Techpost #3

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Well this will be my third and final techpost (I know, I know, you’ll miss me…) but you knew this was coming. My final techpost will be about the future of electrical generation. Contrary to other technologies, due to the time-frame that we were given, my technology can be easily predicted into the future.

This technology moves at somewhat of a glacial pace. New test facilities require years to design, tens of years to build, and only last a couple dozen years for operation. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITER) This trivializes the assignment, but I will try to extend the vision further, to dream about the ramifications about the future tests.

Without further ado:

My future technology will be:

Fusion!

This technology will be used by everyone (hopefully by the time this is available, superconductors will be available and relatively inexpensive to provide power to the world!).

2 major milestones that will happen before this will be true: a new material has to be made to withstand the extreme temperature of the reactor since the fuel itself must exceed 100 million degrees for fusion to occur(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokamak). The temperature that the walls have to withstand is less since the fuel is generally never in direct contact. Also with the Plasma Facing Components, they have to withstand a high thermal load, and for this to work, the coolant must not be more than a centimeter or two from the face of the shield (http://www.iter.org). This is a problem since that wall is being bombarded with neutrons, scarring the shield and depositing radioactive tritium. Some say the materials design will be just as complicated as the overall reactor design.

The second milestone is more of an event. This may or may not happen in order to have my technology come around, but it would be very helpful as it would develop a quicker adoption and more funding for my technology. It is the depletion of our fossil fuels. This will spur more innovation for power generation, and possibly some international strife will occur just before the reserves are depleted. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil) This is seen from some people’s view that USA invaded Iraq for the oil. Also another point to consider is how the world reacted when Russia shut off gas to the EU. What will happen when Russia sees its reserves go low? They most undoubtedly will shut down the pipes to maintain its own reserves for its own citizens.  (http://italy.usembassy.gov/pdf/other/RS22378.pdf) If Russia can cut off the gas for something relatively trivial, what will stop them from doing so when the going gets tough?

I base my ideas for the first milestone on the current Tokamak reactors and the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor). One of the main research points is to find a material that is not deteriorated by the intense neutron bombardment from the fusion. One that will not be left irradiated. Due to the intense heat within these reactors, they have to be cooled, but also the material will be scarred and pockmarked by neutrons. This is not a good thing since the material that is being pulled off, will contaminate the interior of the reactor, slowing down the spontaneous burn. A new project has been developed to find a good material for the walls of the reactor. It is called the International Fusion Materials Irradiation Facility (http://www.frascati.enea.it/ifmif/)

I base my ideas for the second milestone on the simple fact that the amount of fossil fuel on our earth at the moment is fixed (basically) and our rate of consumption is astronomical. It’s just a matter of time.

In order to create this technology, I am looking to past developments of the Tokamak Reactors that were originally developed in the Soviet Union during the 1950s(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokamak). This design has proven to be quite interesting and efficient. We just need the technology to create strong enough materials to make this future a reality. One man said “They say that they will put the Sun in a box. The idea is pretty. The problem is, we don’t know how to build the box.” (http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/features/print/1954/fusion-20?page=0%2C2)

Now to extend the idea to an imaginary level. Hopefully in 50 years or so we will be able to have a blend of solar and fusion reactors. Electricity will be extremely abundant. Cars will be powered by micro-tokamaks. Developing countries will be given the opportunity to enter the global arena as well as improving communication. The Internet will see a larger adoption as more and more people flock to it. There will be more Nigerian spam. India with its stronger education programs especially in Computer Science, will no longer see the need for their professionals to run away to USA, England, etc since India will be able to provide adequate jobs to their own citizens. China will continue to use 75% of the world’s steel and concrete, never stopping until they reach their great walls. Then they will jump and continue.

Unlimited Energy? Yes Please!

. Retrieved April 6 2009, from Cosmos Magazine”]JET EFDA. (2009). Tokamak JET, [Online Image]. Retrieved April 6 2009, from Cosmos Magazine

Crossection View of ITER

Crossection View of ITER

Some great videos on the project, and fusion in general:

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~ by stln1234 on April 9, 2009.

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