Mr. Fusion?

mr fusion

Nuclear fusion is the preferred deus ex machina in the minds of some who long for cheap, abundant energy, although fusion will never be either. The challenge: containing the plasma fuel that heats to millions of degrees inside a “bottle” made of magnetic fields produced by a superconducting magnet kept at absolute zero a few feet away. The concept’s been likened to trying to hold water inside rubber bands. A press release from MIT News entitled “New Insights on Fusion Power” celebrates the kind of esoteric advances that indicate that fusion lies somewhere beyond the Hubble Deep Field in the cosmology of future energy sources (i.e. just as distant as when I first wrote about it in 1978).

MIT scientists have discovered a way to “push the plasma around inside the [reactor] vessel” with radio-frequency waves. With this, they can prevent heat loss to the vessel walls, as well as the “internal turbulence that can reduce the efficiency of fusion reactions.” That, they say, could be crucial to the planned International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), currently being constructed in France. But these are just a couple of a number of issues preventing fusion reactors from producing more energy than they consume.

Another recent development which could help the ITER: a new way of injecting a blast of argon or neon into the reactor vessel– to quench “a kind of runaway effect that could cause severe damage to reactor components” (uh-oh)– by turning plasma energy into light. For the ITER, such a blast would require, for a mere thousandth of a second, the equivalent of the total electricity production of the United States. I can smell the grid frying from Caribou, Maine, to San Diego.

So, for the near future, EVs will depend on coal (which produces slightly less than half of US electricity), natural gas (21 percent), nuclear (19 percent), hydro (6.9 percent) and “other” (includes wind, 3.3 percent) and oil (1.1 percent).

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  • CarnotCycle CarnotCycle on Dec 04, 2008
    Imagine what a fusion reaction gone bad could do (hint - create the sun on planet earth). There is no way a fusion reactor of any kind could create a disaster of that magnitude in a failure. Fusion reactors and reactions are totally different than their fission analogs. Fusion is actually much like chemical combustion in its behavior, its just the fuels and their products are nuclear instead of molecular in energy-density. That also means it takes an very hot "spark plug" and high compression to both ignite and burn the fuels respectively.

  • JEC JEC on Dec 05, 2008

    I say we hand it over to Elon Musk. He'll have a car running on fusion before the end of next year, priced at 100 000$, with a trillion mile range, 800 million horsepower, and a transmission made of diamond. Taking deposits now.

  • Jbawden My wife has a model 3 performance, its plenty fast, and while looks are subjective, I think it's nice looking. But, I stand solidly behind my comment that these are soulless appliances. Unprecedented performance cannot overcome what was lost when we remove ICE motivation. For the record I think BEV are great, I've owned one for almost 2 years, but let's stop drinking the unicorn kool-aid and pretending BEV are just as engaging as what they are replacing.
  • Dwford The first all new Dodge in 8-10 years and it's a quick rebadge of an Alfa Romeo. And the people at Stellantis are mad at US??? They aren't serious about restoring Dodge or Chrysler.
  • MaintenanceCosts Want a near-new Cadillac Brougham? Are marshmallow suspension, indifferent interior build and material quality, and very large size your jam? Then this is your car.I like the idea of a totally anonymous luxury sedan but I do not like the K900's seasickness-inducing suspension tuning. Not at all.
  • Ajla "Overall length for the K9 was 201.6 inches"For the author's reference that is 3 inches longer than the 1987 Bonneville.
  • Dwford Everyone is worried about the public stations, but why don't we focus on the low hanging fruit: home charging? I see Rivians at the local public charger. You're telling me that that person isn't also a homeowner? The first thing I did when I put a deposit on my EV was call my electrician. The charger was installed before the car got here. you'll never see me at a public charger unless I have to drive out of state for some reason. Is the government mandating that all new homes include the wiring needed for EV charging? Nope. The amount it would cost to run a 240v line to the garage or driveway side of the house would be very minimal. Same with solar. Is the government mandating all new homes be built with solar panels? Nope.