Scientists Create Cheap Plasma, Cheap Fusion Energy to Follow?
Technology Articles 11/28/11
By: Chris Capps
In the long lasting search for a fusion reaction capable of producing more energy than is required to power the device itself, there have been a number of breakthroughs but ultimately none that result in a fusion reactor capable of generating power. And now scientists have created a method of producing plasma using only a few dollars worth of components in a lab. The method emits light bright enough to be seen in a darkened space or, in some rare cases, in sunlight.
The new plasma is very similar to those used in nuclear fusion tests around the globe, but with only a fraction of the cost. The reaction occurring within the test tubes is the result of a process called sonoluminescence which allows the fluid contained within it to emit an intense light and reach temperatures of several times the heat of the surface of the sun. How do they do it? Phosphoric acid and xenon are the two primary components according to scientists involved in the project. Professor Andrea Sella and Professor Seth Putterman both worked to create the effect, but warn that it's not quite the final answer in the fusion power equation. However, it is likely that future scientists will draw heavily from this possibility as they explore the possibilities of fusion power in the future.
The future, according to advocates of fusion power, will have a far different set of problems once the reaction is demonstrated in a lab. Instead of focusing on the weighty problem of energy resource consumption, we will merely have to take matter and put it into the reactor to turn it into the appropriate fusion device, which will then work much in the same way as a standard nuclear reactor, except that it will essentially be powered safely and freely using very little matter.
Furthermore, the plasma created is far more dense than most previous experiments with plasma which may necessitate calling it something completely new. This new even more dense plasma is not quite liquid, but also not quite plasma either making it something completely new - and a possible avenue to exploit in the future for physicists. Previous nuclear fusion experiments created plasmas that were as little as one 10,000th the density of this newly created plasma. The scientists are currently looking for the factor that could boost the equation and give the solution something the actual final step toward fusion. And the low price will make the experiments more accessible to private inventors and scientists. Is this the next frontier of research into a new power source that could solve all of the world's energy concerns? Not yet, but it seems we are fairly early in the game and matter - once again - has proven it holds a great many mysteries still.
Meanwhile, the Andrea Rossi experiments continue to generate controversy with the principle of weak force nuclear reactions.