Clean baseload
September 18, 2019 4:51 AM   Subscribe

A report by Helen Czerski, from EVs-and-more channel FullyCharged, who visits First Light Fusion in Oxford, UK - who are working with pulsed power fusion. They give her a quick demonstration - starting with a children's xylophone but becoming a lot louder.
posted by rongorongo (12 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't watched this yet, but generally Fully Charged is well worth watching.
posted by Harald74 at 5:45 AM on September 18, 2019

I can just imagine BAM a future in which BAM our major energy supply BAM is based on this technology BAM and it is giving me BAM tinnitus.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:15 AM on September 18, 2019

I watched it, it's good.

First Light pulls their pants down pretty far and makes it clear that by and large everything about their approach is known engineering except for designing and fabricating targets that will substantially exceed unity gain -- in the millions, every five seconds, with a high amount of machine uptime.

I mean, that's the thing, yeah? What they've designed is a muzzle load musket that goes squib, won't even return unity; the ball falls out of the bore.

Yes, it's a first step to making a phalanx gun that can fire off six thousand rounds in a minute and then only need a wipedown before you reload it, but let's not pretend the journey from the musket was trivial.

Anyway, I'm glad they're working on it. It's a big planet, there's lots of smart people working on solving clean energy problems.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:19 AM on September 18, 2019 [6 favorites]

Very fascinating. I had no idea anyone was seriously working on fusion like this. Gives me hope.

(I did have a little niggle with the second guy's analogy of Eadweard Muybridge's series of photos of a horse galloping, with their using pulsed lasers. Muybridge didn't use any sort of bright flashes or strobes to capture the images. Just a series of cameras, set up outdoors, tripped by wires that the horse would hit as it ran past.)
posted by Thorzdad at 7:52 AM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Well it's only twenty years or so to a working... oh, darn that ol' twenty...
posted by sammyo at 8:02 AM on September 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's a Keurig K-cup business model:
For First Light Fusion, the target is what’s key. The rest of their set up predominantly uses existing technology. And here lies the business model opportunity: consumables. The plan would be to manufacture and sell the targets to power plant operators—the ultimate Nespresso capsule, as it were.
posted by peeedro at 8:05 AM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

It does seem like the pattern of fusion announcements goes something like Next Big Advance, Watch our amazing demo, with funding our first prototype, Invest now and we'll be building, demoing, writing a paper, writing a proposal, reviewing more literature, creating a really amazing web site that looks so cool.

Clearly a very hard problem that has hard science backing it, but

Also reading a bit more, the safety (no long half life radiation) should remain a concern, there are lots of neutrons and a wicked amount of heat. Probably don't need to worry for at least 25 years.
posted by sammyo at 8:13 AM on September 18, 2019

Don't know if they are using a Laser for their pulsing but I have new hopes for the Laser implosion approach. They say this is testable with the Lasers existing now.

"Achieving Extreme Light Intensities using Optically Curved Relativistic Plasma Mirrors"
posted by aleph at 8:26 AM on September 18, 2019

It's a Keurig K-cup business model:

That's fine. If it works, eventually someone will get break it down into a Mr. Fusion business model.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:32 AM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed the utter sterness with which the interviewee answered the discussion. I'm sure he s been laughed at enough, or stared at so many thousands of bits of melty orange plastic with that thought of "what am I doing"? In the face of the sheer weight and tedium of an empirical task measured in daily drips that drop for year after year.

I feel climate-science seen?
posted by eustatic at 5:42 PM on September 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

I did enjoy the glockenspiel, in terms of that being exactly the right amount of not-taking-themselves-too-seriously.

I'm definitely interested in what follows this over the next 5 years. I was surprised how much they have to redo in each impact, and I'm really keen that they do demonstrate fusion before too long, presumably when they get those plastic chambers shaped just right.
posted by ambrosen at 1:17 PM on September 20, 2019

And the delighted/mischievous grin from the staff member standing behind the presenter when they run the machine and she jumps at the bang is kind of nice. Kind of like sharing the joy of their big toy.
posted by ambrosen at 1:49 PM on September 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

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