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Star Scientific Ltd. and the return of muon-catalyzed fusion
Posted: 26 July 2011 01:36 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Is it just me, or does the fusion playing field seem to be getting a bit crowded lately?

The latest (?) contender making noise is Star Scientific Ltd., based in Sydney Australia. They’re claiming a breakthrough in the consistent and economical production of pions, which decay into muons. They have a 14+ minute introductory video here. (Skip ahead to 10:30 if you wish to avoid the introductory info on energy production and conventional fusion.) They also have a two-minute introduction to muon-catalyzed fusion here, and a mock-up of an electrical power plant (with the usual heat exchanger and steam turbines) here.

There is a FAQ here. Not much info on any sort of a timeline, or when the company expects to have a demonstration reactor ready. Also no mention of neutron activation in the containment vessel, although the FAQ does address the tritium issue, saying that no tritium remains or is emitted into the air as part of the process. However, there is this tidbit from a blog post by Executive Chairman Andrew Horvath:

...this is a technology which could be operational within years – not decades, not centuries.

In this blog post he says muon-catalyzed fusion could cost as little as 0.9c (Australian? Doesn’t really matter; the US and Australian dollar are roughly the same right now.) per kilowatt(-hour?).

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Posted: 26 July 2011 01:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Since 60s near Moscow are these facilities: Meson Factory http://www.inr.ac.ru/INR/MMF.html
And nobody considers muon catalyzed fusion as real. As estimation gives 5000MeV per synthesis of one meson.
If one muon catalyzed 100 fusion events - 50MeV specified per a single fusion event.

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Posted: 26 July 2011 03:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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These folks seem very light on details—their website is a paragon of vagueness.

And again, this is all just to create neutrons to create heat to boil water to turn a turbine to turn a generator.  (And presumably produce long-term radioactive equipment in the process.)

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Posted: 26 July 2011 04:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Tulse - 26 July 2011 03:03 PM

These folks seem very light on details—their website is a paragon of vagueness.

And again, this is all just to create neutrons to create heat to boil water to turn a turbine to turn a generator.  (And presumably produce long-term radioactive equipment in the process.)

First of all that is impractical. Energetic balance will be negative in any case.
500-600MeV protons hit as Iknow beryllium target.
I did not hear any other way for producing pi-mesons.
Rest mass of pi-meson (pion) 140MeV
Then they decay into muons (rest mass about 100MeV).
They need really 5000MeV for creation of each muon.

Concerning your anxiety on a residual radioactivity, today we aren’t able to gain net power even from deuterium-tritium fuel.
Yes, that reaction will produce some short life wastes. Much shorter than from fission reactors.

And very early to speak about aneutronic fuels.

Let’s move step by step.

But returning to muon catalyzed fusion, I am sure that it is dead-born idea.

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Posted: 27 July 2011 11:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Joseph Chikva - 26 July 2011 04:11 PM

500-600MeV protons hit as Iknow beryllium target.
I did not hear any other way for producing pi-mesons.
Rest mass of pi-meson (pion) 140MeV
Then they decay into muons (rest mass about 100MeV).
They need really 5000MeV for creation of each muon.

The alleged breakthrough here is some method for the efficient creation of pions, which presumably is designed to get around the energy problem you outline.  However, without any details on this “breakthrough”, it’s impossible to tell how plausible it is.  (The lack of detail itself may speak somewhat to the plausibility, however.)

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Posted: 27 July 2011 11:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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They should increase selectivity of process on orders of magnitude.
But in any case the rest mass of pions is 140MeV.
So, it is impossible for their creation to spend less energy than 140MeV.
And even in case of 100% selectivity but if taking into consideration efficiency of accelerators 30-35%, energy have to be spent per each pion from plug-to-pion would not be less than 400-467MeV.
But who believes that 100% selective pion production process is possible?

Then.
If I understand correctly, they declare that quantity of muons 1-2% from occurred fusion events.
So, one muon makes 50-100 fusion events.
If we take lower 400MeV per muon, required energy for their creation cpecified per each fusion event will be equal to 4-8MeV.
They talk about D-D reaction.
And how much energy can be gained from each fusion event?
More than 4MeV?
Effeciency of energy conversion? If 40%, so, 1.6MeV gained from each event.

output 1.6MeV vs. 4-8MeV input
And that if 100% selective process. Which is impossible by definition!

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Posted: 27 July 2011 01:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I was a little disappointed that their presentation did not include any specifics on muon production.  As muons are so heavy, their production must entail a lot of energy.  I would have liked to have understood from whence the energy came; whether from an external power source, or some earlier fusion byproduct.

Also, the process generates neutrons, which are responsible for for the radioactivity associated with waste.  How long-lived is the waste? (something that’s likely already known for the well-researched fusion antecedents)

Here’s hoping they break loose with a bit more detail soon.

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Posted: 28 July 2011 04:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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mchargue - 27 July 2011 01:01 PM

I was a little disappointed that their presentation did not include any specifics on muon production.  As muons are so heavy, their production must entail a lot of energy.  I would have liked to have understood from whence the energy came; whether from an external power source, or some earlier fusion byproduct.

There is no difference for energy balance from whence the energy comes; whether from an external power source, or some earlier fusion byproduct.
In any case there is a spent energy.

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Posted: 28 July 2011 01:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Joseph Chikva - 28 July 2011 04:42 AM
mchargue - 27 July 2011 01:01 PM

I was a little disappointed that their presentation did not include any specifics on muon production.  As muons are so heavy, their production must entail a lot of energy.  I would have liked to have understood from whence the energy came; whether from an external power source, or some earlier fusion byproduct.

There is no difference for energy balance from whence the energy comes; whether from an external power source, or some earlier fusion byproduct.
In any case there is a spent energy.

In speaking about ‘fusion byproducts’ above, I was alluding to the idea that some other fusion/fission process might be used to produce the pions at a lower input cost. 

In the same way that you add energy to a system in order to promote fusion, and then reap the (over unity) energy produced, I was wondering if there is a reaction that releases energy in the form of pions.  Maybe something that releases the energy of a heavier element in the form of prions…?

If a reaction like that were available, then pion production might be more efficient, and thus alter the energy cost of muon catalyzed fusion.

It’s just speculation at this point.  I’d really rather hear the company detail their process.

Pat

 

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Posted: 28 July 2011 04:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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mchargue - 28 July 2011 01:27 PM

In speaking about ‘fusion byproducts’ above, I was alluding to the idea that some other fusion/fission process might be used to produce the pions at a lower input cost.

 
You can not spend less than rest mass (140MeV)

mchargue - 28 July 2011 01:27 PM

In the same way that you add energy to a system in order to promote fusion, and then reap the (over unity) energy produced, I was wondering if there is a reaction that releases energy in the form of pions.  Maybe something that releases the energy of a heavier element in the form of prions…?

Once created muon then you should not spend more energy. As muon will be catched by nucleus creating first “meso-atom” in which muon plays electron’s role, then one “meso-atom” catches one more nucleus creating “meso-molecule” in which two nucleus aproach to each other close enough for acting of strong nuclear forces. That is spontaneous process.
After fusion event muon will create another “meso-atom” and so on till decay. That’s all.

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Posted: 28 July 2011 06:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Joseph Chikva - 28 July 2011 04:40 PM
mchargue - 28 July 2011 01:27 PM

In speaking about ‘fusion byproducts’ above, I was alluding to the idea that some other fusion/fission process might be used to produce the pions at a lower input cost.

 
You can not spend less than rest mass (140MeV)

mchargue - 28 July 2011 01:27 PM

In the same way that you add energy to a system in order to promote fusion, and then reap the (over unity) energy produced, I was wondering if there is a reaction that releases energy in the form of pions.  Maybe something that releases the energy of a heavier element in the form of prions…?

Once created muon then you should not spend more energy. As muon will be catched by nucleus creating first “meso-atom” in which muon plays electron’s role, then one “meso-atom” catches one more nucleus creating “meso-molecule” in which two nucleus aproach to each other close enough for acting of strong nuclear forces. That is spontaneous process.
After fusion event muon will create another “meso-atom” and so on till decay. That’s all.

OK.  A muon ‘costs’ 140MEV.

The current process for creating muons is not efficient, and costs about 5GEV.

However, if there is some other nuclear process that produces muons less expensively - and I don’t know what that is - then it may be that the cost associated with muon production can be lower.  The idea would then be to use that other process to manufacture muons for less than 140MEV.  Maybe by firing neutrons at some X-material which causes a reaction whose decay products include a rash of pions. (which themselves decay to muons)  The reaction in the X-material would simply have to release more energy (in terms of pions) than it consumes.

It’s speculation based on the assumption that the company is correct in their claims.

I’ve written them - I’ll see if they come back with anything that I can offer here.

Pat

 

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Posted: 28 July 2011 11:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Star Scientific answers…

——-
Dear Patrick,

Thank you for your email and interest in Star Scientific Limited.

Perfecting the technique to economically produce pions in vast quantities is
Star Scientific Limited’s major breakthrough in the generation of sustained
muon catalysed fusion and not something we can freely divulge. Thank you for
your interest and we look forward to sharing more news about our technology
with the broader community in the not too distant future.

Kind regards,

Amity Roche
Communications Representative for Star Scientific Limited
——-

Not entirely unexpected, although I do hope that someone’s monitoring patents!

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Posted: 29 July 2011 01:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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mchargue - 28 July 2011 06:20 PM

OK.  A muon ‘costs’ 140MEV.

The current process for creating muons is not efficient, and costs about 5GEV.

However, if there is some other nuclear process that produces muons less expensively - and I don’t know what that is - then it may be that the cost associated with muon production can be lower.


I have never heard about another process. May be some improvement is possible. But I do not sure that it would be on orders of magnitude as needed.

mchargue - 28 July 2011 06:20 PM

The idea would then be to use that other process to manufacture muons for less than 140MEV.

Technically achievable efficiency of accelerators does not exceed 35%.
140/0.35=400
Bellow 400 - impossible.
Neutron, X-material or some other reactants. In any case you should create particle and so, you should spend energy exceeding its rest energy.

selectivity of any nuclear process also not 100%

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Posted: 29 July 2011 04:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I know that current technology & understanding will not get a better cost for muons.  I was speculating on what process might be available that would match the company’s claims.

I’ll guess we’ll just have to wait…

Pat

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Posted: 29 July 2011 06:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Their video presentation smells as fake (actors rather than people working) and their equipment looks like props

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Posted: 30 July 2011 03:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Breakable - 29 July 2011 06:06 PM

Their video presentation smells as fake (actors rather than people working) and their equipment looks like props

I’ve noted the same odor myself, but we’ll see.  If there’s something there, a paper, or patent, will eventually be come out.  Grist for the mill until then.

 

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