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Nuclear fusion

  1. Mar 30, 2017 #1
    I'm new to this so please correct me if I'm doing this wrong. I'm curious to know about what practical uses are there for nuclear fusion other than a green power source.? I've already seen a few readings and a video from a Michel fellow about how it works, and it's fascinating stuff I'm not much for mathematics I'm willing to learn of course. But I'm wondering is there uses for the common person like say a fusion ran vehicles or planes etc... I'm sure I'm not the first to ask so if anyone could let me know and willing to teach me how to get into advanced mathematics I'll be willing and eager to learn.
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  3. Mar 30, 2017 #2


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    There are no practical uses for fusion for the average person at this time. Fusion power plants, when and if we get them working, will probably be massive devices that could never fit in a plane or car. But who knows? In another hundred years we may have fusion powered cell phones or something.
  4. Mar 30, 2017 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    Mr. Fusion!
  5. Mar 30, 2017 #4
    The are a few labs that are looking at ways to use a fusion reactor as a neutron generator. If you not interested in producing energy, then it's actually very easy to use fusion to produce high energy neutron. These neutrons have a number of scientific and industrial uses. For instance these neutrons can be used to detect explosives. One could use these neutrons to scan shipping containers at ports. Or you could put one of these reactors on the front of a military truck and use the neutrons to search for IEDs. The neutrons can also be used to manufacture medical isotopes. There's actually a company starting up in Wisconsin that is going to use a fusion source with a fission multiplier to manufacture medical isotopes.

    A lot of fusion research is really fundamental plasma science and plasmas also have a number of industrial applications. Plasmas are used in the manufacture of many computer chips. Plasmas are also used to sterilize wounds. Plasma thrusters are used to propel satellites across the solar system. There's a lot of research going into plasma based accelerators which have potential to shrink mile long beam lines onto a table top device.
  6. Apr 2, 2017 #5
    In the 1940’s and 1950’s, there were endless predictions of how “atomic energy” (i.e. fission) was going to power land vehicles and airplanes and everything else. One Alex Lewyt, a leading manufacturer of vacuum cleaners, stated in 1955: ”Nuclear powered vacuum cleaners will be a reality within ten years.”

    How did that work out?

    Fast forward 60 years, and the U.S. cannot even manufacture a large-scale nuclear power plant (see Georgia and So. Carolina debacles). But don’t fret- everything will be powered by Lockheed’s compact fusion reactor, also within ten years.

    As noted by Wolfman above, fission and fusion neutrons can actually be used to make valuable isotopes, but even that modest enterprise has been shut down in the U.S.
  7. Apr 2, 2017 #6


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    The appeal of fusion is that it potentially permits unlimited power production with very little nuclear waste. That seems a large social good.
    The glitch is that it is a hard problem which got funded generously only as long as there was cold war demand for fusion experts, the idea being to use the power research to develop talents that could then be tapped by the security sector. Once the cold war ended, the military support did as well, so the money flow was reduced to a trickle. Worse yet, the effort was then made multinational, an approach guaranteed to multiply costs and maximize delays, because the object shifts from project success to maximizing the benefit for each participant and the associated bureaucracy.
    Meanwhile, the US is gradually getting dumber, with an increasingly vocal anti science anti rational culture emerging. That trend is exacerbated by the shift of the best and the brightest away from productive sciences towards the financial and entertainment sectors as well as the gradual de-industrialization of the country. So the likelihood of the US leading the charge to make fusion a practical reality and to achieve that good is declining steadily.
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