Eclectic Floridian: Desktop Fusion - Progress!

Friday, April 29, 2005

Desktop Fusion - Progress!

Imagine a $2000 gadget you can plunk down in your backyard, wire into your electrical panel and turn it on to power your house, recharge your electric car and charge your cell phone. Then disconnect yourself from your power utility. Add water or hydrogen (the universes most abundant resource) now and then and go about your business. Too good to be true? ... er ... well, it is, but it may not be in the near future. If it were to happen, imagine the impact on our lives ... got any stock in a utility company? ... Maybe it's time to sell short ... well maybe not yet!

The Holy Grail of environment-friendly energy has traditionally (since 1988) been "room temperature" fusion. Two new experiments appear to be there, or close. Neither, seems to produce more energy than is required to run them ... but, ya gotta start somewhere.

Fusion involves combining atoms of light elements to generate energy. The byproducts of fusion are nothing but still lighter elements. That is, if you fuse hydrogen, you get energy,
non-radioactive neutrons and helium. It's the opposite of fission which splits atoms rather than combining them.

Since fusion is the same process that powers stars, the operating temperature has been assumed to be around 100,000,000 degrees. Pretty warm, huh? "Room temperature" fusion does away with the problem of containing all that hot stuff and makes it easier to control.

Seth Putterman and associates at UCLA have produced fusion (it appears) with a heated crystal which generates strong magnetism throwing hydrogen (deuterium) atoms at other hydrogen atoms. It produces helium and non-radioactive neutrons.

Right now, the technique could have potential uses in medicine, spacecraft propulsion, the oil drilling industry and homeland security. The process appears to be easy and cheap to reproduce. It is reported in Nature's May issue.

"This doesn't have any controversy in it because they're using a tried and true method," David Ruzic, professor of nuclear and plasma engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told The Associated Press. "There's no mystery in terms of the physics."
There is another hope on the horizon. "Sonoluminescence" involves the violent collapse of tiny bubbles in a liquid using sound waves. It generates heat, some say in the 100,000,000 degree range, but only for short time spans and in a very small area. The science is still not validated or reproduced, but it is said that validation may come as early as this May.

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