By Pat Pilcher
Monday, 11 January 2010
…To date, experimental fusion projects have largely been focused on generating intense heat so they can fuse, and containing the super hot gases from this reaction consumes most if not all of the energy being produced by the fusion reaction.
The University of Florida have taken a different tack, by putting hydrogen and boron fuel into an accelerator that fires them towards each other at incredibly high velocities. When the hydrogen and boron 11 atoms smash into each other, they fuse, producing fast moving helium nuclei whose motion is converted into electricity.
This new process is clean, highly efficient and most important of all, simple. The output of the new reactor is electricity with its by-product being the same helium gas used to make voices squeaky and party balloons float, so there's no toxic radioactive waste to dispose of.
Initial calculations also show that this new type of fusion generation could produce clean electricity at similar levels but far more cheaply than oil or coal.
Because the reactor also operates using relatively simple engineering principles (especially compared to the current crop of fusion reactors), commercialising it is likely to involve significantly shorter time-frames than other fusion technologies.
Although technology is still however very experimental and has yet to be fully proven, a feasibility study into this new fusion process has been kicked off, and if it is found to be viable, it could become commercially available in as little as a decade, here's hoping.