Nuclear fusion. The power of the sun and all the stars fusing lighter atoms together to create larger ones. And producing amazing energy at the same time.
The most abundant element in the universe is hydrogen. The water on our planet contains oodles of it. Talk about unlimited fuel!
There is no other area for the future of the planet's power that I am more passionate about or hopeful for!
From a young child I keenly loved science. In my young teenage years I first came across nuclear fusion as a possible source of power. I was sold! This is what I wanted to do!
It was fascinating, elusive and cutting edge. It was not yet developed. What could be better?
Isn't it interesting how life can deflect you from your purpose and passion? We can reason ourselves out of anything. For me it was attending an open day at the local medical school.
If I did medicine I could stay in my own lovely country. I could keep my options open for the future as to what path I would take. I reasoned being narrowed down to one small segment of science was too limiting!
Interesting how medicine slowly led to lasers and what they could do. Especially when what I was doing did not deeply satisfy me! Old dreams stirred again. And that technology interest was awakened. What might be possible?
Looking back at what had been an interest for me when I was younger, I realized it was a deeper passion. I began looking further into producing energy by fusion.
It involved getting current textbooks and researching on the internet to understand where research was at.
We all tend to be aware that the hydrogen version of the atomic bomb was much more powerful than the original fission one.
I had been vaguely aware there was a project being developed in France to explore reactor developments. When I spoke about it more people were aware of the Large Hadron Collider situated near Geneva straddling the borders of Switzerland and France.
I explored again the different ways it was possible to confine plasma. Confinement of different types allowed for fusion reactions to occur in a controlled way as would be needed for power production.
Controlling plasmas with magnetic fields over a long time period to cause more continuous nuclear fusion production was limited in the temperatures that could be achieved including the initial USA program idea (later extended to other countries) until a Russian design was revealed to the world. Many countries embraced this new concept in their research.
Actual fusion has been achieved in magnetic confinement with the European Union's JET project in England. The same research institute is exploring another idea similar to this that would be cheaper to build as a fusion power unit if its promise continues to hold. The USA is also exploring the same idea.
As well as that they and several other nations are exploring compact and spherical versions of stellarators which, as mentioned, were the original US design choice.
The various words used to describe the many processes became common language terms again.
With the work I had been doing with lasers, as well as what I had seen at various conferences, I began to see it might be possible to utilize laser power to achieve fusion.
There are a number of developments around the world based on this idea. The huge National Ignition Campaign in the USA has grown out of the weapons program there. In Europe an equivalent idea and research-linked program has input from the United Kingdom, France and several other countries.
A sudden newcomer on the scene, attracting attention from a post-Fukushima shaken Japan, and based on inertial nuclear fusion, is a heavy ion fusion idea from Fusion Power Corporation. Its ideas are based on methods widely studied many years ago and then nearly abandoned in the USA at least in favour of national laser-focused projects.
In recent years a joint facility project has begun under an umbrella organization to explore cost-effective, smaller sized particle accelerators for future heavy ion fusion.
One of the earliest attempts at producing nuclear fusion energy was through the changes that occur to plasma when currents are passed through it. Dismissed due to poor results in more recent times it has been adopted again as another possibility.
A recent US west coast entrant on the scene has used developments from this idea in its compact design. There is also the approach being taken by heavily funded Sandia National Laboratories and that of the minimum backing in the very interesting New Jersey project.
Recently this project has announced a collaborative agreement between itself and a large Iranian fusion research and teaching unit.
Coming out of information from the earliest of these projects there arose interest in more self-sustaining plasmas like spheromaks and isolated plasma balls. Another nuclear fusion research project, also based on the ideas of the way ball lightning spontaneously confines plasmas, has produced interesting totally self-confined plasmas that could produce nuclear fusion power.
There are other alternative proposals with varying approaches to producing fusion. One that shows signs of promise and has attracted significant investment is a project in Canada.
Most impressively for a clean, green future I came across information about methods that were being explored that produced virtually no neutrons . Nuclear fusion energy produced this way looked an exciting possibility for energy production in the near future!
There are even ways for those who would like to see such a process accelerated to participate through a specially developed society with charitable status.
One of these nuclear fusion projects with huge private investor funding is located in California although little information is available about it. However I have included what I could find, which is exciting and interesting, on a page about it.
As well as the now self-funded New Jersey project mentioned above there is another aneutronic idea that had received significant US Naval funding. It is still under investigation by the Navy in San Diego since its founder has died. Using a variation on one of the simple ways to produce neutrons from limited fusion, this ring-like electrostatic confinement process offered a chance to propel ships and spaceships as well as producing power.
Arising from a similar idea a former physicist in that project developed the FPGeneration device.
The very latest entrant in the field is the much hyped, publicised and lauded Lockheed Martin Skunk Works project.
Coming from a completely different angle is the private Australian initiative to produce fusion using basic particle muons as the catalyst. Along the same line is the well-financed Japanese project run in association with the UK.
I have included a page on the latest news items about nuclear fusion to allow us to keep track of all that is going on. I even wrote a book about it all that is also available as a downloadable Kindle book - comparing fusion with other alternative energy choices out there. And how close we could be!
Are there new developments that you know of in these areas I have covered. Or is there something I have missed completely? Please feel free to share it!
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