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View Diary: Fusion Microchips - Power for the Future? (20 comments)

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  •  Totally not part of the original Spectrum article (3+ / 0-)
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    antooo, wilderness voice, eyesoars

    The IEEE Spectrum article talks about a particle accelerator on a chip.  But it doesn't talk about fusion: That's like saying that a spoon can dam the Yangtze River.  

    The article points out that the chip creates energy levels nine to ten (decimal) orders of magnitude lower than CERN.  If the chip can be made a few orders of magnitude more powerful, it might become a medical tool, useful in surgery.  (Proton knives are the latest Big Medicine tool, costing about $100M.  This might become a cheap one.)  But that's still orders of magnitude away from fusion.

    There are basically two possible approaches to fusion.  One is the "big science" approach, using high energy to overcome the forces that prevent fusion.  This is what happens in the Sun under mega-gravity.  It is hard, and may never have a net gain in a practical power system.  It has been thirty years from commercialization for fifty years or so.  The other approach, low-energy fusion, is more controversial.  It is not proven at all; the idea is that maybe there are other ways that nuclei might fuse that don't require more energy input than output and which  work on a small scale at lower temperatures.  The famous/infamous (depends on your point of view) Pons-Fleischmann palladium cold fusion cell is one possible example, though it may not work at all (this is rather controversial -- it is devilishly hard to reproduce but apparently has been done).

    The particle accelerator on a chip takes a big-science approach (particle acceleration) on a small scale (not billions of electron volts), where fusion is simply not in the offing.  It's still a neat development; let's just not misunderstand what it does or what it could be good for.

    •  READ THE F*ing PATENT APPLICATION (0+ / 0-)

      ... that's why I linked it.  The IEEE article, true, doesn't mention fusion.  The inventors' patent application, on the other hand, is all about nuclear fusion applications.  There's no question what they're aiming at.

      I knew I was going to get this off-the-cuff objection based on just the IEEE article, sheesh... people please read first, then yap your yapper.  OK?

      •  Patents are often full of crap (0+ / 0-)

        The USPTO is full of applications for perpetual motion machines, even though they're not patentable.  Often the patent is granted -- the perpetual motion aspect is obscured in the wording.

        There's nothing in the proposed technology that has ANYTHING AT ALL to do with nuclear fusion!  The Spectrum editors figured that out.  You may imagine that somehow a chip can achieve tera-eletron-volt power somehow, but that's not proposed.  Getting a car to go 60 MPH is one thing; getting something to go 60,000 MPH is something else.  Hence the term "rocket science". We've got a cute new little red wagon here, not a rocket.

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