Better Control for Fusion Power  

Posted by Big Gav in

Technology Review has an article on research at MIT into better controlling fusion reactions using pulsed radio waves - Better Control for Fusion Power.

Nuclear fusion could prove an abundant source of clean energy. But the process can be difficult to control, and scientists have yet to demonstrate a fusion plant that produces more energy than it consumes. Now physicists at MIT have addressed one of the many technological challenges involved in harnessing nuclear fusion as a viable energy source. They've demonstrated that pulses of radio frequency waves can be used to propel and heat plasma inside a reactor.

MIT's doughnut-shaped fusion reactor, the Alcator C-Mod, uses magnets to confine hydrogen in a turbulent, electrically charged state of matter called a plasma. By infusing large amounts of energy into the plasma, physicists can kick off fusion reactions that, in turn, release large amounts of energy. The MIT reactor is too small to generate practical fusion reactions that generate enough energy to keep themselves going--what's called a burning plasma. But the researchers have been working on ways to achieve this state in larger reactors, such as the planned International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

The challenge is keeping the plasma confined in a stable rotation, with just the right amount of turbulence and the ideal temperature gradients so that it keeps burning. Traditionally, physicists control plasmas by injecting high-power beams of inert atoms. Controlling turbulence and temperature is critical: the better confined the plasma, the smaller the reactor needs to be and the less power required.

When directed well, inert beams in today's reactors "have substantial momentum and drag the plasma with them," says Earl Marmar, head of MIT's Alcator project. They also "heat" the plasma, supplying energy to kick-start fusion reactions. Marmar anticipates that in the future, the beam technique simply won't work: it will be able to impart enough energy, but not enough momentum.

MIT researchers led by John Rice and Yijun Lin have experimentally demonstrated that radio waves--which will be able to penetrate large plasmas like ITER's--can give plasma both energy and momentum.


Clearly there is vast room for improvement here and if only our nations would invest a 10th of what they spend on weapons it would show signs of intelligent life on earth.

Or divert the investments from space exploration until we have proven we can 'sustain' human life on earth.

Our world needs to depertly think this through and stop all unnecessary funding of projects that offer no solutions to our own demise.

While I see no need for ther NUKE option in the energy future to exist... everyone in power does.

That being said, the Licensing and permitting of ANY nuclear plant that does not utilize the IFR - BACT (best available control tech.) should be a international crime.

24 years ago by our country's top energy scientists advanced nuclear design that is cheaper and cleaner than coal, produces minimal waste and generates power 24/7. The fuel supply is virtually inexhaustible and is safer than coal. The technology uses as fuel the long-lived "waste" from today's reactors, and you can build a plant anywhere you can locate a coal plant.


Seriously… if we can not prove to ourselves we learn from history we will be history.

I know you're now officially on holiday Gav but could you confirm what they mean when they say produce more power than they consume?

Do they mean repay the power it took to induce the plasma


repay all the energy to construct the plant?

because the second one is pretty big.

EHS Director shoud know that in all likely hood every Fusion Reactor will have sitting nearby a conventional Fission Reactor to provide that initial startup feed.

RE: 'in all likely hood every Fusion Reactor will have sitting nearby a conventional Fission Reactor to provide that initial startup feed.'

Wow startup energy is an important issue…

Few people understand the ‘massive’ startup energy LHC, Fusion or other ‘Manhattan Style Projects’ have consumed over the decades.

Just the development of the fission era consumed nearly 20% of the nations energy needs for three years.

‘the (foremost) retired government expert on the discovery channel special "America's Lost Bombs." Stated that there ‘has NEVER been a net energy or financial yield from utilizing nuclear power’ once ALL regulatory, mining and enrichment costs have been factored in. And that it was just ‘sold as a energy yield source to cloak weapons development programs’

Still true today with IFR’s? Not sure…

Add up five decades of ‘Startup Energy Projects’, endless redundant space programs to no where, 1000’s more missile tests to ‘ensure our own destruction’ … and we have some really wasted energy depressing numbers.

While a few of these are genuinely needed. How many are not and at what cost?

But GAV is on Holiday so I promise there will be no math ;-)

A lot of this 'start up' power expected from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory telegraph article as well.

'Scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore, nestled among the wine-producing vineyards of central California, will use a laser that concentrates 1,000 times the electric generating power of the United States into a billionth of a second.

The result should be an explosion in the 32ft-wide reaction chamber which will produce at least 10 times the amount of energy used to create it. '


Also a great techtalk by google on Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (You probably saw)

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