Homepage Forums Innovative Confinement Concepts (ICC) and others Helion claims commercialisation by 2019 is feasible

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  • #1611
    Avatarvansig
    Member

    http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/07/helion-energy-plans-to-enable.html

    They got $5 million from DOE and are raising $35 million. The chief researcher John Slough also has a NASA funded direct fusion rocket project.

    The Fusion Engine will Enable Profitable Fusion Energy in 2019
    Developed by Engineers to be Commercially Practical
    Fast, affordable development (50 MW module, truck-sized)
    Fusion is clean, safe, and generates no hazardous byproducts
    Fusion energy is converted directly to electricity, eliminating capital costs
    Uses demonstrated physics

    Scientifically Legitimate
    Fusion Engine technology supported by DOE Office of Fusion Energy
    IAEA best of peer reviewed fusion paper – 2011
    Field leading advocates and independent validation
    4th prototype operational in Redmond, WA

    How the Fusion Engine Works
    Formation -Plasma is generated by ionizing gas in a Field Reversed Configuration
    Accelerator -Plasma is accelerated to high velocities using pulsed magnetic fields
    Collision -Two plasmas are collided and compressed to transfer kinetic energy to heat
    Burn Chamber -Conditions are formed to initiate fusion of fuel
    Energy Generation -Fusion plasma is converted to i) direct energy ii) fuel for further operation

    #13406
    Avatarzapkitty
    Member

    vansig wrote: http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/07/helion-energy-plans-to-enable.html

    Helion’s “Fusion Engine” (FE) concept is a neutronic D-T design… a standard deuteriun-tritium burner.

    In other words while it would be an immense improvement over fission it’s still “dirty” fusion which needs a radioactive fuel (tritium) and would produce high-powered radioactive waste via neutron activation of its burn chamber components.

    Their current PR push can be a bit… misleading. Unless it’s parsed carefully you could almost swear it was an aneutroic fusion design. 🙂

    Fusion is clean, safe, and generates no hazardous byproducts

    D-T fusion is safe, vastly safer than fission, and it doesn’t leave massive amounts of white-hot radioactive fuel byproducts behind… but it will leave a trail of very radioactive burn chambers behind.

    Like all neutronic fusion waste these will be highly radioactive, lethally so, but thermally cool and inert with a hazardous lifetime of maybe ~300 years … instead of the hazardous lifetime of many thousands of years of fission waste.

    Indeed, one of the design features of the FE is that the burn chamber is separate from the plasma injectors and thus can be replaced as a module when needed.

    Fusion energy is converted directly to electricity, eliminating capital costs

    Apparently an MHD design driven by the fusion products in the burn chamber reacting against imposed magnetic fields.

    Speculation is rife on this part but it seems that if they’re omitting the steam cycle totally they’ll give up a large portion of the possible fusion power output in return for much cheaper and more compact direct conversion gear buit into the reactor itself.

    But it seems more likely that they’ll use MHD to tap the fusion products for enough energy to power the device itself… but still needing to have a separate steam cycle for net power output to the grid. If that’s the case then perhaps a more accurate phrasing would be “eliminating [em]some[/em] of the usual capital costs associated with neutronic fusion”

    Energy Generation -Fusion plasma is converted to i) direct energy ii) fuel for further operation

    This implies a standard D-T setup… breeding tritiium from a lithium blanket surrounding the burn chamber.

    #13408
    AvatarTulse
    Participant

    zapkitty wrote: it seems more likely that they’ll use MHD to tap the fusion products for enough energy to power the device itself… but still needing to have a separate steam cycle for net power output to the grid. If that’s the case then perhaps a more accurate phrasing would be “eliminating [em]some[/em] of the usual capital costs associated with neutronic fusion”

    Once you need [em]any[/em] sort of steam-turbine-generator setup, that presumably wipes out almost all the capital savings, right? Sure, you might be able to get away with a smaller turbine and generator, but I would think the main cost is the physical plant and gear associated with [em]any[/em] sort of steam generation.

    In other words, if they’re not fully direct generation, I’m not sure how they can claim that there is any significant capital savings.

    #13409
    Avatarzapkitty
    Member

    fixed your quotes up above

    Tulse wrote:
    Once you need [em]any[/em] sort of steam-turbine-generator setup, that presumably wipes out almost all the capital savings, right?

    Yes, the steam turbine gear, generator, supporting waterworks and the maintenance for it all are the largest portion of the costs of building and operating a current fossil or fission power plant.

    And, as with a fission plant, a D-T fusion plant would also use its neutron output to heat water to create steam to turn turbines to power a generator etc. etc.

    This has been regarded as the de facto standard design for fusion reactors as the D-T reaction is the easiest to achieve and ~80% of the energy output of the D-T reaction goes into the neutrons produced.

    Tulse wrote: Sure, you might be able to get away with a smaller turbine and generator, but I would think the main cost is the physical plant and gear associated with [em]any[/em] sort of steam generation.

    One way around it would be to discount the neutronic output of the D-T reaction as a loss… to only use it for breeding tritium from lithium.

    But this would require a high gain factor from the reactor. Let’s say the reactor has an energy gain factor (Q) of ~10… ITER is expected to have a Q of ~10 and the follow-on DEMO project a Q of maybe 25.

    So with a Q of 10 then 1 MW of input would get you 10 MW of output. That would be about 2 MW of directly convertible fusion products and 8 MW of neutrons.

    (Unlike steam turbines the various direct conversion processes can be [em]very[/em] efficient. 80% efficiency is a reasonable goal.)

    So if you discount the neutron output then the 2 MW left over becomes ~1.6 MW after direct conversion.

    Your gain factor of 10 becomes a factor of 1.6… but you get rid of the expensive, bulky and costly to maintain steam-related gear.

    The tech details in the release are almost non-existent but it’s possible that this approach would be worthwhile. And maybe Helion figures they can finesse these ratios a bit.

    … so that pdf mentions a ~50 MW reactor… but is that the total fusion output or is it 50 MW electric delivered to the grid?

    50 MW total output would get you 8 MW to the grid… like an FF module but with the added expenses of intense neutron flux, tritium breeding and handling and highly radioactive components in the waste
    stream.

    If it’s 50 MW to the grid then the raw fusion output would be in the 310 MW range … with ~248 MW worth of neutron flux to just breed tritium, radioactivate the burn chamber and, of course, to be converted into heat and rejected from the reactor somehow.

    Tulse wrote:
    In other words, if they’re not fully direct generation, I’m not sure how they can claim that there is any significant capital savings.

    If they intend to direct convert what they can, and just use the neutrons for tritium breeding, then the description could make sense.

    #13410
    AvatarTim1
    Participant

    I know it negates a lot of the advantages of a focus fusion device, but does any one have any idea what kind of Q you could get out of a focus fusion device if you used D-T fuel? And how much power would come out as ions?

    #13411
    Avatardelt0r
    Member

    On of the reasons the capital of a power station is so high is that .1% gain in efficiency is worth a lot of money over its life time. If the fuel becomes cheap then you don’t need to worry about that .1%.

    I know people here like to think that steam thermal cycles etc are primitive. They are not. They are highly optimized and rather efficient these days. And lets not forget the FF *needs* direct conversion efficiencies just to break even.

    #13413
    Avatarikanreed
    Member

    I know we’re all gung-ho for the value of aneutronic fusion, but all fusion wins if any commercially viable fusion reactor hits the market. Suddenly no one can claim that fusion is “always 50 years away” anymore.

    #13414
    Avatarzapkitty
    Member

    ikanreed wrote: I know we’re all gung-ho for the value of aneutronic fusion, but all fusion wins if any commercially viable fusion reactor hits the market. Suddenly no one can claim that fusion is “always 50 years away” anymore.

    Wouldn’t count on that occurring on its own. Our self-proclaimed “uber elites” are very good at encouraging or even arranging situations where a not-so-good solution (such as bomb-capable commercial fission power plants) become treated as the only “viable” solution even over manifestly superior options.

    I know that the various D-T projects are proceeding with the best of intentions and I do wish them success.

    But that doesn’t change the simple fact that neutronic fusion is the PTB’s third choice for controlling access to baseload power… the first two being fossil and fission.

    While any neutronic success will be good news overall, the aneutronic projects will still have to fight the headwind of a new status quo.

    #13421
    AvatarIvy Matt
    Participant

    Helion Energy has updated their website: http://www.helionenergy.com/

    Of particular interest is that the folks at Helion think they can achieve conditions sufficient for D+3He fusion, with the 3He coming from the products of the D+D reaction. (Apparently they’re planning to separate and store the tritium until it decays to 3He.)

    With the tritium separated, much of the fusion energy is released as charged particles, which push against the magnetic field that was used to compress the fusion fuel, thereby generating electricity by direct conversion.

    They have achieved ion temperatures of 5 keV with their latest prototype.

    Their plan is to develop truck-sized 50-MW reactors that can produce electricity for less than 4 cents per kilowatt/hour.

    #13427
    AvatarIvy Matt
    Participant

    Helion Energy has received $1.5 million in funding from YCombinator and Mithril Capital:

    A New Way to Think About Atomic Nucleus

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