Nuclear Fusion Technology Research and Experimentation
Xanatos Research into Nuclear Fusion Technologies and Related Fields
We have broken new ground by standing on the shoulders of great researchers who have gone before us.
The image to the left is live fusion plasma in one of the first experiments conducted at Xanatos. This plasma was attained in a device called an Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC) Fusion Reactor, or "Fusor". Work started at Xanatos in October of 2014 to begin to create a laboratory environment for conducting research into various forms and methods to create and sustain a fusion plasma. The decision was to use Deuterium-Deuterium (DD) fusion initially as it had the lowest entry bar to success, especially in terms of safety, availability of materials, and cost.
What is Nuclear Fusion?
Simply put, nuclear fusion occurs when conditions force two fusable atoms close enough together that they bond, forming a new, heavier atom. The sun is powered by nuclear fusion - superheated Hydrogen under immense pressure creates the conditions by which the force that keeps atoms from randomly merging on their own, called the Coulomb Barrier, can be overcome. Think of this Coulomb Barrier in the same way you would experience the repulsive force of two magnets oriented towards each other with their same poles facing (north to north, or south to south.) As you bring these magnets closer, the force required to do so increases exponentially.
When the atoms employed in fusion reactions, such as Hydrogen, or Deuterium, (which is referred to as "heavy Hydrogen" because of the presence of a single extra neutron,) fuse, they release a very large quantity of energy by creating a new, stable atom. This energy is often in the form of heat and some form of radiation - in the case of Deuterium - Deuterium fusion, this radiation takes the form of the liberation of a single neutron, which makes it the signature detection method for fusion occuring in such systems. A highly charged Helium or Tritium atom is also produced. The charges on these atoms may be harvested for energy, and the resultant &qouot;exhaust" of Helium or Tritium can be collected and used in a variety of industrial applications for which there is significant demand.
The energies liberated from a fusion reaction - heat and radiation - are harvested to produce energy. There are a variety of methods both proven and in use, as well as under development, to turn that energy into useful power. We will discuss these at length later in this document.
Fusion, it should be noted, is the opposite reaction from fission, which currently powers the working nuclear reactors around the globe. With fission, heavy atoms, such as Uranium or Plutonium, are split is cascade or chain-reactions, releasing energy in the process. This energy is then harvested as mentioned above, usually by turning the heat into steam to turn turbines, which produce electricity.
Why is it Important?
As our planet's population increases and our understanding and use of technology increases, we need greater and greater levels of power to sustain our growth. Even the most die-hard proponents of fossil fuels will admit, at least in private, that there is a finite amount of these fuels available for harvesting from planetary resources. Eventually, it will become more labor intensive - and more costly - to make these fuels available, and at some point, there will simply not be enough left. If we have not developed reliable, clean power generation techniques before that time, our species, as a whole, will fail.
In recognition of this reality, many technologies have sprung up to try to address this issue. Chief among these are our current nuclear power generation stations. While they have gotten some very bad press because of large-scale accidents that have occurred at various times, modern reactor design is much safer than ever before, and the dangers of radiation are blown way out of proportion because of the media's propensity to sensationalize (this is not a swipe at the media - this is their job. They don't make money by telling us the news, they make money by selling advertising time. Sensationalizing headlines and stories generates viewership, thereby increasing the value of advertising time on their respective networks.) All this aside, however, modern nuclear power has some actual drawbacks, such as disposal of waste products that are intensely radioactive, carcinogenic and difficult to contain, and have a half-life of thousands of years.
Hence, the interest in nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion uses as its fuel readily available elements, such as Deuterium, that naturally occur in seawater. According to Robert Steinhaus, who worked at Lawrence Livermore National Lab from 1974 to 2008, "It is estimated that the complete conversion of deuterium releases 250 x 1015 joules of energy per metric ton. The quantity of deuterium in seawater is estimated at 4.6 x 1013 metric tons. Therefore, the deuterium present in seawater will yield around 5 x 1011 TeraWatt-Years of energy. At 2017 global energy consumption values, that would supply us for 29.4 billion years worth of energy."
In addition, the resultant products of fusion reactions, primarily helium and tritium - have immediate commercial value and present no environmental risk as a result. Furthermore, fusion reactors can't have a "meltdown" - if they lose containment, the plasma in the chamber simply reverts to its normal gaseous state. While local damage to a reactor can occur, it is in the form of damage to the structure of the reactor, or explosions of things like capacitor banks, which do not release radiation. The limited radiation that is produced by fusion reactors can be contained with simple shielding.
All of this makes nuclear fusion the ideal power source for our planet going forward. The full, global realization of nuclear fusion will be the most seismic shifting of human and national alignments the world has ever seen, and will make it so that nations need no longer compete for limited energy resources. With this new, nearly unlimited energy supply online, energy intensive projects, such as the desalination of sea water to create clean drinking water to regions that are dangerously lacking in this precious resource, can move forward unhindered, sparking a new, dynamic economy and opening brand-new regions of food growth and production in areas previously unable to sustain such efforts. A true re-greening of the planet, and a new lease on life for humanity.
What Research is Xanatos Conducting into Nuclear Fusion?
As a core research focus, Xanatos is investigating multiple configurations of fusion power possibilities, including alternate fuel sources (such as proton-boron fusion and beam-on-target fusion), as well as researching the technically daunting aspects of fusion that have delayed it for decades, such as loss-less plasma confinement strategies. Active construction of magnetic- and electrostatic-field generating configurations within a fusion chamber and determining their effectiveness at "pinching off" plasma jets and leaks, is at the forefront of our research efforts at this time.
Photos of the First Xanatos Inertial Electrostatic Confinement Fusion Reactor
Click any photo to view a larger image.
Technical Addenda and Reference Material