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COLD FUSION -Heating up a cold theory (Federal funding/new results)

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papau Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-27-04 02:28 PM
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COLD FUSION -Heating up a cold theory (Federal funding/new results)
http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2004/07/27/... /

COLD FUSION
Heating up a cold theory
MIT professor risks career to reenergize discredited
By Beth Daley, Globe Staff | July 27, 2004

Although he's a tenured Massachusetts Institute of Technology associate professor, Peter Hagelstein leads a life of exile. He has never made full professor. He no longer has a lab. Barely anyone came to a lecture he gave about his research a year and a half ago.

Virtually all of Hagelstein's problems stem from his study of cold fusion, a type of nuclear reaction that -- if it exists at all -- might have the power to create unlimited, clean energy, essentially on a tabletop. Fifteen years ago, two University of Utah chemists claimed they created such a reaction, an announcement quickly denounced as quackery. Today, cold fusion is as scientifically scorned as UFOs.

Now the soft-spoken Hagelstein, who won accolades in the 1980s for conceptualizing a laser critical to Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" defense plan, and cold fusion have a shot at mainstream science again. Three months ago, the US Department of Energy quietly agreed to examine what cold fusion supporters say is increasing evidence -- culminating at a conference at MIT last summer -- that the reaction exists and is reproducible. If the agency agrees, it will likely mean an injection of both funding and legitimization for the forgotten research.

The Department of Energy review is focusing attention on a small band of scientists, including Hagelstein, who continue to work on cold fusion long after its public demise. There are an estimated 100 to 200 of these researchers in the world, many suffering from stagnated careers or damaged reputations because of their refusal to give up on a concept the vast majority of scientists say doesn't exist.

"It's not that we have kept quiet as much as no one has looked at what we were doing," said Hagelstein, a reserved but passionate man given to nervous laughter. "We are getting good and powerful results -- we want our name cleared."<snip>

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aquart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-27-04 02:35 PM
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1. I want cold fusion.
Everyone needs a dream.
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Sandpiper Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-27-04 02:46 PM
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2. For his next project
Maybe he can work on a perpetual motion machine.
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papau Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-27-04 02:51 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. This is fellow that proved X-ray Laser possible - 10th meeting at MIT
last year produced a lot of results that do not conform to known physics.

And Cold Fusion seems to be the right answer - maybe.

The DOE did not reject the request for funding because of the new results revealed last summer (they the DOE will decide in near future as to funding grant)

Meanwhile 11th meeting will be held this fall of the researchers, and word is that the solid science gets heavier in "cold fusion" (or some currently unknown physics) being very real.
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PVnRT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-28-04 02:39 AM
Response to Reply #2
5. 100 years ago
people thought we saw because the aether pushed on our eyes. Examples like that abound through history.

Go ahead and mock the guy for doing research. We'll see who laughs last.
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DrWeird Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-28-04 03:26 AM
Response to Reply #5
7. 100 years ago, people thought aether caused us to see.
Not scientists, since they had worked out quite a bit on the nature of light, but the pseudoscientific quacks thought that.

Nowadays the pseudoscientific quacks think about cold fusion. It's a nice concept really, to bad they're a bunch of quacks who fake their data and don't really do research.
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Donkeyboy75 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-28-04 10:15 PM
Response to Reply #7
14. And 150 years ago, SCIENTISTS howled at Pasteur when
he proposed that microbes caused milk, beer and wine to go sour. It was a fact, of course, that spontaneous chemical reactions caused this effect.

A few disingenuous scientists 15 years ago shouldn't kill a field.
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jul-27-04 03:08 PM
Response to Original message
4. I'd settle for good old fashioned, un-sexy hot fusion
But if some kind of cold fusion turns out to be real, that's gravy.
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PVnRT Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-28-04 02:40 AM
Response to Reply #4
6. Hot fusion is very, very hot
Think the temperature of a star. It just can't be contained; that's why hydrogen bombs have the explosive power that they do.
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-28-04 11:29 AM
Response to Reply #6
9. it's already been contained successfully
What they haven't yet done is build a reactor that produces more energy than it requires to run. As I understand it, the EROEI becomes > 1 for larger reactors, which are expensive. So, they are ramping up the size slowly, learning as much as possible on the way.

It's big and expensive, but it will absolutely work.
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AngryAmish Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-28-04 05:41 PM
Response to Reply #6
13. When I was in seventh grade
(1980) I wrote a paper how fusion was just around the corner - according to the magazine articles I had read. I have had the bug about fusion ever since.

The Tokamak (sp?) system seems the most useful, but the best results are from laser reactors but do not seem scalable to a point to make electricity. (Laser reactors are really cool).

Fusion may not be a pipe dream, but I am cynical about it.
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Solon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-28-04 08:46 AM
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8. ugh...Is this the same guy who faked the results a decade ago?
It is impossible to have unlimited energy from Cold Fusion, that's a misnomer, it may last a long time, but not forever. I always viewed an energy source's practical usability in terms of how much longer they will last as such, for example:

Fossil Fuels: 5(pessimistic)-20(optimistic) years

Fission Fuels: Hundred of Thousands to a Million years or more.

Geothermic: Many millions of years, depending on geologic activity.

Fusion/Cold Fusion: Many millions of years theoretically, depends on whether getting the hydrogen or process is economically viable at all.

Solar/Wind: Considering the source for both, another 4 billion years, give or take, longer whenever we get off our butts and leave Earth when unlivable as the Sun starts expanding into Red Giant phase. Use other stars as source for energy.

I do not discount Cold Fusion altogether, it may be theoretically possible to Fuse two H atoms into HE at room temperature through chemical or quantum means without raising the temperature to so many million degrees of Kelvin. I just doubt that we could find the way or means before we can successfully develop a system of regular fusion in a magnetic bottle.

Also another important point is portability and practicality. Theoratically a single fusion plant could power the entire Globe, but how the hell are you going to string power lines to the other side? This is an important point, because even a terawatt plant would have limits in how the energy is transported, you can't have a fusion battery, at least not anytime in the next 20 years, regardless as to how Arnold is powered. :) But a large amount of electicity is lost, today, over the hundreds of miles of electrical lines strung throughout the world, and we have yet to come up with a practical superconducter that would be cheap enough to use along such lines, not to mention the Oceans and Mountains that are in the way of such lines.
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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-28-04 12:21 PM
Response to Reply #8
10. A correction.
Edited on Wed Jul-28-04 12:24 PM by NNadir
I've calculated several times in several different ways, based on the current known reserves of Uranium and Thorium, the approximate life time of fission resources, were fission to provide 1000 exajoules of energy per year at a constant load. This calculation assumes, prehaps incorrectly, that the world energy demand will stabilize at 1000 exajoules in 2050. For these calculations, I have assumed as well that some of the Thorium and Uranium will fuel fast spectrum reactors thus allowing the 100% conversion of both fertile and fissile nuclei (the latter consisting wholly of U-235 and existent Pu-239). My calculations, which are close to many other published figures, suggest that fission resources will last for a few millenia, maybe up to 3000 years, but not longer, assuming again that nuclear energy dominates future energy production. It may be, and hopefully will be, possible to extend these resources by substituting renewable (solar and geothermal) sources to the maximum possible extent. It is still therefore important to acknowlege that nuclear resources should be used wisely and not indiscriminately. Nuclear energy in the strictest sense is not renewable.

Nuclear fusion energy is likely to depend on fission resources since it is right now difficult to imagine a fusion system that will not require tritium. Since fusion reactors can never be breeder reactors, because the neutron capture cross section for deuterium is very low across a broad range of neutron energies, and because the fusion of deuterium and tritium is a mononeutronic process, it is necessary to make tritium in fission reactors. It is worth noting that tritium is currently generally not obtained from deuterium (found in hydrogen) but from Lithium via neutron interactions, the neutrons being provided by a fissioning actinide. (Heavy water reactors make tiny amounts of tritium from deuterium, but it is not generally recovered.) Lithium is a relatively rare element (especially in the universe as a whole). Although one can obtain enormous amounts of energy (theoretically) from Lithium generated tritium, it is hardly a renewable energy source. Like fission resources, lithium resources are exhaustible.

We need to very carefully examine the needs of future generations irrespective of any energy choice we make. This means that we should always conserve to the maximum possible extent.
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phantom power Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-28-04 12:41 PM
Response to Reply #10
11. I have a question: suppose that we get tritium-fusion working
and we are required to make it in breeder fission reactors. Would that system extend the useful lifetime of fissionable materials?
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NNadir Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-28-04 01:25 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. Yes, very much so.
The difference in binding energy between tritium + deuterium and helium and a neutron is enormous when compared to the difference between an actinide and a fission product, so lithium resources are very likely to extend for a much longer period than Uranium/Thorium resources. I do not know, however, the world reserves of lithium.

http://www.wou.edu/las/physci/ch371/lecture/lecture4/sl...

There is also the possibility that over a very long time the deuterium-deuterium fusion reaction will become technologically feasible, and nuclear resources will in fact become nearly infinite. This is, I think, a very long way off. The caveat is that the deuterium-deuterium reaction releases most of its energy in the form of gamma rays, which must be transformed to usable energy through some sort of thermalization. In the tritium deuterium case, the kinetic energy of the neutron released helps to provide thermal energy through collisions. The helium-4 also has considerable kinetic energy. Actually, no one is really sure how to effect the transformation of existing fusion reactors into usable work. Such systems have only been considered at a low level.
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