Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 30 of 38

Thread: Power Sources Beyond Fusion

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    4

    Post Power Sources Beyond Fusion

    Think about this. Within 40 years the dream of fusion power will be a reality, but what's after that? No really what will we be developing after we've harnessed the Sun's power source. Think out of the box for this one.

    A few examples I thought of:
    -Singularity Reactor
    -Zero Point Energy Extractor
    -Antimatter Reactor
    -Virtual Particle Extractor
    -Dark Energy Extractor

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Posts
    8,875
    Quote Originally Posted by Railgun View Post
    Think about this. Within 40 years the dream of fusion power will be a reality
    In 40 years, fusion may still be a dream that's 40 years away. Fusion has been called "the dream that is always 50 years away" or something like that.

    How about the infinite improbability reactor?
    As above, so below

  3. #3
    Glom's Avatar
    Glom is offline Insert awesome title here
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Posts
    10,673
    Most of those are just scifi tropes that have little basis in reality. Antimatter reactor for example is not any energy source because the antimatter needs manufacturing in the first place.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    4
    Actually I could vividly explain how most of them would work. If want me to I can, but maybe tomorrow. And yes antimatter would be more like hydrogen fuel cells, but it still packs a punch.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    919
    If we get fusion going, we won't need anything else.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    14,315
    Quote Originally Posted by Railgun View Post
    Think about this. Within 40 years the dream of fusion power will be a reality, but what's after that? No really what will we be developing after we've harnessed the Sun's power source. Think out of the box for this one.

    A few examples I thought of:
    -Singularity Reactor
    -Zero Point Energy Extractor
    -Antimatter Reactor
    -Virtual Particle Extractor
    -Dark Energy Extractor
    Tell you what - since I'm an expert of thinking outside of the box, I'll limit myself to thinking inside the box on this one, and I'll explain why towards the end:

    -Singularity Reactor
    Reguires many times the mass of our Sun, which comprises many times more mass than is in our solar system; therefore, infeasible.

    -Zero Point Energy Extractor
    Conceivable, but aside from a developmental fluke, unlikely in the next century, if ever.

    -Antimatter Reactor
    Costs far more energy to produce antimatter (and we can even store it now!) than the energy produced by it. You're far better off with pumping that energy into a lead-acid battery.

    -Virtual Particle Extractor
    Casini effect aka ZPE aka singularity reactor aka same old stuff.

    -Dark Energy Extractor
    First, we need to discover what it is, if it's even energy at all, before we have the slightest hope of harnessing it.

    Nope, sorry, but these are sci-fi pipe dreams, one and all.

    In reality, we're looking at:

    1. Fission
    2. Solar
    3. Wind
    4. Geothermal
    5. Fusion

    And that'll last us the next 5 billion years, so I'm really not concerned about...
    Last edited by mugaliens; 2009-Oct-23 at 07:07 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Metrowest, Boston
    Posts
    4,216
    Zero point energy extractor is also impossible. By definition, to get to absolute zero is an asymptotic process, whereby the closer you get, the easier it is for outside energy to leak into the system, since energy losses are exponential to the temperature difference, and there are no perfect insulators.
    Then, when you are very close to absolute zero, in order to "extract" energy, you need for the heat to flow from hot-to-cold, so the temperature of your "extractor" cannot exceed the temperature of your reservoir, which if it is already at absolute zero, is already the coldest thing possible. So it's physically impossible, and really nitwit science which should be discouraged..(don't invest in anybody's scheme for it). pete

    all of them are impossible.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    5,194
    Here in the inner solar system, solar power is sufficient, safe, and sustainable (wind, hydro, and biofuels are ultimately driven by solar power).

    In the outer solar system, I expect power to by mainly derived from gravitational potential energy. Essentially, you use clever orbital mechanics to drop sacrificial mass from moons of Jupiter or Saturn into the planet (Jupiter has a more potent gravity well, but Saturn has a more benign radiation environment).

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Posts
    7,980
    I should put in a word for the 'singularity reactor', as I think it may be a real possibility. The idea is that if you make a small, artificial black hole, around a million to a billion tonnes, you can add mass to it (anything- hydrogen, water, pollution) and it will convert it into Hawking radiation, remaining at roughly the same mass.

    The big problem is making the singularity, which would require an accelerator the size of the Galaxy (assuming magnetic field strengths available today). Either available magnetic fields will have to become millions of times stronger, or we will need to try another, but equally as daunting process. No, making 'singularity generators' is not just around the corner.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Posts
    7,980
    'Zero point energy generators' and 'virtual particle generators' both end up as zero-sum games (you get as much out as you put in). Mind you, the singularity generator is a special kind of 'virtual particle generator', so in certain circumstances they might work, (by converting matter to energy) but as I said they are not an easy option.

    Dark energy reactors are almost certainly useless- in energy terms, dark energy has a negative value so you would get much less out than you put in.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    14,315
    Quote Originally Posted by eburacum45 View Post
    I should put in a word for the 'singularity reactor', as I think it may be a real possibility. The idea is that if you make a small, artificial black hole, around a million to a billion tonnes, you can add mass to it...
    Not before it goes BOOM!, blowing you and half the planet away...

    This holds true for anything less than about 0.8% of the mass of the Earth, as anything larger will accumulate more from the CMBR than it radiates in Hawking radiation.

    By the time we get down to a million tonnes, run for the hills, as you have a little more than an hour before it releases all its energy in the form of about 1 billion megatons of TNT.

    The problem is, you're talking about creating a micro BH and adding mass to get it up there in mass. What you're forgetting is that small BHs will radiate far more mass per second than you'll be able to add, but will do so after converting it to pure energy via E=m*c^2.

    It's a bomb, Eburacum, and you can't ever get there.

    The big problem is making the singularity, which would require an accelerator the size of the Galaxy (assuming magnetic field strengths available today). Either available magnetic fields will have to become millions of times stronger, or we will need to try another, but equally as daunting process. No, making 'singularity generators' is not just around the corner.
    Ah, ok - It see you understand the difficulty...

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Posts
    8,875
    Quote Originally Posted by IsaacKuo View Post
    Here in the inner solar system, solar power is sufficient, safe, and sustainable (wind, hydro, and biofuels are ultimately driven by solar power).
    I completely agree. It's not the most exciting thing, but it seems unnecessary to consider farfetched and potentially dangerous sources of energy when we happen to have this massive fusion reactor that burns night and day without us having to do any maintenance at all, providing us potentially with enormous power. I think that tapping solar energy efficiently could really satisfy our conceivable energy needs. Fusion would be great too, if feasible.
    As above, so below

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    988
    I would have thought that the long term problem will not be an energy source but an energy sink.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Posts
    1,801
    Quote Originally Posted by DrWho View Post
    If we get fusion going, we won't need anything else.
    We've already got photo-voltaic cells going, why do we need anything else?
    Answer: because they are too expensive for large-scale application.

    How useful fusion reactors are going to be will very much depend upon how much they will cost to build per MW of output. Even if they are almost free to operate, if they cost too much to build, they won't be very useful.

    There are some papers lying around on the potential economics of a fusion reactor which might be derived from the current torus research in France. I think I linked them before in a similar thread. They don't look very promising to me.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Posts
    2,405
    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I completely agree. It's not the most exciting thing, but it seems unnecessary to consider farfetched and potentially dangerous sources of energy when we happen to have this massive fusion reactor that burns night and day without us having to do any maintenance at all, providing us potentially with enormous power. I think that tapping solar energy efficiently could really satisfy our conceivable energy needs. Fusion would be great too, if feasible.
    Hear! Hear!! Well said!! The only viable solution!!

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Posts
    3,167
    Not go into the realm of Sci-Fi here, but i think we'll have a working Anti-Matter reactor before a fussion one.

    We've had HiPAT's for close to ten years now that can store anti-matter. So it;s just a case of figuring out how to produce antimatter in bulk. Right now it still gets into the issue of energy return less then input into the reactor though. A natual anti-matter producing source if such a thing exists, might be just the trick needed to get one to work.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    8,213
    Anti matter is also a good compact source of energy. Generate a lot of it on a huge base, and you have a lot of energy density.

    I seem to remember Q-balls as a way to store energy...
    http://academic.research.microsoft.c...er/302037.aspx
    http://www.physics.ucla.edu/~kusenko...ci_qballs.html

    http://www.scienceandfilm.org/articl...on-in-sunshine

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    5,194
    We haven't got the faintest clue of how to generate anti-matter in a fashion efficient enough to be of any use outside of scientific research. We're talking orders of magnitude less than 1% efficiency. Never mind the technological challenges of storing or utilizing the stuff, with anti-matter the big deal-killer is generating it.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    1,753
    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    It's not the most exciting thing, but it seems unnecessary to consider farfetched and potentially dangerous sources of energy when we happen to have this massive fusion reactor that burns night and day without us having to do any maintenance at all, providing us potentially with enormous power. I think that tapping solar energy efficiently could really satisfy our conceivable energy needs. Fusion would be great too, if feasible.
    The way to tap solar energy most efficiently is to find where on earth it is condensed most effectively at scale. Ocean waves and currents are massive latent solar energy sources, while tides are 1/3 solar. The ocean has already turned sunlight into movement (as has wind), but moving water has much greater inertia and momentum and power than moving air, and the mass of the ocean is far bigger than the mass of the atmosphere. Putting ocean power sources together to produce algae biodiesel is the best transition path to a low-carbon economy.

    If the sun was a big wombat (80kg) and the earth was a pea ten metres away, (just for scale ) then the pea sphere surface area would equal two billion peas (my maths gives 2,205,442,314.15722 based on pea of 5mm). One two billionth of solar power hits the earth. The sun is big.
    Last edited by Robert Tulip; 2009-Oct-23 at 11:44 PM. Reason: maths

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Nov 2001
    Posts
    3,167
    Quote Originally Posted by IsaacKuo View Post
    We haven't got the faintest clue of how to generate anti-matter in a fashion efficient enough to be of any use outside of scientific research. We're talking orders of magnitude less than 1% efficiency. Never mind the technological challenges of storing or utilizing the stuff, with anti-matter the big deal-killer is generating it.
    Anti-Matter Storage hasn't been a problem since 2002, http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2002AIPC..608..793M, Since 2003 there have been two HiPat's in operation, one by Nasa, one by DOD. I think a third one went online in 2006, but thats more rumor and never been able to verify the third one.

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    5,194
    Quote Originally Posted by dgavin View Post
    Anti-Matter Storage hasn't been a problem since 2002, http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2002AIPC..608..793M
    Umm, how do you get that? It's certainly a technological achievement, but being able to store a tiny quantity of something for 18 days is hardly a "solved" problem. Certainly it isn't an acceptable storage duration for the stated potential application of deep space exploration, it's merely a step toward that eventual goal.

    But like I said, never mind the problems of storage and utilization. It's anti-matter production which is the deal-killer. With known science, we're never going to get even .1% efficiency--and that's already many orders of magnitude than we know how to do with known techniques.

    Still, even the most pathetic efficiencies MIGHT still be usable for deep space missions which are already fantastically expensive, where little power is needed anyway, and where nuclear power might be ruled out on political grounds.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Posts
    7,980
    Depp space missions are the only real application for antimatter; for everything else (even weapons) there is something better. Once we have extensive solar power collectors around the Sun, a fraction of the collected energy could be used to generate antimatter, and even at 1% efficiency it would be worth doing for use in deep space missions.

    But high-powered lasers or particle beams could be more useful than antimatter for deep space mssions, if certain ideas are correct. We would just need to have the political will to accept the possibility of devastatingly powerful beams with very precise targeting capabilities streaming through our system...

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    4

    How about this...

    To those people who think we won't need power sources better than fusion or solar, think about this. In World War 2 the Nazis stopped developing military aircraft, thinking they were good enough. It caused them to loose air superiority within years then the war. In the late 19th century the US patent office closed, thinking that all possible inventions had been thought. A century later and we're in the greatest technological advancement in our history. In the 60's the US highway system was built, the engineers thought it would be all they would need for the next half century. Just two decades later and traffic jams have come about ever since . Simply put, today's enough doesn't mean it's tomorrow's enough. In fact many people grossly underestimate the future leading to disasterous results.

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Posts
    458
    Antimatter is more like a great battery.

    But I do believe that an extremely advanced race could extract energy from certain kinds of black holes.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penrose_process

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    1,913
    Quote Originally Posted by Railgun View Post
    To those people who think we won't need power sources better than fusion or solar, think about this. In World War 2 the Nazis stopped developing military aircraft, thinking they were good enough. It caused them to loose air superiority within years then the war.
    ...
    Actually, they developed quite sophisticated aircraft; see the Messerschmidt 262, for example. Even if you limit the discussion to mass-produced aircraft, the Focke-Wulf 190 was arguably the equal of most of the fighter aircraft the allies put in the air at the time.

    There is an old saying that the perfect if the enemy of the good enough. One problem I think the German military industry had in WWII was that they lacked a concept of "good enough." They played around with a number of advanced tank designs, for example, but never put enough numbers on the ground for any one of them to make a difference. Meanwhile, the US and the Soviets found the Sherman and the T-34 to be "good enough" and cranked them out in huge numbers.


    ...
    In the late 19th century the US patent office closed, thinking that all possible inventions had been thought....

    Didn't actually happen
    .

    Nick

  26. #26
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Boulder, CO
    Posts
    3,480
    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Viehoff View Post
    We've already got photo-voltaic cells going, why do we need anything else?
    Answer: because they are too expensive for large-scale application.

    How useful fusion reactors are going to be will very much depend upon how much they will cost to build per MW of output. Even if they are almost free to operate, if they cost too much to build, they won't be very useful.

    There are some papers lying around on the potential economics of a fusion reactor which might be derived from the current torus research in France. I think I linked them before in a similar thread. They don't look very promising to me.
    The cost isn't the only large issue with solar cells - they'd be a lot more viable if they were capable of baseload generation. Fusion is baseload-capable - once you have a reactor up and running, you can count on it to provide its rated capacity whether it is raining, nighttime, cloudy, calm, or simply a beautiful day. Since baseload capability is required, solar and wind will never be able to take over the entire grid, but nuclear (including fusion) could.

  27. #27
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    1,212
    Quote Originally Posted by cjl View Post
    The cost isn't the only large issue with solar cells - they'd be a lot more viable if they were capable of baseload generation. Fusion is baseload-capable - once you have a reactor up and running, you can count on it to provide its rated capacity whether it is raining, nighttime, cloudy, calm, or simply a beautiful day. Since baseload capability is required, solar and wind will never be able to take over the entire grid, but nuclear (including fusion) could.
    For the short to mid term future, not being baseload isn't a problem. Until solar and wind is a significant fraction of energy production, swings in solar/wind output are manageable by the grid. Eventually, as solar/wind reaches about 20% of production, we'll need relatively small scale energy storage to meet demand while peaking units like gas turbines start up. Long term, larger scale storage technologies will be engineered.

  28. #28
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    7,157
    Solar thermal is able to store energy as heat and supply electricity into the night. And even though it is currently expensive to store energy from photovoltaic (PV) solar, because its output closely matches demand in Australia we could get 20% or more of our electricity from PV solar alone without much difficulty. And if we wanted to it would be possible to use solar thermal to supply the rest of our electricity needs. (Note I'm not saying that this is what we will do.)

  29. #29
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Boulder, CO
    Posts
    3,480
    Solar thermal is better, but it is still not a true baseload. Anytime it is cloudy, solar thermal output will drop significantly, and I would be surprised if it could even make it all the way through the night running at full power.

  30. #30
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    7,157
    Solar thermal is better, but it is still not a true baseload. Anytime it is cloudy, solar thermal output will drop significantly, and I would be surprised if it could even make it all the way through the night running at full power.
    Well, Cloncurry in Queensland Australia will be powered entirely by a solar thermal plant that will use graphite blocks for heat storage. The thermal storage will be sufficient for night and periods of cloud. The plant will start producing power next year.

    Technically, solar thermal with storage is not base load, but load following, which is more flexible than base load. In Australia the highest electricity prices are usually between 9:00 am and 9:00 pm and electricity prices often drop during periods of cloudy weather, so currently there isn't a strong incentive to build thermal storage for solar and if storage is built then just a few hours is enough to supply the evening peak when prices are high.

Similar Threads

  1. "Star" power? (Fusion power reactor experiment)
    By jokergirl in forum Science and Technology
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 2010-May-03, 07:52 AM
  2. Well, This Looks Really Bad for Fusion Power
    By Tuckerfan in forum Science and Technology
    Replies: 73
    Last Post: 2009-Jul-01, 03:42 PM
  3. Fusion Power
    By jlhredshift in forum Off-Topic Babbling
    Replies: 29
    Last Post: 2006-Feb-03, 05:02 PM
  4. New fusion propulsion/power system...?
    By hiker in forum Science and Technology
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 2006-Jan-25, 07:46 PM
  5. how close are we to fusion power reactors?
    By kenneth rodman in forum Science and Technology
    Replies: 37
    Last Post: 2003-Sep-29, 02:03 PM

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
here
The forum is sponsored in-part by: