid Wrote:  How could we possibly deplete the sun?

The more energy you can harness the more ways society will find to harness that energy until we reach the limit of what we can harness. At first we'll be really inefficient but as we reach the limits of what can be harnessed, the cost rises, and then there will be research into making things more efficient.

Sure. But it's the sun. Unless we had Saturn sized machines mining the sun for hydrogen, how would the sun be depleted? Even if we surrounded the sun with solar panels, it wouldn't die any sooner. It seems to me that I order to deplete it, we'd have to "take" the resources, not the photons, and that's a really hot place.

I guess I wasn't thinking long-term enough.
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