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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Clean nuclear energy with a simple electricity output stage

University of New South Wales researchers led by Emeritus Professor Heinrich Hora have made important breakthroughs recently in developing clean nuclear energy technology.
When a proton (a Hydrogen nucleus) fuses with a Boron-11 nucleus it produces 3 alpha particles (Helium nuclei).
That's it. No radioactive fuels. No radioactive waste.
Hydrogen Boron-11 fusion
Hydrogen Boron-11 fusion

And another result: For each 11 grams of Boron-11 (one mole) converted to Helium, the energy produced is around 230 megawatt-hours.

At the level of individual nuclei, the mass of the three Helium nuclei produced is about 17 electron masses less than the mass of the Hydrogen nuclei (a proton) and the Boron-11 nuclei that undergo fusion to create them. It is this "missing" mass that appears as energy. Specifically this energy is kinetic energy imparted to the Helium nuclei.

Laser-boron fusion now ‘leading contender’ for energy
"The fuels and waste are safe, the reactor won't need a heat exchanger and steam turbine generator, and the lasers we need can be bought off the shelf," says Warren McKenzie, managing director of HB11, which owns the patents to the new technology.

When coal is used to fuel a high-efficiency low-emission "HELE" ultra-supercritical coal-fired power station, carbon dioxide emissions are 900 kilograms per megawatt-hour. The amount of carbon in the coal needed for each megawatt-hour of electricity generated is 900 x (12 / 44) kilograms. That is coal containing 245 kilograms of carbon is burned for each megawatt-hour.

To generate 230 megawatt-hours of electricity in a "HELE" coal-fired power plant coal containing over 56 tonnes of carbon would need to be burned. It would be converted into almost 21 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

That's right. 
56 TONNES of carbon vs 11 GRAMS of Boron-11 for the same electrical energy output.

Coal power plants have another serious handicap. The energy produced when coal is burned is heat energy. Extremely high pressure boilers and turbines are required to spin large generators to convert the heat energy into electricity.

With proton-Boron-11 fusion, the energy produced is in the form of fast-moving positively charged Helium nuclei. This kinetic energy of charged particles can be converted directly into electricity. There is no need for steam boilers, turbines and generators.
While the nuclear reactor is being developed, the technology to create electricity from fast-moving charged particles can be done in parallel. For instance, the ion propulsion test facility at the Australian National University could produce streams of ionised gases to use in developing the electricity production technology.
Professor Christine Charles is Head of the Space Plasma, Power and Propulsion laboratory at the Australian National University.
Professor Christine Charles is internationally recognised for her research on ion acceleration in expanding magnetised plasmas and its applications to a new generation of space engines and advanced material processing.

Update - 5 July 2019 

Progress in research in seemingly unrelated fields may lead to sudden advances, solving tasks that are steps to manufacture small commercial laser-driven fusion electricity power modules.

From this article "Self-Torque: Physicists Discover New Property of Light" on 1 July 2019 for instance -
In 1992, it was realized that light can also possess orbital angular momentum (OAM) when the spatial shape of the beam of light rotates — or twists — around its own axis.
In order to realize an entirely new property of light, manifested as a time-varying OAM along the light pulse, JILA physicist Kevin Dorney, University of Salamanca’s Dr. Laura Rego and their colleagues exploited the quantum physics inherent to the high harmonic generation (HHG) process.

“To create that high harmonic generation with light, an intense, femtosecond laser pulse is upshifted to high frequencies of the driving laser by essentially creating a nanoscale radiating antenna from an atom that is in the process of being ionized,” they explained.

“When properly phase-matched, bright, coherent laser-like beams can be generated that span from the extreme ultraviolet (EUV) to the soft X-ray regions of the electromagnetic spectrum.”