Nuclear Fusion One Step Closer

China broke the record by keeping the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) by achieving plasma temperature at 120 million Celsius for 101 seconds and 160 million Celsius for 20 seconds, a major step toward the test run of the fusion reactor.

The Tokamak devise is located at the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It is designed to replicate the nuclear fusion process that occurs naturally in the sun and stars to provide almost infinite clean energy through controlled nuclear fusion, which is often dubbed the “artificial sun.” The achievement broke a previous record of maintaining the plasma temperature at 100 million C for 100 seconds. According to Li Miao, director of the physics department of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, it is a milestone in reaching the goal of keeping the temperature at a stable level for a long time.

The breakthrough is significant progress, and the ultimate goal should be keeping the temperature at a stable level for a long time,” Li told the Global Times, adding that the next milestone might be to maintain the stability for a week or more.

Achieving a plasma temperature above 100 million C is one of the key challenges to harness the nuclear fusion. At the end of 2020, South Korea reached 100 million C for 20 seconds. The temperature at the core of the sun is widely believed to be 15 million C, meaning that the plasma at the device’s core will be seven times hotter than that of the sun.
The energy generated from nuclear fusion is the most reliable and clean energy, Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Friday, adding that if the technology can be applied commercially, it will have huge economic benefits. However, Lin cautioned that as the technology is still in the experimental stage, it still need at least 30 years for the technology to come out of the lab. “It’s more like a future technology that’s critical for China’s green development push.”

Source: https://www.globaltimes.cn/

Microwave Air Plasmas Could Replace Fuel For Jet Propulsion

Humans depend on fossil fuels as their primary energy source, especially in transportation. However, fossil fuels are both unsustainable and unsafe, serving as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and leading to adverse respiratory effects and devastation due to global warming.

A team of researchers at the Institute of Technological Sciences at Wuhan University has demonstrated a  that uses microwave air plasmas for . They describe the engine in the journal AIP Advances.

The motivation of our work is to help solve the problems owing to humans’ use of fossil fuel combustion engines to power machinery, such as cars and airplanes,” said author Jau Tang, a professor at Wuhan University. “There is no need for fossil fuel with our design, and therefore, there is no carbon emission to cause greenhouse effects and global warming.

Beyond solid, liquid and gas, is the fourth state of matter, consisting of an aggregate of charged ions. It exists naturally in places like the sun’s surface and Earth’s lightning, but it can also be generated. The researchers created a plasma jet by compressing air into high pressures and using a microwave to ionize the pressurized air stream.

This method differs from previous attempts to create plasma jet thrusters in one key way. Other plasma jet thrusters, like NASA‘s Dawn space probe, use xenon plasma, which cannot overcome the friction in Earth’s atmosphere, and are therefore not powerful enough for use in air transportation. Instead, the authors’ plasma jet thruster generates the high-temperature, plasma in situ using only injected air and electricity.

The prototype plasma jet device can lift a 1-kilogram steel ball over a 24-millimeter diameter quartz tube, where the high-pressure air is converted into a by passing through a microwave ionization chamber. To scale, the corresponding thrusting pressure is comparable to a commercial airplane jet engine. By building a large array of these thrusters with high-power microwave sources, the prototype design can be scaled up to a full-sized jet. The authors are working on improving the efficiency of the device toward this goal. “Our results demonstrated that such a jet engine based on microwave air plasma can be a potentially viable alternative to the conventional fossil fuel jet engine,” Tang said.

Source: https://phys.org/

The Rise Of Perovskite, The Next-generation Solar Cell

Light-weight, cheap and ultra-thin, perovskite crystals have promised to shake-up renewable energy for some time. Research by Professor Anita Ho-Baillie means they are ready to take the next steps towards commercialisation. Australian scientists have for the first time produced a new generation of experimental solar energy cells that pass strict International Electrotechnical Commission testing standards for heat and humidity. The research findings, an important step towards commercial viability of perovskite solar cells, are published today in the journal Science.

Solar energy systems are now widespread in both industry and domestic housing. Most current systems rely on silicon to convert sunlight into useful energy. However, the energy conversion rate of silicon in solar panels is close to reaching its natural limits. So, scientists have been exploring new materials that can be stacked on top of silicon in order to improve energy conversion rates. One of the most promising materials to date is a metal halide perovskite, which may even outperform silicon on its own.

Perovskites are a really promising prospect for solar energy systems,” said Professor Anita Ho-Baillie, the inaugural John Hooke Chair of Nanoscience at the University of Sydney. “They are a very inexpensive, 500 times thinner than silicon and are therefore flexible and ultra-lightweight. They also have tremendous energy enabling properties and high solar conversion rates.”

In experimental form, the past 10 years has seen the performance of perovskites cells improve from low levels to being able to convert 25.2 percent of energy from the Sun into electricity. It took about 40 years for scientists to develop silicon-cell conversion rates of 26.7 percent. However, unprotected perovskite cells do not have the durability of silicon-based cells, so they are not yet commercially viable.

Perovskite cells will need to stack up against the current commercial standards. That’s what is so exciting about our research. We have shown that we can drastically improve their thermal stability,” Professor Ho-Baillie said.

The scientists did this by suppressing the decomposition of the perovskite cells using a simple, low-cost polymer-glass blanket. The work was led by Professor Ho-Baillie who joined the University of Sydney Nano Institute this year. Lead author, Dr Lei Shi, conducted the experimental work in Ho-Baillie’s research group in the School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering at the University of New South Wales, where Professor Ho-Baillie remains an adjunct professor.  Under continual exposure to the Sun and other elements, solar panels experience extremes of heat and humidity. Experiments have shown that under such stress, unprotected perovskite cells become unstable, releasing gas from within their structures.

Understanding this process, called ‘outgassing’, is a central part of our work to develop this technology and to improve its durability,” Professor Ho-Baillie said. “I have always been interested in exploring how perovskite solar cells could be incorporated into thermal insulated windows, such as vacuum glazing. So, we need to know the outgassing properties of these materials.

Source: https://science.sciencemag.org/
AND
 https://www.sydney.edu.au/

Commercial Nuclear Fusion Is Closer Than Ever

Nuclear fusion has been seen as the unattainable holy grail of clean energy for decades, but just in the last year it’s been seeming more and more within reach. As catastrophic climate change looms just over the horizon, the scientific community has galvanized to find more and better solutions to decarbonizing the global economy and replacing fossil fuels with a commercially viable, renewable, and green alternative. While much of the time and capital investment has flowed to more realistic options like solar and wind, some researchers have been dedicating their time and energy to capturing the energy of the sun here on earth–a silver bullet solution to global warming.

Conventional nuclear energy has also been hailed as a good, greenhouse gas emissions-free alternative to fossil fuels, but it has some major drawbacks, from the rare but catastrophic instance of nuclear meltdown to the industrial byproduct of nuclear waste. Nuclear fission, which is what nuclear energy plants currently use to create massive amounts of energy by splitting atoms, creates radioactive waste that remains hazardous for tens of thousands of years, if not longer.

The beauty of nuclear fusion is that, not only does it produce energy without creating radioactive waste since it can be achieved using only hydrogen or lithium, it’s also several times more powerful than fission. If we were ever able to harness it in a commercially viable way, it would mean the end of the oil-based economy as we know it. That’s why any news about nuclear fusion is major news. And in the past couple of years, there’s been a lot of new reports emerging about commercial nuclear fusion getting closer and closer to becoming a reality.

Last summer, reps from the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), an intergovernmental project headquartered in the south of France, reported that they are a mere six and a half years away from achieving first plasma inside their tokamak–in other words: nuclear fusion by just 2025. Then, just a month later in August, 2019, Oak Ridge National Laboratory reported their own nuclear fusion breakthrough, which uses novel implementation of AI and supercomputing to successfully scale up nuclear fusion experiments and manage plasma.

Then, in October, the Los Alamos National Laboratory‘s Plasma Liner Experiment (PLX) unveiled a totally new approach to nuclear fusion, using the very science-fiction combination of plasma guns, magnets, and lasers. According to the American Physical Society, “the PLX machine combines aspects of both magnetic confinement fusion schemes (e.g. tokamaks) and inertial confinement machines like the National Ignition Facility (NIF). The hybrid approach, although less technologically mature than pure magnetic or inertial confinement concepts, may offer a cheaper and less complex fusion reactor development path.” That project is projected to be up and running by the end of this year.

And now, just this week, there are new and exciting claims about yet another novel fusion technology to vie for the best path toward commercial nuclear fusion. Startup HB11, which has its impetus at Australia’s University of New South Wales (UNSW), has pioneered a technology that uses lasers to encourage nuclear fusion between hydrogen and boron without the use of radioactive materials to facilitate the reaction. They’re so confident about the technology that they have already applied for and received patents in the United States, Japan, and China.

The secret,” reports Popular Mechanics, “is a cutting-edge laser and, well, an element of luck.” According to managing director Warren McKenzie, as quoted by New Atlas,You could say we’re using the hydrogen as a dart, and hoping to hit a boron, and if we hit one, we can start a fusion reaction.” While this may sound a little wishy-washy, McKenzie says that the approach is actually more precise than using extreme heat to facilitate fusion because the laser is directed, whereas heat-based reactors waste huge amounts of energy heating up the entire reactor and waiting for a collision to take place.

This means that this new technology–which is now four decades in the making–could make machines like the tokamak obsolete. UNSW emeritus professor Heinrich Hora’s design “seeks to not just compete with but replace entirely the extremely high-temperature current technologies to achieve fusion. These include fussy and volatile designs like the tokamak or stellarator, which can take months to get up to functionality and still spin out of working order in a matter of microseconds.”

Last but not least, two months ago, Newsweek reported that China is about to start operation on its “artificial sun“—a nuclear fusion device that produces energy by replicating the reactions that take place at the center of the sun. If successful, the device could edge scientists closer to achieving the ultimate goal of nuclear fusion: near limitless, cheap clean energy.

Source: https://www.newsweek.com/
AND
https://oilprice.com/

Limitless, Cheap Clean Energy: China launches Its “Artificial Sun”

China is about to start operation on its “artificial sun“—a nuclear fusion device that produces energy by replicating the reactions that take place at the center of the sun. If successful, the device could edge scientists closer to achieving the ultimate goal of nuclear fusion: near limitless, cheap clean energy.

The device, called HL-2M Tokamak, is part of the nation’s Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak project, which has been running since 2006. In March, an official from the China National Nuclear Corporation announced it would complete building HL-2M by the end of the year.

The coil system was installed in June and since then, work on HL-2M has gone “smoothly,” the Xinhua News Agency reported in November.

Duan Xuru, head of the Southwestern Institute of Physics, which is part of the corporation, announced the device will become operational in 2020 at the 2019 China Fusion Energy Conference, the state news agency said. He told attendees how the new device will achieve temperatures of over 200 million degrees Celsius. That’s about 13 times hotter than the center of the sun. Previous devices developed for the artificial sun experiment reached 100 million degrees Celsius, a breakthrough that was announced in November last year.

Nuclear fusion is the reaction that powers the sun. It involves fusing two lighter atomic nuclei to form a heavier nucleus—a reaction that releases a huge amount of energy. On the sun, where core temperatures reach about 15 million degrees Celsius, hydrogen nuclei combine to form helium.

To recreate this on Earth, scientists must heat the fuel—types of hydrogen—to temperatures over 100 million degrees Celsius. At this point, the fuel becomes a plasma. This extremely hot plasma must be confined and one method scientists have been developing is a donut shaped device called a tokamak. This uses magnetic fields to try to stabilize the plasma so reactions can take place and energy be released. However, plasma is prone to producing bursts. If these touch the reactor wall it can damage the device.

Source: https://www.newsweek.com/

How To Make A Car Run Forever

Put together the best solar panels money can buy, super-efficient batteries and decades of car-making know-how and, theoretically, a vehicle might run forever. That’s the audacious motivation behind a project by Toyota Motor Corp., Sharp Corp. and New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan, or NEDO, to test a Prius that could revolutionize transportation.

The solar car’s advantage is that — while it can’t drive for a long range — it’s really independent of charging facilities,” said Koji Makino, a project manager at Toyota.

Even if fully electric cars overtake petroleum-powered vehicles in sales, they still need to be plugged in, which means building a network of charging stations across the globe. The sun, on the other hand, shines everywhere for free, and when that energy is paired with enough battery capacity to propel automobiles at night, solar-powered cars could leapfrog all the new-energy technologies being developed, from plug-in hybrids to hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, in one fell swoop. But the current forecast is only partly sunny because there’s still some work left to reach that level of efficiency.

This is not a technology we are going to see widely used in the next decades,” said Takeshi Miyao, an auto analyst at consultancy Carnorama. “It’s going to take a long time.”

Not for lack of trying. Toyota and Hyundai Motor Coalready introduced commercial models with solar panels on the roof, but they were too underpowered and could barely juice the sound system. A Prius plug-in hybrid that sells for more than 3 million yen offers solar panels as an option, but they only charge the battery when parked. The maximum amount of power for driving only lasts about 6 kilometers (about 4 miles), said Mitsuhiro Yamazaki, director at the solar energy systems division of NEDO. Toyota has been testing a new solar-powered Prius since July, though it acknowledges that cars running nonstop without connecting to a hose or plug are still far away. Even so, the Toyota City-based company said the research will pay off in other ways.

Indeed, there have been some breakthroughs, mainly due to advancements by Sharp. The prototype’s solar panel converts sunlight at an efficiency level of more than 34%, compared with about 20% for current panels on the market. Because the solar cell being used by Toyota, Sharp and NEDO is only about 0.03 mm thick, it can be placed on more surfaces, including the curvy parts of the roof, hood and hatchback. The electrical system can charge the vehicle even when it’s on the move.

Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/

Water Found On A Potentially Life-friendly Alien Planet

In a first for astronomers studying worlds beyond our solar system, data from the Hubble Space Telescope have revealed water vapor in the atmosphere of an Earth-size planet. Although this exoplanet orbits a star that is smaller than our sun, it falls within what’s known as the star’s habitable zone, the range of orbital distances where it would be warm enough for liquid water to exist on a planet’s surface. The discovery, announced this week in two independent studies, comes from years of observations of the exoplanet K2-18b, a super-Earth that’s about 111 light-years from our solar system. Discovered in 2015 by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, K2-18b is very unlike our home world: It’s more than eight times the mass of Earth, which means it’s either an icy giant like Neptune or a rocky world with a thick, hydrogen-rich atmosphere.

K2-18b’s orbit also takes it seven times closer to its star than Earth gets to the sun. But because it circles a type of dim red star known as an M dwarf, that orbit places it in the star’s potentially life-friendly zone. Crude models predict that K2-18b’s effective temperature falls somewhere between -100 and 116 degrees Fahrenheit, and if it is about as reflective as Earth, its equilibrium temperature would be roughly the same as our home planet’s.

This is the only planet right now that we know outside the solar system that has the correct temperature to support water, it has an atmosphere, and it has water in it—making this planet the best candidate for habitability that we know right now,” University College London astronomer Angelos Tsiaras, a coauthor of one of the two studies, said during a press conference.

Source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/

New Solar Cells Could Harvest 85% of Visible Light

Scientists have developed a photoelectrode that can harvest 85 percent of visible light in a 30 nanometers-thin semiconductor layer between gold layers, converting light energy 11 times more efficiently than previous methods. In the pursuit of realizing a sustainable society, there is an ever-increasing demand to develop revolutionary solar cells or artificial photosynthesis systems that utilize visible light energy from the sun while using as few materials as possible. The research team, led by Professor Hiroaki Misawa of the Research Institute for Electronic Science at Hokkaido University (Japan), has been aiming to develop a photoelectrode that can harvest visible light across a wide spectral range by using gold nanoparticles loaded on a semiconductor. But merely applying a layer of gold nanoparticles did not lead to a sufficient amount of light absorption, because they took in light with only a narrow spectral range.

In the study published in Nature Nanotechnology, the research team sandwiched a semiconductor, a 30-nanometer titanium dioxide thin-film, between a 100-nanometer gold film and gold nanoparticles to enhance light absorption. When the system is irradiated by light from the gold nanoparticle side, the gold film worked as a mirror, trapping the light in a cavity between two gold layers and helping the nanoparticles absorb more light. To their surprise, more than 85 percent of all visible light was harvested by the photoelectrode, which was far more efficient than previous methods. Gold nanoparticles are known to exhibit a phenomenon called localized plasmon resonance which absorbs a certain wavelength of light.

“Our photoelectrode successfully created a new condition in which plasmon and visible light trapped in the titanium oxide layer strongly interact, allowing light with a broad range of wavelengths to be absorbed by gold nanoparticles,” says Hiroaki Misawa.

 Source: https://www.global.hokudai.ac.jp/

Solar Powered Car

The Sion is the first electric car capable of recharging its batteries from the sun. From now on, you’ll have to worry about range a little less. For only 16.000 € excluding the battery (4000 euros or to rent). With the dynamic integration of solar cells in the body work, we set new measures on the road while convincing with an exceptional design concept. The full efficiency of the Sion is guaranteed by the lightweight design. The exterior is mainly made up of rust-proof polycarbonate. It further is scratch-resistant. The most unique feature in the body work are the solar cells, which are located on the roof, on both sides as on the hood and the rear.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENJOY THE VIDEO
The cockpit  uses a very simple design, showing you how fast you are going and the charging level of your battery. On the left side you can see the number of kilometers generated through the viSono System. After 24 hours, these kilometers will be transferred to the right side, where they are added to the total range left. The Sion copes with the requirements of your daily life: A range of 250km, high power rapid charging, and a sophisticated interior concept with an optional trailer hitch.
The Sion is equipped with 330 integrated solar cells, which recharge the battery through the power of the sun. To protect them from harmful environmental influences the solar cells are covered with polycarbonate. It is shatterproof, light and particularly weather resistant. Under proper conditions the solar cells generate enough energy, to cover 30 kilometers per day with the Sion. This system is called  viSono. Thanks to the technology of bidirectional charging the Sion can not only generate but also provide energy. This feature turns the car into a mobile power station. Using a household plug, all common electronic devices with up to 2,7kW can be powered by the Sion. You can plug in your electronic devices and power them with the Sions battery. Over a type 2 plug the Sion can provide even more power with up to 7,6 kW.
For air filtering  a  special moss is integrated into the dashboard. It filters up to twenty percent of the fine dust particles and has a regulating effect on the humidity inside the Sion. No worries, you do not have to water it. It requires no special care at all.

Harvesting Clean Hydrogen Fuel Through Artificial Photosynthesis

A new, stable artificial photosynthesis device doubles the efficiency of harnessing sunlight to break apart both fresh and salt water, generating hydrogen that can then be used in fuel cells.

The device could also be reconfigured to turn carbon dioxide back into fuel.

Hydrogen is the cleanest-burning fuel, with water as its only emission. But hydrogen production is not always environmentally friendly. Conventional methods require natural gas or electrical power. The method advanced by the new device, called direct solar water splitting, only uses water and light from the sun.

If we can directly store solar energy as a chemical fuel, like what nature does with photosynthesis, we could solve a fundamental challenge of renewable energy,” said Zetian Mi, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Michigan who led the research while at McGill University in Montreal.

Faqrul Alam Chowdhury, a doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering at McGill, said the problem with solar cells is that they cannot store electricity without batteries, which have a high overall cost and limited life.

The device is made from the same widely used materials as solar cells and other electronics, including silicon and gallium nitride (often found in LEDs). With an industry-ready design that operates with just sunlight and seawater, the device paves the way for large-scale production of clean hydrogen fuel.

Previous direct solar water splitters have achieved a little more than 1 percent stable solar-to-hydrogen efficiency in fresh or saltwater. Other approaches suffer from the use of costly, inefficient or unstable materials, such as titanium dioxide, that also might involve adding highly acidic solutions to reach higher efficiencies. Mi and his team, however, achieved more than 3 percent solar-to-hydrogen efficiency.

Source: https://news.umich.edu/