Nuclear Fusion in China

Discussion of current events
User avatar
Sertorio
Posts: 5893
Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:12 am

Nuclear Fusion in China

Post by Sertorio » Tue Nov 16, 2021 10:00 am

Chinese scientists strike early gold in race to nuclear fusion power
by Stephen Chen - Published: 3:00am, 11 Nov, 2021
https://www.scmp.com/news/china/science ... sion-power

At a Shanghai facility the size of a soccer field, Chinese scientists are firing powerful laser beam pulses at a tiny pair of gold cones in a bid to replicate the nuclear fusion process at the heart of the sun.

The cones, as small as pencil tips, have narrow ends which face each other and emit a plasma of hydrogen. When the two hot gas streams collide at precisely the right time and place, and in the right manner, they trigger a fusion reaction – the process which ultimately could provide a source of endless, sustainable energy.

With government funding of 1 billion yuan (US$156 million) over six years, Zhang Zhe and his colleagues from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Physics in Beijing began their unprecedented experiments at the Shenguang II laser facility in Shanghai last summer.

The research team has conducted three tests so far, with another scheduled for next month, and encountered some unexpected challenges. But initial results suggest the theory works and part of the findings were published last week in domestic peer-reviewed journal Acta Physica Sinica.

“Our goal is to achieve sustainable fusion,” Zhang said in a phone interview on Tuesday. For power generation, “the cones can be mass-produced and loaded as bullets in a machine that will rotate and fire like a Gatling gun”.

The race to fusion power heated up in August, when researchers with the US National Ignition Facility (NIF) achieved an energy output eight times greater than ever before. While the output was still lower than the energy input, the breakthrough gave hope as well as added pressure to research teams in other countries, including China.

The NIF experiment aimed more than 100 extremely strong laser beams at a single target, using some of the largest laser generators on Earth, producing enough heat to deform mirrors but also reducing accuracy after repeated shots.

In China, researchers were looking for a cheaper, simpler way to achieve fusion with a less powerful laser. One result was the double-cone ignition scheme developed in 1997 by Zhang Jie, a leading Chinese physicist and former president of Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The plasma generated by relatively weak laser beams on a single target was insufficient to create the right conditions for fusion, but when two plasma streams hit each other, the temperature, density and pressure of the gas would increase significantly to allow two atoms to fuse into one and release energy in the process.

The idea remained on paper for two decades because the required cutting edge laser technology was not available. However, Chinese scientists have recently built some of the world’s most powerful ultra-fast laser sources able to release a considerable amount of energy in a split second. It was these new technologies which paved the way for the government’s greenlight of the experiment in Shanghai last year.

The gold cones vaporise after fusion, but “the cost of gold will be extremely small – if not negligible – in the future operation of a power plant”, Zhang Zhe said.

“A small grain of gold can make thousands of cones.”

The “fuels” for fusion inside the cones – icy balls of deuterium and tritium, two isotopes of hydrogen – are more expensive than the precious metal, used because of gold’s large number of electrons, according to Zhang Zhe. The more electrons, the more heat a material can absorb before changing shape. And the softness of gold makes it relatively easy to process mechanically.

Each golden cone in the Shanghai experiment cost a few hundred dollars, compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars for a target in the NIF experiment. But, for Zhang Zhe and his colleagues, some issues are more challenging than money.

For instance, during the laser bombardment the hydrogen fuel is supposed to compress inside the cone, implode and shoot out like a rocket flame. For better control of the process, the researchers coated the fuel with a thin layer of heat-absorbing plastic material. But they found there were always holes on the plastic’s surface which would turn into bubbles when hit by the laser.

In their experiments, Zhang Zhe and his team found the bubbles were detrimental to the fusion process because they could burst and take away a lot of energy. To tackle this problem, the researchers came up with a number of solutions, including increasing the thickness of the plastic shell and boosting the stability of the laser beams.

“We are making progress one step at a time. By 2026, a new generation of large-scale laser facilities will be finished or near completion in China. They will lift the game to a whole new level,” Zhang Zhe said.

A Beijing-based nuclear fusion scientist said the budget for the Shanghai research was small compared to the investment in other fusion projects. The world’s largest fusion research project, the International Thermal Experimental Reactor in southern France (ITER), for example, has an estimated budget of US$45 to US$65 billion.

The idea of creating an artificial sun to generate an enormous, endless and clean supply of energy has been around for decades, and scientists have come up with different approaches that sometimes compete for resources and attention.

ITER uses the biggest contender for the laser approach (also known as inertial confinement fusion), the tokamak – a device that can generate and trap hot gas with an extremely powerful magnetic field for fusion to take place inside.

“The double-cone scheme is a brilliant idea. The tokamak is generally believed to be more suitable for large-scale power production, but some recent breakthroughs in the laser-powered experiments suggest this approach can be a strong candidate,” said the researcher, who asked not to be named because of his military work.

“It is difficult to predict which approach or which country will win the race at this stage. There are too many uncertainties ahead,” he said. “But in the end, different technologies, different nations may need to unite as one to bring fusion from dream to life.”
We will have to wait and see, but this is an additional sign that Chinese science does not have to follow whatever is done in the West. And those who systematically underestimate China may soon realize how wrong they have been.

User avatar
SteveFoerster
Posts: 2518
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2016 7:17 pm
Location: Probably DCA, YYJ, or DOM
Contact:

Re: Nuclear Fusion in China

Post by SteveFoerster » Tue Nov 16, 2021 10:16 am

Sertorio wrote:
Tue Nov 16, 2021 10:00 am
We will have to wait and see, but this is an additional sign that Chinese science does not have to follow whatever is done in the West. And those who systematically underestimate China may soon realize how wrong they have been.
Hardly -- we'll all be in the ground before fusion is practical. Their willingness to experiment with thorium molten salt reactors is a lot more meaningful than this.
Writer, technologist, educator, gadfly.
President of New World University: https://newworld.ac

User avatar
cassowary
Posts: 5294
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2016 11:30 pm

Re: Nuclear Fusion in China

Post by cassowary » Tue Nov 16, 2021 8:13 pm

I told you guys before. With China’s large population, it can produce more scientists and engineers than the west and Japan combined. They will overtake you and seek to impose its dictatorship on the world. Bush 1 made a mistake letting China into the WTO thinking economic growth will turn China into a peaceful democracy. America has missed the opportunity to remake the world into its own image - democracy.

Now China is going to remake the world into its own image - dictatorship.
The Imp :D

User avatar
Sertorio
Posts: 5893
Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:12 am

Re: Nuclear Fusion in China

Post by Sertorio » Wed Nov 17, 2021 1:45 am

cassowary wrote:
Tue Nov 16, 2021 8:13 pm
I told you guys before. With China’s large population, it can produce more scientists and engineers than the west and Japan combined. They will overtake you and seek to impose its dictatorship on the world. Bush 1 made a mistake letting China into the WTO thinking economic growth will turn China into a peaceful democracy. America has missed the opportunity to remake the world into its own image - democracy.

Now China is going to remake the world into its own image - dictatorship.
Much as I admire China - and I do! - I am not at all interested in copying its image. I expect us in Europe to remain as European as we now are, only on a friendly relationship with another old civilization. That's what civilized people do - Chinese and European - be friends while being independent of each other.

User avatar
cassowary
Posts: 5294
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2016 11:30 pm

Re: Nuclear Fusion in China

Post by cassowary » Wed Nov 17, 2021 6:19 am

Sertorio wrote:
Wed Nov 17, 2021 1:45 am
cassowary wrote:
Tue Nov 16, 2021 8:13 pm
I told you guys before. With China’s large population, it can produce more scientists and engineers than the west and Japan combined. They will overtake you and seek to impose its dictatorship on the world. Bush 1 made a mistake letting China into the WTO thinking economic growth will turn China into a peaceful democracy. America has missed the opportunity to remake the world into its own image - democracy.

Now China is going to remake the world into its own image - dictatorship.
Much as I admire China - and I do! - I am not at all interested in copying its image. I expect us in Europe to remain as European as we now are, only on a friendly relationship with another old civilization. That's what civilized people do - Chinese and European - be friends while being independent of each other.
They will undermine democracy wherever they can, starting with the newer, poorer ones. China under the CCP will be a bad influence on the world.
The Imp :D

User avatar
SteveFoerster
Posts: 2518
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2016 7:17 pm
Location: Probably DCA, YYJ, or DOM
Contact:

Re: Nuclear Fusion in China

Post by SteveFoerster » Wed Nov 17, 2021 6:43 am

cassowary wrote:
Tue Nov 16, 2021 8:13 pm
I told you guys before. With China’s large population, it can produce more scientists and engineers than the west and Japan combined. They will overtake you and seek to impose its dictatorship on the world.
Demographics are very, very far from being the only input when calculating how many STEM experts a society will produce.
Writer, technologist, educator, gadfly.
President of New World University: https://newworld.ac

User avatar
Doc
Posts: 6259
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2016 7:09 pm
Location: Cradle To Grave

Re: Nuclear Fusion in China

Post by Doc » Wed Nov 17, 2021 1:40 pm

SteveFoerster wrote:
Wed Nov 17, 2021 6:43 am
cassowary wrote:
Tue Nov 16, 2021 8:13 pm
I told you guys before. With China’s large population, it can produce more scientists and engineers than the west and Japan combined. They will overtake you and seek to impose its dictatorship on the world.
Demographics are very, very far from being the only input when calculating how many STEM experts a society will produce.
With Scientists and advanced research quality is much more important then quality. In China you can't flunk out of college.
“"I fancied myself as some kind of god....It is a sort of disease when you consider yourself some kind of god, the creator of everything, but I feel comfortable about it now since I began to live it out.” -- George Soros

User avatar
Milo
Posts: 3519
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2016 10:14 pm

Re: Nuclear Fusion in China

Post by Milo » Wed Nov 17, 2021 5:48 pm

Doc wrote:
Wed Nov 17, 2021 1:40 pm
SteveFoerster wrote:
Wed Nov 17, 2021 6:43 am
cassowary wrote:
Tue Nov 16, 2021 8:13 pm
I told you guys before. With China’s large population, it can produce more scientists and engineers than the west and Japan combined. They will overtake you and seek to impose its dictatorship on the world.
Demographics are very, very far from being the only input when calculating how many STEM experts a society will produce.
With Scientists and advanced research quality is much more important then quality. In China you can't flunk out of college.

Exactly, if this was a numbers game, China and India would be vastly ahead of all other countries, wouldn’t they?

User avatar
Doc
Posts: 6259
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2016 7:09 pm
Location: Cradle To Grave

Re: Nuclear Fusion in China

Post by Doc » Thu Nov 18, 2021 8:36 am

Milo wrote:
Wed Nov 17, 2021 5:48 pm
Doc wrote:
Wed Nov 17, 2021 1:40 pm
SteveFoerster wrote:
Wed Nov 17, 2021 6:43 am
cassowary wrote:
Tue Nov 16, 2021 8:13 pm
I told you guys before. With China’s large population, it can produce more scientists and engineers than the west and Japan combined. They will overtake you and seek to impose its dictatorship on the world.
Demographics are very, very far from being the only input when calculating how many STEM experts a society will produce.
With Scientists and advanced research quality is much more important then quality. In China you can't flunk out of college.

Exactly, if this was a numbers game, China and India would be vastly ahead of all other countries, wouldn’t they?
Yes they would. In fact most of their medical doctors went to school and were trained in the US.
“"I fancied myself as some kind of god....It is a sort of disease when you consider yourself some kind of god, the creator of everything, but I feel comfortable about it now since I began to live it out.” -- George Soros

User avatar
cassowary
Posts: 5294
Joined: Thu Dec 15, 2016 11:30 pm

Re: Nuclear Fusion in China

Post by cassowary » Thu Nov 18, 2021 3:46 pm

SteveFoerster wrote:
Wed Nov 17, 2021 6:43 am
cassowary wrote:
Tue Nov 16, 2021 8:13 pm
I told you guys before. With China’s large population, it can produce more scientists and engineers than the west and Japan combined. They will overtake you and seek to impose its dictatorship on the world.
Demographics are very, very far from being the only input when calculating how many STEM experts a society will produce.
True. Education is another factor. This is connected with wealth. The richer the country, the better the education. Now China is richer than before. It has better schools than before. So it will produce better Scientists and Engineers. They have already overtaken the US in hypersonic missiles.

The Big Mistake was not to finish the CCP off after the Fall do the Berlin Wall. Why did Bush I allow China into the WTO? Now freedom and democracy will be rolled back. Worse, Americans are still not taking the Chinese threat seriously. They will change you. Soon, like your footballers, you won’t dare even to criticise China.

Unlike big mouth Khrushchev (we will bury you all), China is using the boiled frog approach. Bit by bit, they want to remake the world in their image.
The Imp :D

Post Reply