2 days agoCreated a post • 68 points @danboarder
"We directly convert fusion energy into electricity" — how does that work?Reply
The article uses degrees celsius, foot, watt, nanometer, square foot, kilo electron-volt, miles per hour, teslas ...Reply
I just finished reading The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. A fascinating aspect of the book is how no one expected two unknowns to solve a problem governments had been pouring money into  with no success. Every one of the high profile players of the time were failures.
You may be quick to point out that fusion is different from airplanes - requiring vastly more money and resources. Except that that's also the same argument people thought was true about airplanes in 1900! Anyway, all of this to say if history is our guide than I have my doubts about ITER and the rest of the high profile projects. If fusion is to ever make headway I think it will be from some little known cheap operation in a way no one expects.Reply
I haven't heard about this company before, on one hand it sound more authentic than the outright cold fusion scam infesting the "trendy tech" scene.
On other hand there are other things screaming fraud:
1. “We directly convert fusion energy into electricity, which means that we don’t require “ignition” and can produce net electricity at much lower net energy [Q] values. Our challenges now are primarily engineering challenges rather than science challenges.”
Bullshit, if they get net energy gain, then there must be a self-sustaining fusion even for a microsecond, even if they are using pulsed operation.
Second, a near 99% certain "engineering solution" to fusion is ITER — the bigger you build a tokamak, the more stable is the fusion plasma. ITER is this "build it big enough" solution.
They don't address unsolved science challenges facing every fusion reactor: material science to withstand the neutron flux, removal of "nuclear ashes," working long term cooling solution, which will not require overhaul, or coolant replacement every few days.
2. One of the key obstacles for many fusion power proposals is that using them will require upgrades to the existing power grid. Helion claims it is side-stepping this issue.
“Helion’s fusion electricity generators are compact, use small amounts of fuel, and can run 24/7. Therefore, one of the key benefits of Helion’s power facilities is that they can directly plug into existing transmission infrastructure and replace current fossil-fuel-based power generation without significant investment in additional infrastructure. Grid-level transmission infrastructure is a requirement of large-scale, gigawatt-class power associated with traditional fusion approaches,”
Bullshit, what will make it harder for a fusion reactor outputting steam to just turn the same turbine as a fossil fuel power plant?
On other hand, they will require way more power conversion equipment to output the high voltage 3 phase AC coming from regular generators.
If a company like this is challenged by such a triviality as electric power conversion, you really should challenge their engineering acumen.
4. “Fusion is an abundant source of zero-carbon baseload power, but unlike fission, fusion cannot produce a runaway chain reaction. If something goes wrong, fusion simply stops. Fusion also does not produce any long-term waste and cannot be weaponized,” said the Helion rep.
A thermal explosion of the reactor casing if the cooling channels are breached/rot/rust, with ejection of neutron activated isotopes may well be possible. Short lived isotopes of light elements are more radioactive, predominantly non-metals, more volatile, and have higher biological affinity than heavier elements. Short term waste may not be killing you over 100 years, but may well kill you in a few days. This may well be worse than conventional reactor meltdown.
5. FRC devices confine plasma on closed magnetic field lines in the form of a self-stable torus. Together with the spheromak they are considered part of the compact toroid class of fusion devices. FRC devices normally have a plasma that is more elongated than spheromaks.
“An FRC is a stable, self-contained plasma which can be accelerated and super-heated to 100 M°C+. Further, FRCs are high Beta, which enables direct electricity recapture and require no particle beams, lasers, superconductors, or antimatter,” said the Helion rep.
Spheromacs been a research subject of USA's, and USSR's national thermonuclear research programs for decades, and been independently concluded as a dead end development by both sides despite the great enthusiasm about inherent advantages.
High, or low Beta will make little difference to the fact that they will invariably need to dissipate double digit percentage of the power output as heat. Having few coils for direct energy capture would probably only mean few percents difference to the net energy output, and I believe will just make the whole thing more complicated, and harder to control.
6. “Our facilities can operate continuously no matter the weather or time of day, which is ideal for baseload power. Moreover, they are compact and can produce 50 MW of power in a 20,000 square foot space.
Bullshit, try to put a conventional powerplant capable of producing 50MW of electricity into half an acre. Even if you remove the biggest part, the boiler, and the support equipment to run it, there is no chance you can physically fit the cooling stacks to dissipate around 150MW of waste heat, turbines, generators, transformers, offices, water treatment plant into 0.5 acres.
7. “Modern gigahertz-class fiber optic triggering, monitoring, and field programmable gate array (FPGA) processing allow the reliable, synchronous, and efficient operation of Helion’s fusion system. At the generator scale, the ability to provide reliable and throttle-able power allows Helion to load-follow existing renewable generation, eliminating the need for new power management or storage technologies,”
This is pure technobabble. This man either doesn't know what he is talking about, or knows, but pretends that he doesn't.Reply
The only fusion project which has a chance of producing excess heat at Q>2 within a decade is the MIT SPARC, using proven plasma physics and scaling the size/cost down dramatically with high-field HTS magnets (think ITER but sooner and >10x cheaper). Why is this definite solution to climate apocalypse being developed within the framework of MIT startup accelerator instead of Manhattan Project while most of the publicity goes to unproven designs which are orders of magnitude from being anywhere close to Q>1 is beyond me
MIT SPARC overview presentation/recent progress: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8uYNhevRtk
Journal of Plasma Physics issue with several papers about it: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-plasma-ph...Reply
Solar power is already cheaper than coal. The sun is the ultimate fusion power source.Reply