Fusion Energy Research

  • #1
Hi.

I have a growing interest in fusion energy. For a couple of very important reasons, it seems to me that fusion energy is a major scientific priority, if not the most important technology to try to develop right now.

I have a BSc and an MSc in math and I've always had an interest in theoretical physics research. I am learning physics again on my own for recreation. But maybe I could actually try to be more serious about it and try to contribute to this fusion energy effort in some way.

I would like to know the requirements and possible avenues for this. First of all, what physics do I need to learn to be of any use? Do I need to have a PhD to be of any use? Is there a need for theoretical research? And what about computer simulation?

I would apreciate your help.

4ER
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
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First of all, what physics do I need to learn to be of any use?
Plasma physics. Fusion reactors are all about managing the plasma, the fusion part is easy if the plasma conditions are right. There is also a lot of material development for the walls and other components, R&D for the heating systems, tritium breeding and various other parts.
Do I need to have a PhD to be of any use?
If you want to contribute to academia (all the important fusion reactors) then the next step after a MSc will be a PhD, there is not even a choice. I don't know what you did for your MSc in mathematics, how difficult it is to switch to physics will depend on that.
Is there a need for theoretical research? And what about computer simulation?
What exactly do you consider "theoretical research"? There is not always a sharp line between theory and experiment.
There are a lot of computer simulations, yes.
 
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  • #3
Thank you for the reply.

By theoretical research I mean to ask this: do we need theoretical breakthroughs about plasma physics to optimize the fusion reactors, or is it "just" a matter of better engineering and technology? I imagine that there could be better ways of describing plasmas, or manipulating them, that are yet unknown. And that would be the place for a theoretical physicist to try to apply new ideas.
 
  • #4
berkeman
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do we need theoretical breakthroughs about plasma physics to optimize the fusion reactors, or is it "just" a matter of better engineering and technology?
Here is a list of the threads in the Nuclear Engineering forum that have "fusion" in their title:

https://www.physicsforums.com/search/87472335/?q=fusion&o=relevance&c[title_only]=1&c[node]=106

In particular, this one may be of interest to you:
Commercially Feasible Fusion Reactor

https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/commercially-feasible-fusion-reactor.939438/

:smile:
 
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  • #5
phyzguy
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I have a growing interest in fusion energy. For a couple of very important reasons, it seems to me that fusion energy is a major scientific priority, if not the most important technology to try to develop right now.
Why do you think the public will accept fusion energy when they have not accepted fission energy? A commercial fusion reactor will still produce significant amounts of radioactive waste, since the reactor has a finite life and the components of the reactor become radioactive through neutron activation. There is also a large inventory of radioactive materials on site, especially tritium which has significant biological impact when ingested. It is true that the radioactive waste from a fusion reactor is less long-lived than that from a fission reactor, but I don't think these quantitative arguments carry much weight with the general public.

Don't get me wrong, I am a nuclear energy proponent who has watched with dismay as fission energy has lost ground worldwide. I just fear that the opponents of fission energy will make the same arguments against fusion energy when you attempt to build a commercial reactor, and all of the hard work invested developing the technology will go nowhere.
 
  • #6
Why do you think the public will accept fusion energy when they have not accepted fission energy? A commercial fusion reactor will still produce significant amounts of radioactive waste, since the reactor has a finite life and the components of the reactor become radioactive through neutron activation. There is also a large inventory of radioactive materials on site, especially tritium which has significant biological impact when ingested. It is true that the radioactive waste from a fusion reactor is less long-lived than that from a fission reactor, but I don't think these quantitative arguments carry much weight with the general public.

Don't get me wrong, I am a nuclear energy proponent who has watched with dismay as fission energy has lost ground worldwide. I just fear that the opponents of fission energy will make the same arguments against fusion energy when you attempt to build a commercial reactor, and all of the hard work invested developing the technology will go nowhere.
Maybe the public won't accept it at first. But I think the advantages of fusion energy in terms of safety from meltdown, radioactive polution, less CO2 emissions, energetic self sufficiency for countries, and cost, will eventually convince enough of the public to make it happen.
 
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  • #7
Vanadium 50
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But do you want to become very specialized in the hope that the public will come around? As John Maynard Keynes said "The market can stay irrational a lot longer than you can stay solvent"
 
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  • #8
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Maybe the public won't accept it at first. But I think the advantages of fusion energy in terms of safety from meltdown, radioactive polution, less CO2 emissions, energetic self sufficiency for countries, and cost, will eventually convince enough of the public to make it happen.
Don't forget the 1% mass difference between starting material and end product(s), versus 0.1% for fission, and ten billionths of a percent for combustion*. Anyone interested in Einstein understands how that translates into fusion having a vastly superior energy output to fission (and especially combustion).

*Assuming combustion of methane in excess O2.
 
  • #9
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Don't forget the 1% mass difference between starting material and end product(s), versus 0.1% for fission, and ten billionths of a percent for combustion*. Anyone interested in Einstein understands how that translates into fusion having a vastly superior energy output to fission (and especially combustion).

*Assuming combustion of methane in excess O2.
That comparison is not useful if you don't take the cost of fuel into account. Deuterium is much more expensive than the same mass of coal, for example, and tritium is even more expensive because you have to produce it yourself.
 
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  • #10
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That comparison is not useful if you don't take the cost of fuel into account. Deuterium is much more expensive than the same mass of coal, for example, and tritium is even more expensive because you have to produce it yourself.
I'm prepared to subvert my conscience and disregard your excellent point for the sake of propagandizing this topic to the public.

<3
 
  • #11
Are the prices of deuterium and tritium fixed?
 
  • #12
Vanadium 50
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Are the prices of anything fixed?
 
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  • #13
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  • #14
phyzguy
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For a nuclear reactor (fission or fusion), I think the cost of the fuel is negligible. The capital cost dominates the cost of producing electricity.
 
  • #15
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The Leading companies in the UK is

https://www.tokamakenergy.co.uk/contact/
https://www.iaea.org/

See ITER, MAST-U,

the most recent and outrageous scientific article is http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/0029-5515/55/3/033001
as the paper quotes the Q of fusion as well above 1!

I am sure you don't require mansplaining as you have a MSc... don't waste it!

In the US there is a company called General Fusion

Nucl. Fusion 58 (2018) 016039 is

And look up the China Science park, they have the current record for the highest net energy, Q

other than that check out CDTs in fusion energy

Take care
 
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  • #16
Not to be nit picky, but General Fusion is in Canada.
 
  • #19
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The article compares all the plasma H-D fusion reactors in the world and extrapolates all the parameters by regression then picks a sweet spot which turns out to be a reactor that can fit into a living room. Then it compares the Q (net energy in:net energy out) equation which is a function of these parameters with the Monty Carlo Code, which is a rich simulation taking into account geometries and materials of a 'common' blue print and graphs the Q vs reactor size on page 4 which looks like a tenuous fit of a plateau at Q=12 between radii 2.8m to 4m then diverges away from each other significantly either side. The development of the laser is similar, so many different materials and energy level theories, until it finally worked.

This paper was published this year, which is a good read as it describes the engineering challenges.

http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1741-4326/aa8c8d

London. Wednesday 28 November 2018 6:30pm Faster Fusion: Fact or Fantasy?
Dr Alan Costley, Tokamak Energy

www.iop.org
 
  • #20
KFM
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The reactor is the heat generating machine the plant is everything required to feed it, and auxiliary equipment
 
  • #21
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Dear FourEyedRaven,

Well it has been almost 2 years since our comments.

Just wanted to add that HB-11 Hydrogen Boron 11 plasma pinch plasmoid machine by focus fusion and other groups is an amazing demonstration of an astronomical phenomenon on Earth. Check out the youtube videos. The materials issue looks difficult.

proving the existence and smoothness of a solution to the Navier Stokes would increase the capabilities of the Monty Carlo code
 
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  • #22
Dear FourEyedRaven,

Well it has been almost 2 years since our comments.

Just wanted to add that HB-11 Hydrogen Boron 11 plasma pinch plasmoid machine by focus fusion and other groups is an amazing demonstration of an astronomical phenomenon on Earth. Check out the youtube videos. The materials issue looks difficult.

proving the existence and smoothness of a solution to the Navier Stokes would increase the capabilities of the Monty Carlo code
Oh, ok. That's easy then! :oldbiggrin:

Thanks for the information. I'll be watching videos about it on YouTube.
 
  • #23
Dear FourEyedRaven,

Well it has been almost 2 years since our comments.

Just wanted to add that HB-11 Hydrogen Boron 11 plasma pinch plasmoid machine by focus fusion and other groups is an amazing demonstration of an astronomical phenomenon on Earth. Check out the youtube videos. The materials issue looks difficult.

proving the existence and smoothness of a solution to the Navier Stokes would increase the capabilities of the Monty Carlo code
Can you link a couple of videos about this?
Thanks.
 

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