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misterhamtastic t1_ixt51gn wrote

It makes me unreasonably angry that this is just to boil water faster.


Krunch007 t1_ixtufbf wrote

Generating energy via mechanical energy is very simple, very easy, has fairly low losses , is efficient, and also generates natural multi phase sine waves.

Artificial sine waves, such as produced by inverters that have to transform the DC output of solar panels into multi phase AC, also unfortunately introduce harmonics into the system, which you can think of as noise and voltage/current spikes. I won't get into the weeds, but essentially you need more voltage and current filtering to get high quality, stable electricity.

Turning a motor, on the other hand, to get you 3 phase AC for example can go straight through a transformer and into the supply.

I massively oversimplified it but hopefully you get what I mean. It's much cheaper and more convenient while we still use an AC distribution system.


Martin_RB t1_ixu5bhb wrote

That's true (and I don't see steam turbines going away anytime soon) but more of our distribution system is becoming DC every year, particular high voltage transmission lines.

So over time the advantage of inherently produce three-phase power will reduce, maybe even becoming a drawback.


Krunch007 t1_ixu67a6 wrote

Doubtful, you still need to convert to AC to transform power to high enough voltages for transmission. Transformers only work in AC after all. There are ways to convert DC power to a higher voltage, like the boost converter, but those aren't really applicable at the kinds of voltages you need for power transmission, 100kV to 800kV... Far too high for any solid state converters.

So if we have to use a transformer to raise the voltage for transmission and then convert to DC, it won't make a difference if we have to feed it AC as the supply anyway. I don't think it will ever become a drawback, just maybe DC power generation will become as advantageous as AC is now.

AC power is incredibly convenient and has served us well for decades, its only drawback really is that you need to sync AC transmission systems so that they're in phase. That is something HVDC transmission does address, but aside from that, power generation in AC is likely to still be more convenient, if only for local distribution.


Penisanthonydoubs t1_ixu92w8 wrote

Solid state transformers use converters from LVDC to high frequency AC, which uses a much smaller transformer for transforming, then back to HVDC. Best of both worlds, but not really applicable to an AC grid without unnecessary rectification first.


Christiaanben t1_ixu9brt wrote

Yeah, no. The power where I live is definitely not a pure sine wave.


Krunch007 t1_ixuaqrg wrote

It's not just the supply introducing harmonics and deformed power. Consumers do too, and every single rectifier plugged into the network contributes to that.

Think of every phone charger, every laptop charger, every device that uses a rectifier to power its electronics essentially draws non-sine current. There are standards for these devices of course, but it's the supply that has to compensate.

Add on top of that the fact that AC carries reactive power as well, which means that every asynchronous motor plugged in the system will further destabilize it, and you have quite a chore on your hands!

It's honestly a marvel of engineering that your supply is as close to a pure sine as it is :P


Soviet_Canukistan t1_ixun891 wrote

It's a really not a big problem. We can use inverters to inject anti-harmonics and provide reactive power support. Spinning turbines are find and dandy. But solar PV could do everything a turbine can do, and depending on what fuel is spinning the turbine, often for less cost. And very clean, modern inverters are getting to less than1% THD. I get it, spin make pure sine wave good. But you need a broader perspective on power quality.

I'll agree that ac distribution is still very much the way to go. DC has the low end of power usage, even some lighting is going to POE style now, and the high end HVDC transmission, but distribution will likely be AC for some time to come.


Krunch007 t1_ixvb31e wrote

I know, I only got my bachelor's in EE and never went into the field, so I'll be the first to admit I'm not quite up to date on distribution technology. Was just offering some perspective on why generating electricity via motors is still so widely used for now.


Soviet_Canukistan t1_ixvosb4 wrote

Fair enough. I'm just a Technologist 3yr diploma. But I worked in technical support for an inverter manufacturer, among other various electrical QA type work. There's no doubt you are right, it's just that it's really hard to underestimate the advances in inverter technology. Ultimately rotating machines require maintenance that solid state devices do not. Sure inverters need replacing and optocouplers fail, IGBTs fail, etc. It comes down to rotating machines being bigger and needing more care and lubrication etc. Eventually the computerized electrical power is cheaper to distribute (distributed generation) and maintain.

That said, if you have cheap fuel, or enhanced geothermal, turbines are king. Even some exotic concentrated solar, molten salt storage with steam turbines makes sense,. But I can put 10 kW of solar PV on a building and basically set and forget. Not possible with turbines, everything has its place.


Prineak t1_ixufij0 wrote

I’m still totally bewildered that at any given time, all these generators feeding energy into the system are synchronized.


jmurphy3141 t1_ixt75z9 wrote

Why does it make you angry?


misterhamtastic t1_ixt84jz wrote

I guess because it's so mundane. We're manipulating materials at an atomic level and yet we're getting our electricity by steam engine.

And anger is probably the wrong word but you get what I'm saying. Vexed with the nonsense that is reality.


psycadelia t1_ixtgi49 wrote

There is a cool straight-to-electricity fusion startup called Helion. Basically, they use a coil to capture the change in magnetic field generated when a pulse of plasma undergoes fusion.


zenzukai t1_ixtke36 wrote

Helion's cycle is really cool. It's about as futuristic and surprisingly elegant as it gets. I really hope that one works out, like a reactor you'd find on a starship or something.


KrevanSerKay t1_ixtbgeg wrote

Thank you, I feel like not enough people talk about this. Wood, coal, oil, fission, fusion, antimatter annihilation. We keep making more and more dense/available sources of raw thermal energy generation over the course of the past 200 years.

Meanwhile, converting into electrical or mechanical energy is still just boiling water to turn a turbine. Somehow that's barely changed in hundreds of years.

Somehow we're still innovating on features for toaster ovens, but we never hear about major game changer technology for energy conversion


alstegma t1_ixu0y9f wrote

That's a bit like saying "There's been so much innovation on car motors, we apply advanced thermodynamics and computer simulations to improve them, but we're still just using it to rotate wheels".

Steam turbines are a fantastic way of turning heat into electricity. They are efficient (compared to the theoretical maximum Carnot efficiency), economical and perfectly practical in the context of large power plants.


Snufflepuffster t1_ixttm3q wrote

Steam is a great medium for energy conversion. You’re totally neglecting years of advancements in turbines and material science. Superheated steam has nice properties in terms of energy extraction.


smopecakes t1_ixwil18 wrote

Fusion plants are expected to use molten salts to transfer heat which sounds like it can allow up to 55% conversion efficiency (vs as low as 30% for light water fission)

Molten salts come with engineering headaches but it also makes fusion a more convenient source of process heat for industry. A study on the ARC design, that is looking to have its physics validated in 2026 by the SPARC machine, found it could produce CO2 free ammonia for shipping fuel at little more cost than current methods by using its electricity and heat

also, when it comes to finding fusion steam engines boring, sometimes I fear the wrath of Isaac Newton when someone brings him from the past to show him our literally alchemy powered fission and fusion plants producing electricity in quantities more valuable than the worldwide gold trade


mysticsurferbum t1_ixtfqv4 wrote

We have solar. And wind. And ocean wave turbines


AaronfromKY t1_ixtk1x5 wrote

Those are all well and good, but I think the guy meant it seems odd that fusion can't just generate electricity we could siphon off and use, versus making heat to boil water.


Bardez t1_ixtqdms wrote

Exactly. Like. There HAS to be a better way to generate electricity than to turn something.


coolwool t1_ixu3y96 wrote

Well, it's the easiest way, I guess. The energy that is created isn't electricity yet, so without transforming it, you can't use it in that way.
I find it more crazy that for some reason, we found this good way to do it so long ago.


GodEmperorBrian t1_ixuj39c wrote

You generate electricity by manipulating magnetic fields. The easiest way to do this by far is by spinning a magnet around a coil, or a coil around a magnet. Unless we discover something we didn’t already know about magnetic fields, we’re just going to keep spinning things.


samglit t1_ixu1eaf wrote

Only solar seems to be a major step forward in removing mechanical turbines.


Ugunsmuris t1_ixttjhu wrote

Hydrogen power cell might be an example of something diffrent. That is not just harvesting naturaly occuring energy.


CelltonCelsius t1_ixtqaby wrote

We have combined cycles and Rankine cycles with reheat, so there is ongoing innovation in the energy conversion field. Heat engines are also just limited to the Carnot efficiency. We hit finishing returns quite quickly.

Fuel cells, however can achieve higher efficiencies, but operate on a different principle.


Holgrin t1_ixugptb wrote

I understand people's excitement for crazy sci-fi shit, but like, we still have the wheel and it's fine. As they say, don't try to reinvent it. Circles really are mathematically incredible shapes. They're just visually pretty simple.


VikingBorealis t1_ixu43xl wrote

Yet steam engines are one of the most effective methods of gaining energy.


HotTopicRebel t1_ixus3uk wrote

We've got other materials we can use. But water has a lot going for it. It's relatively cheap, has an absolutely huge specific heat, isn't reactive/corrosive, and if there's a leak it's generally not going to spontaneously combust or poison everything, and it happens to have a fairly malleable phase-shift diagram.

Are there better materials for each of those above in isolation? Yes. But is there a better material on the whole? Not really.


SilverDem0n t1_ixu49q0 wrote

Makes me unreasonably happy to think how much faster I could make a cup of tea.

The gold-tantalum alloy is interesting. I've got no knowledge of gold alloys, is this a well-known thing amongst metallurgists or something really esoteric?


JKJ420 t1_ixu0wok wrote

If you want electricity differently, then solar/wind is your friend.

Boiling water is a very-very close second.

Just let the anger go.


APlayerHater t1_ixu5ljp wrote

I guess the wonders of unlimited free electricity aren't good enough if there aren't scifi beams of energy powering everything directly?


misterhamtastic t1_ixucvxm wrote

Exactly! Break out the dilithium crystals or let it all burn! (jk)


more_walls t1_ixt83zi wrote

The article never mentions water. It does mention tripling output, but compared to what?


networkarchitect t1_ixtbczz wrote

I think the water bit is referring to how many forms of power generation (coal, nuclear fission, natural gas, and molten-salt solar) are all just different ways of boiling water to produce steam to turn a steam turbine connected to a generator. They're just different methods of generating large amounts of heat, and currently steam turbine generators are the most practical way to turn large amounts of heat into large amounts of electricity.


bigbeats420 t1_ixu30xw wrote

It makes me unreasonably angry that most of our power generation comes from pulling shit out of the ground and setting it on fire.

Tiny, controlled explosions are how we accomplish the majority of things in this world.


theskylershow t1_ixudcdt wrote

I mean, isn’t a massive uncontrolled explosion how we all eventually got here? And many astrophysicists have said we are living in an “active, ongoing explosion” from what I recall… so I guess us making it to the “controlled” part of tiny explosions is par for existence?

Also - I agree 10,000% that we need to stop ravaging the plant surface and sub terrain goods when there are much better alternatives. Stupid politics and rich people. Ugh.


spammeLoop t1_ixu1ezq wrote

Naa, it's the National Ignition Facility it's for building H-Bombs. Boiling water is coincidental.


FuckM0reFromR t1_ixu3wud wrote

Which in turn makes thing go spinny, as do all other forms of electrical power generation;

  1. ???
  2. Make thing go spinny
  3. Get elektrisity =D

Except for solar.


Hot-mic t1_ixwgw70 wrote

Where do the underpants fit in here?


StateChemist t1_ixui84j wrote

So I’ve got an idea, no no, no boiling water required.

We build a lever, like a giant one, and attach a system of gears to harness all the energy from when the lever is pressed, then we go up into space and carve an asteroid into bits and throw them using science to accurately hit the lever, and produce electricity, easy peasy. Only need good old fashioned kinetics, and none of this newfangled boiling water tech.


No_Opening_5128 t1_ixvbnwx wrote

There are companies trying to do something else with fusion, in terms of generating electricity. Helion energy is one that I’ve heard of. Check this video out.


Odd_Calligrapher_407 t1_ixueh31 wrote

Then you can imagine my anger that in order to commute 6 miles to do similarly complex experiments it takes 45min to an hour.


[deleted] t1_ixskn0o wrote



Gari_305 OP t1_ixrfrbs wrote

From the Article

>A team of researchers working at the National Ignition Facility, part of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has found that covering a cylinder containing a small amount of hydrogen fuel with a magnetic coil and firing lasers at it triples its energy output—another step toward the development of nuclear fusion as a power source.
>In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the team, which has members from several facilities in the U.S., one in the U.K. and one in Japan, describes upgrading their setup to allow for the introduction of the magnetic coil.


spletharg t1_ixu4szc wrote

Can anyone here explain why this coil is so effective in increasing the efficiency of the system?


WinterHill t1_ixufvk9 wrote

In the article it says that a previous computer model they ran showed that the coil and magnetic field improved the output.

It’s possible that the researchers aren’t sure exactly how or why it works better yet, but just followed the model prediction with a practical experimental approach.


spletharg t1_ixv3us8 wrote

Thanks. I saw the info about the model predictions. I just wondered if anyone had any ideas about the principles involved. There are some bright individuals on here.


Vatigu t1_ixxqjdy wrote

Just a guess but a magnetic field might control the plasma inside the sphere and in effect increase the likelihood of fusion events by forcing the hot nuclear soup into an even denser sphere than the original confines of the containment vessel. But this is just my hypothesis based on watching a ton of fusion related content on YouTube and knowing that in other experimental reactors magnetic fields are exclusively used to contain and direct the plasma.

But I could be and likely am completely off the mark.


Phssthp0kThePak t1_iy0mowf wrote

Right, energy scale seems much smaller for the magnetic interactions. Aligning proton spins would mean the spatial wave function would have to be anti symmetric. That's not good for fusion probabilities you would think.


three29 t1_ixucecl wrote

Got it. So when in doubt, just wrap the whole thing in an electromagnetic coil and fire lasers at it.


FuturologyBot t1_ixrk1nd wrote

The following submission statement was provided by /u/Gari_305:

From the Article

>A team of researchers working at the National Ignition Facility, part of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has found that covering a cylinder containing a small amount of hydrogen fuel with a magnetic coil and firing lasers at it triples its energy output—another step toward the development of nuclear fusion as a power source.
>In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the team, which has members from several facilities in the U.S., one in the U.K. and one in Japan, describes upgrading their setup to allow for the introduction of the magnetic coil.

Please reply to OP's comment here:


wagner56 t1_ixub4bz wrote

energy conversion is one of the significant problems of fusion