There is, even more, evidence that indicates the most disruptive energy technology of all; commercial hot fusion is almost here. Researchers at MIT’s Plasma and Science Fusion Center (PSFC) just made an important step that was quickly duplicated at two other facilities.
The PSFC tested a new fuel that raised energy production to megaelectron volt (one million volt) levels in the Alcator C-mod tokamak fusion reactor, MIT News reported. Their results were so encouraging that the work was successfully duplicated at the Laboratory for Plasma Physics in Brussels and the Joint European Torus (JET) reactor in Oxfordshire, Popular Mechanics reported.
“These higher energy ranges are in the same range as activated fusion products,” PSFC research scientist John C. Wright told MIT News. “To be able to create such energetic ions in a non-activated device — not doing a huge amount of fusion — is beneficial, because we can study how ions with energies comparable to fusion reaction products behave, how well they would be confined.”
New Fuel Might Bring Fusion Closer
That means the Alcator C-Mod, or a similar reactor might be able to generate enough power to achieve fusion. The new fuel uses three ion species; hydrogen, deuterium and trace amounts of helium-3 or He-3, instead of just two. That apparently gives it the extra kick needed to increase the power because the helium-3 absorbs more energy.
The Alcator C-Mod works by using industrial magnets to contain super-hot plasma and a technique called radio-frequency (RF) heating to generate temperatures necessary to achieve fusion. The new fuel increases the effectiveness of RF heating by absorbing more of the heat.
RF heating expert and MIT Professor Miklos Porkolab thinks this method might increase the energy output of another fusion reactor design the stellerator. He hopes to use the new fuel in Germany’s Wendelstein 7-X stellarator at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Greifswald.
Is Successful Hot Fusion just a Matter of Engineering?
The MIT announcement came just days Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) announced that it had tremendously sped up fusion research at Tri Alpha Energy with Google Research’s Optometrist algorithm. Energy losses in Tri Alpha’s C2-U have been reduced by 50% thanks to computations made by Optometrist, The Guardian reported.
All this indicates that successful commercial hot fusion might be just a matter of engineering and investment. These developments lend credence to Professor Dennis G. Whyte’s prediction that it might be possible to build a commercial fusion reactor by 2025. Since Whyte made the prediction in 2015, it means fusion is just eight years away (or near the end of President Trump’s theoretical second term).
Whyte is the head of MIT’s Department Nuclear Science and Engineering and the PSFC. So the man definitely knows what he’s talking about, which should excite environmentalists and scare fossil-fuel investors to death.
Hot Fusion is a Super Disruptive Technology
The PSFC is definitely an organization to watch because its next goal after Alcator C-Mod is to build a tokamak reactor capable of generating 50 megawatts (50 million watts) of electricity. That would be enough electricity to power a city the size of Pueblo, Colorado, (population: 110,000) without burning fossil fuel or putting out any pollution.
That would be a threat to coal producers, oil companies and even solar energy producers like Tesla Energy (NASDAQ: TSLA). Who is going to invest in a field of solar panels that only collects power half the day, when a fusion reactor generates vast amounts of energy 24 hours a day seven-days a-week?
Other incredibly disruptive uses for hot fusion reactors would include:
- Powering gigantic ocean-going vessels such as aircraft carriers, supertankers, super freighters and cruise ships.
- The ultimate waste disposal solution. Since a fusion reactor is as hot; or hotter than the sun (up to 100 million degrees Celsius), all you would need to do to burn up anything you did not want is toss it in. That means it would be possible to burn up any biological, nuclear, chemical or toxic waste and vast amounts of trash without creating pollution.
- Powering next generation transportation solutions such as electric cars and the Hyperloop.
- Powering industrial facilities such as steel mills, cement plants, chemical plants, oil refineries and auto factories.
- Creating vast amounts of steam to heat cities, so natural gas would not be necessary.
- Greatly reducing the demand for coal, petroleum and natural gas.
- Increasing the supply of fossil fuels by greatly reducing the cost of extracting, transporting and processing them.
- Sending oil, coal and natural prices into the toilet.
- Making desalination (the removal of salt) of sea water practical on a vast scale. This would end the water crisis and open up vast amounts of new land for real estate development in the world’s driest regions (sorry environmentalists). Desalination is fairly easy with modern technology but the cost is prohibitive because of energy requirements.
- Making it economical to pump vast amounts of water over long distances.
- Making it economical to convert almost all railroads to electric propulsion – which would greatly increase the speed and lower the operating costs of trains.
- Ending the controversy over climate change because the carbon-emissions problem would be solved.
Bill Gates smells Big Money in Hot Fusion
As you can see whoever starts marketing a commercial hot fusion process is going to make vast amounts of money. This is another reason why legendary value investor Bill Gates and his Microsoft (NYSE: MSTF) partner Paul Allen, are so interested in hot fusion. Allen is the owner of Tri Alpha Energy. They smell cash and lots of it in the world of hot fusion.
Interestingly enough there is one group that stands to lose from success at MIT; it is the management team at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in Saint Paul Lez Durance, France. The ITER has a $22 billion (€20 billion) price tag; and it is not supposed to be operational until 2035, The New York Times reported.
If somebody else flips the switch on a commercial fusion reactor before 2025; as Whyte has predicted, politicians are going to be asking tough questions about ITER. Meanwhile, Bill Gates and Paul Allen might be laughing all the way to the bank again.