Fun with Fusion .. or at least reading about it, or at least organizing the reading about it
Posted 2021-10-12 12:28 PDT | Tags: hardware fusion
I've been on a nuclear physics jag for the last few years and neglecting my other projects.
Specifically, the potential for using emergent fusion advances as the first phase of a hybrid fusion/fission nuclear reactor has been on my mind a lot.
Fusion is a hyped-up technology these days, and there is a lot of capital and brain trust tied up in the race to make fusion practical.  Along the way, though, everyone seems to have overlooked how the side-products of fusion can be utilized to drive nuclear chemistry and novel fission, even though fusion is not yet a break-even technology.
Well, not everyone.  Some clever Russians seem to have thought about it, and are pursuing the use of inertial confinement fusion's neutron side-product to drive the thorium fission fuel cycle: (Russian Scientists Reveal Plans for Fusion-Fission Reactor)
While they're doing that, I'm noodling on a practical means of using multi-wire z-pinch fusion to drive lithium-6 fission.  It's a similar idea.  A z-pinch can implode lithium-deuteride wires using the Coulomb effect, fusing deuterium to produce high-energy neutrons, which then split lithium-6, a net-gain fissile fuel which cannot sustain a chain reaction on its own.  Only half of all lithium-6 fissions produce a neutron, which means sustained fission relies on an external neutron source.
Scientists have been imploding lithium deuteride wires to fuse D-D since the 1990s, but a lot more is known now about this kind of D-D fusion, and the hardware for making energy-efficient power supplies has advanced by leaps and bounds.  It seems plausible that with sufficiently careful engineering, lithium-6 fission could produce more energy than it takes to power the D-D fusion driving the reaction.
I have a design in mind which has characteristics I like, and I split my spare time working on practical components I can learn on through tinkering and reading up on the scientific literature.
My usual approach to the literature is to hoard publications on my laptop, so I can re-read and revisit them often.  Frequently I'll read something and not really understand its importance, and then hit a wall while fiddling with math, and remember that there was this paper which dealt with exactly this problem.  The next reading has more significance to me because I've run into that wall and need a way around it.
In recent years, though, I've been reading papers on my tablet, which is not conducive to that practice.  I will download a pdf and read it, but then it seems to disappear from storage after a while, and using the graphical file browser to see what papers I do have available is awkward and annoying.
Because of this I'm changing my practice.  I will go on "hoarding sessions" where I find a bunch of likely-seeming publications relevant to a topic of interest, download them to my laptop, and then read them later on my tablet.  This doesn't help with the papers I've already read and lost (and partly forgotten), but at least this way I will retain the material going forward.
The first fruits of this approach are located here -- (Z-Pinch relevant papers: Wire Explosions, Power Supplies) -- sync'd from my laptop and in no particular order.  More will follow in time, and I will get around to populating its parent directory eventually too.