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Q & A: inertial fusion

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Most recent answer: 07/15/2013
Q:
Why does nuclear fusion power have to be "self-sustaining", with all the complexity of containment? Nuclear fusion explosions are scalable down to 2 atoms. Why can't very small discrete nuclear fusion explosions be generated by laser (or other heat source) in very large vessels and the mechanical and heat energy from them be directly captured and converted into electricity sufficient to power the laser (and refine the deuterium fuel etc.), with the excess energy put on the power grid? That's just how a gasline piston engine works with chemicals and an electric spark. Seems simpler to me.
- David Ryan (age 52)
Louisville, KY, USA
A:

That's the "inertial fusion" program, on which there's been quite a lot of research. It may someday work, but it's extraordinarily hard to get the necessary compression and heating from the laser pulse. Then harvesting the energy isn't so easy either.

Mike W.


(published on 07/15/2013)

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