Closed Loop Recycling

If polywell fusion is developed, in what ways will the world change for better or worse? Discuss.

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2edfe9
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Closed Loop Recycling

Post by 2edfe9 »

One of the things we really should be trying to achieve is a closed loop economy, where everything is recycled and we don't allow polluting materials to build up in the environment.

If we had unlimited cheap clean energy this goal might actually be attainable. For example I love the idea of the fusion torch that was brought up in the "General" section of this forum. You can imagine an endless stream of garbage atomized in a plasma and its raw components separated out and piped into factories to produce all the basic industrial inputs such as steel, concrete and fertilizer. That's a beautiful thought. You could run a society forever that way.

Given the lack of response on the topic it seems that the idea is not taken very seriously. Can anyone here point out some of the problems with the concept? Also, if the fusion torch idea is a non starter, are there other closed loop technologies we could pursue given unlimited clean cheap energy?

Many Thanks,

Patrick A

93143
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Post by 93143 »

What bothers me about it is that we're supposed to have only a couple hundred thousand years worth of power at current usage rates, based on known boron reserves. Start doing stuff like indiscriminate plasma torch recycling, and that could shrink down to a few millenia or less real fast.

Even extracting boron from the oceans only gives you an extra order of magnitude or two, if I recall correctly.

You could just go with deuterium - but I'm not sure natural cosmic-ray deuterium seeding can keep up with a society built on "unlimited energy".

D-T is right out. Do you have any idea how fast we'd run out of lithium-6?

I vote we only use the plasma torch for stuff that can't easily be recycled any other way. Which currently means the majority of what people throw out - but truly advanced robotics could solve most of that for a lot less power than a plasma torch...

If this works, we'll be in a lot better shape energy-wise than we are now. Even so, let's not make the mistake we did with whale oil and petroleum and act like this new resource is limitless, because it's not any truer now than it was then. Solar power will remain a good idea even in the fusion age.

...I wonder what it would take to mine deuterium from a gas giant? It would probably be fairly deep in the atmosphere...

drmike
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Post by drmike »

Written history is only 5000 years. If we have enough boron go 20 times that long, we can pretty much do anything "forever".

The waste heat from that kind of processing needs to be dealt with. I think it's a great idea and one I've wanted to implement for a very long time, but it does have some "unintended consequences".

A lot better than land fills no matter what!

JohnP
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Post by JohnP »

93143 wrote:What bothers me about it is that we're supposed to have only a couple hundred thousand years worth of power at current usage rates, based on known boron reserves. Start doing stuff like indiscriminate plasma torch recycling, and that could shrink down to a few millenia or less real fast.

Even extracting boron from the oceans only gives you an extra order of magnitude or two, if I recall correctly.
How about some references here?

And don't you think after 200,000 years of watching reruns we could make some rockets and go mine some asteroids?

djolds1
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Post by djolds1 »

93143 wrote:What bothers me about it is that we're supposed to have only a couple hundred thousand years worth of power at current usage rates, based on known boron reserves. Start doing stuff like indiscriminate plasma torch recycling, and that could shrink down to a few millenia or less real fast.

You could just go with deuterium - but I'm not sure natural cosmic-ray deuterium seeding can keep up with a society built on "unlimited energy".
So? The DHe3 cycle remains, and assuming we crack the pB11 cycle for the Polywell, DHe3 is a done deal. The gas giants can fuel the DHe3 cycle for several million years with human populations in the 1E20+ range, IIRC. If we don't get out of this bloody system by then, we deserve to go extinct. Its not for no reason that spaceheads focus on the DHe3 cycle to power long term human civilization.
93143 wrote:If this works, we'll be in a lot better shape energy-wise than we are now. Even so, let's not make the mistake we did with whale oil and petroleum and act like this new resource is limitless, because it's not any truer now than it was then. Solar power will remain a good idea even in the fusion age.
Eventually the Sun will go Red Giant and fry the Earth (tho it is theoretically possible to move a planet) and solar system. Our species WILL go extinct. Even the universe will die in the heat death and/or proton decay. Extending a desire for "sustainability" past a limited period into the future is a parody of reason and caution. What we need to be is cosmic locusts, consuming all resources available in the universe and enduring until the universe itself dies.
93143 wrote:...I wonder what it would take to mine deuterium from a gas giant? It would probably be fairly deep in the atmosphere...
Studies dating back to at least the British Interplanetary Society's '70s era Project Daedalus have reviewed mining He3 and D from the gas giants. Its doable. Very doable with Polywell powered QED rockets. A 2005 NASA review paper:

http://gltrs.grc.nasa.gov/reports/2006/ ... 214122.pdf
Vae Victis

93143
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Post by 93143 »

drmike wrote:Written history is only 5000 years. If we have enough boron go 20 times that long, we can pretty much do anything "forever".
That's exactly what I'm talking about. Besides, what part of "current usage rates" slipped past you?
JohnP wrote:How about some references here?
Ask MSimon. I'm just parroting.
And don't you think after 200,000 years of watching reruns we could make some rockets and go mine some asteroids?
One would certainly hope so...
djolds1 wrote:The gas giants can fuel the DHe3 cycle for several million years with human populations in the 1E20+ range, IIRC.
That does sound good.

It's also not aneutronic (not with that much D flying around, it's not). Although admittedly 3He-3He is probably fine too...
Eventually the Sun will go Red Giant and fry the Earth (tho it is theoretically possible to move a planet) and solar system. Our species WILL go extinct. Even the universe will die in the heat death and/or proton decay. Extending a desire for "sustainability" past a limited period into the future is a parody of reason and caution. What we need to be is cosmic locusts, consuming all resources available in the universe and enduring until the universe itself dies.
I disagree. I think that, long-term, ignoring solar power (which is otherwise just wasted from an energy perspective) is going to have us running out of everything else long before the last stars burn out. (Admittedly I don't have hard numbers to back this up; it's just a feeling.) That "locust" mentality has gotten us into trouble before, and it will again.

Unless Someone steps in and calls a halt before then, but that's a whole other story and doesn't have any bearing on long-term planning...

I will admit that after doing some calculations, it appears that the energy required for torching garbage, specifically, might not be as high as I'd assumed... My BOE calculations indicate that for our current population and a trash rate of 1 metric tonne per person per year, incinerated at 17,000 K, a small multiple of our current worldwide energy budget would just about do it. (I have no idea what the fudge factor would have to be to account for inefficiency. Also I have no idea what the average specific heat of garbage is over that temperature range...)

The requirement to use resources wisely doesn't go away with cheap fusion - but the ceiling definitely opens up a bit...

Aw, who am I kidding? We'll wind up doing whatever is cheapest at the moment. If that's plasma torch recycling, great.

Torulf2
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Some thoughts about recycling in log term.

Post by Torulf2 »

If the metals are radically recycled, there will be only small losses needed to be replaced. And if there is small enough losses its can be replaced by methods not economical fore large quantities. These methods can be extraction from sea water, fusion flame or space mining. Lost of substances tend to oxidise and go in to the sea threw running water. So I think sea water “mining” is a long time sustainable alternative. If there is large scale desalination these two activities can be combined and in same way you get the boron from the sea.

If you use the boron wise and take it from the sea I think it last longer than calculated. Boron exists in small amount in the rocs and is slowly transported threw ruing water to the sea. Its also comes from volcanic wells. Boron also is lost from the sea threw sedimentation and becomes new rocs. Is same as for the salt, the consecration is nearly constant during long time. It’s a geochemical cycle. In some millions of years the boron in the sea are refilled. Boron is also a nutrient for plants. But the fusions only consume the B11. The B10 can be saved for the plants.
The boron reserve in the sea is enormous. If the boron is consumed slowly it’s going to in some degree be refilled.

There may be a way to make closed carbon loops like the carbon cycles in nature.
In fist we assume that carbon based material can replace metals in some degree. Plastic construction materials, CNT for strong materials and conductors and so on.
CO2 is taken from the air. Threw catalysis or hydro-phyrolys, methane is produced and delivered to petrochemical industries.
CO2 + 4H2  CH4 + 2H2O
I hope this processes can be economical if the energy becomes cheap. No oil, coal or biomass is involved. Its CO2 neutral, if plastic is incorporated in the techno sphere its some CO2 negative. The plastic litter can be recycled or burned. Loses are soon or later go back to the atmosphere as CO2.

clonan
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Do we have to run out of B11?

Post by clonan »

As I understand it we can do P-P, P-D, P-T pB11 or several other combinations for power most release a lot of neutrons.

So why not do a p-p fusion and line the walls with B10. Sure most will get spattered off but some will absorb a neutron and convert to B11.

This idea can also be used to create other chemicals that we only need for doping etc.


Just an idea.

djolds1
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Post by djolds1 »

93143 wrote:
djolds1 wrote:The gas giants can fuel the DHe3 cycle for several million years with human populations in the 1E20+ range, IIRC.
That does sound good.

It's also not aneutronic (not with that much D flying around, it's not). Although admittedly 3He-3He is probably fine too...
DHe3 is commonly credited as aneutronic. Specifically the aneutronic second generation fuel cycle. And when you start getting to neutron levels as low as those in DHe3, arguing "Is it aneutronic/isn't it aneutronic?" starts to become like arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
93143 wrote:
Eventually the Sun will go Red Giant and fry the Earth (tho it is theoretically possible to move a planet) and solar system. Our species WILL go extinct. Even the universe will die in the heat death and/or proton decay. Extending a desire for "sustainability" past a limited period into the future is a parody of reason and caution. What we need to be is cosmic locusts, consuming all resources available in the universe and enduring until the universe itself dies.
I disagree. I think that, long-term, ignoring solar power (which is otherwise just wasted from an energy perspective) is going to have us running out of everything else long before the last stars burn out.
For human beings:

1) 10 years is a long time,
2) 100 years is a very long time,
3) 1000 years is essentially forever.

Add an additional zero to the end of each of those if biotech gives radical life extension.

Worrying about running out of fuel for a power source that will last into the trillion year range is anal beyond anything I've ever managed. And I thought I had set records. :) A millions of years+ fuel source is essentially forever, and if our posthuman descendants don't manage to create additional options (ZPF power taps?) in the breathing space THAT provides, the human lineage DESERVES to go extinct.
93143 wrote:(Admittedly I don't have hard numbers to back this up; it's just a feeling.) That "locust" mentality has gotten us into trouble before, and it will again.
Nothing lasts forever. Entropy is the nature of the universe. Even modern environmentalist conceits about "sustainability" only stretch supplies, and being "good stewards of the Earth" will be pointless when the sun deep fries said Earth in a tasty honey glaze.

LONG term, the rule with all resources is "use 'em or lose 'em."

Now granted the locust swarm should feast slowly, so that the universe can provide good eatin's for the 1E25 years or so we can survive in it.
93143 wrote:I will admit that after doing some calculations, it appears that the energy required for torching garbage, specifically, might not be as high as I'd assumed... My BOE calculations indicate that for our current population and a trash rate of 1 metric tonne per person per year, incinerated at 17,000 K, a small multiple of our current worldwide energy budget would just about do it. (I have no idea what the fudge factor would have to be to account for inefficiency. Also I have no idea what the average specific heat of garbage is over that temperature range...)

The requirement to use resources wisely doesn't go away with cheap fusion - but the ceiling definitely opens up a bit...
There have been realistic concepts and studies for mining and even COLONIZING the interior of the Sun. With humans as they are now.

You're being WAAAAAAAAAAAAY over cautious.

Fusion provides a window of millions to trillions of years. Us trying to plan and provide for our descendants at the end of that is insane. For our intents and purposes the fuel reserves and energy available from fusion are nigh infinite.

Duane
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93143
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Post by 93143 »

djolds1 wrote:DHe3 is commonly credited as aneutronic.
...okay, I just looked it up, and apparently if you run extremely helium-rich, you can get about 1000 times less neutron flux than with pure D-D. For a 50-50 mix it's only 40 times less.
...if our posthuman descendants don't manage to create additional options (ZPF power taps?) in the breathing space THAT provides, the human lineage DESERVES to go extinct.
You sure have a lot of faith in (post-?)humanity. When have we ever done something that foresighted?

I'm not sure that I'm actually in disagreement with you. It's really starting to feel like hairsplitting on my end... I'm just trying to inject a note of caution, lest we do something really stupid like jacking up our energy usage by a factor of 1000 and NOT actually getting off this planet before the borax runs out... very unlikely, I know...

Besides, I've been trying to debug a lousy 2000-line program for three weeks and I'm not used to the humidity here...

As for "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?", the answer is very simple.

Angels don't dance.

djolds1
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Post by djolds1 »

93143 wrote:
djolds1 wrote:DHe3 is commonly credited as aneutronic.
...okay, I just looked it up, and apparently if you run extremely helium-rich, you can get about 1000 times less neutron flux than with pure D-D. For a 50-50 mix it's only 40 times less.
He says drollly. :o

Actually, DHe3 neutronicity looks to be a 1/13.2 (0.05/0.66) reduction over DD, 1/16 (0.05/0.80) of DT.

Still, achieving 92.4% or 93.75% reductions in toxicity in a critical industry are very impressive. Apoplectic conniptions of joy moments, in fact.
93143 wrote:
...if our posthuman descendants don't manage to create additional options (ZPF power taps?) in the breathing space THAT provides, the human lineage DESERVES to go extinct.
You sure have a lot of faith in (post-?)humanity. When have we ever done something that foresighted?
I have faith in time. A minimum of several million years allows our descendants PLENTY of time to play the renewed innovation game. If Western society and science is the end point of human scientific & technological advancement, our species is doomed in the near term anyway.

And if our descendants don't provolve themselves into humanity Mk2 and higher, they're doing a VERY poor job of being human.
93143 wrote:I'm not sure that I'm actually in disagreement with you. It's really starting to feel like hairsplitting on my end... I'm just trying to inject a note of caution, lest we do something really stupid like jacking up our energy usage by a factor of 1000 and NOT actually getting off this planet before the borax runs out... very unlikely, I know...
If polywell works, SOMEONE is going to build QED rockets and get our species off this mudball within the next thousand years. Even if a "stasis for all time" quasi-Chinese Empire takes over the Earth, eventually it rots from within and/or an ambitious province breaks away to play the grand hubris game. Even Frank Herbert's life-extended Padishah Empire collapsed after 10,000 years. :)

200,000 years is MORE than enough time to break through any potential roadblocks. So is 20,000 years, and in all probability 2000 years is the maximum speedbump on progress.
93143 wrote:Besides, I've been trying to debug a lousy 2000-line program for three weeks and I'm not used to the humidity here...

As for "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?", the answer is very simple.

Angels don't dance.


Der PanzerPope may not agree. :o

Duane
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93143
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Post by 93143 »

djolds1 wrote:Der PanzerPope may not agree.
All right, you asked for it.

Angels are pure spirits. They are "simple" in the philosophical sense - they are noncorporeal and do not have components or anything that could be related to spatial properties, or even temporal properties in the conventional sense. They have no 'body parts' which could change their relation with one another. In fact, the location of a pure spirit can be defined only as the location of a physical object or system being operated on by it - if no such operation is occurring, the spirit has no defined location.

Given this, the idea of an angel dancing is not coherent. This is fairly basic theology.

In addition, the question seems to have originated with a seventeenth-century wiseass - it was never seriously considered by the scholastics. It deserves a wiseass answer.

As regards neutronicity of D-3He, I apologize for my crude/inaccurate numbers. I was in a hurry. Have you heard anything about the idea for running helium-rich? I wonder what bremsstrahlung would look like?

If your numbers are right, D-3He doesn't meet Wikipedia's definition of aneutronic fusion. Neutron flux would still carry >1% of the energy. I'm not sure this is relevant, since it wouldn't need a steam plant and core changeouts would be much less frequent - it's more a technicality than anything else. Still, p-11B is better...

And regarding our future in space - yes, I agree, the chances are VERY good that we'll get out there before running out of aneutronic fusion fuel. And it looks like plasma torch recycling is an entirely reasonable thing to do, provided it isn't abused with thousands of times the current waste output (which I doubt we'd be able to reach anyway without colonizing space). But I've learned never to underestimate the human capacity for stupidity, not to mention the inertia of a comfortable civilization, and the chance is nonzero that if we get it into our heads that this really is a limitless resource, we'll blow this golden opportunity and leave our remote descendants stuck here without the aneutronic option, all because we couldn't tear ourselves away from our unlimited-energy-powered toys long enough to build some rockets and take some risk...
Last edited by 93143 on Fri Aug 01, 2008 5:42 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Betruger
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Post by Betruger »

Tiny off topic Q, that I ask here in case anyone else is curious: Where can I find info on those sun colonization studies?
Thanks.

Mike Holmes
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Post by Mike Holmes »

93143,

There are so many more plausible existential threats than running out of energy - if that's an existential threat at all, other than to our current way of life - that to propose that we ought to worry about the usage of fusion energy because we might waste it...

...when in fact that energy is neccessary to prevent the existential threats in the short run...

... I'm sorry, but that's mind-numbingly short-sighted. I'm quite sure that energy use is like the law about computer storage that, once developed, a use for all of it will follow. I'm also just as sure that the pressure that implies will continue to produce more energy. It's taken only a couple of centuries since the industrial revolution to figure out fusion power. It'll take us less to figure out something far more powerful like, perhaps, matter/anti-matter reactors or something unimaginable today. The pace of technology is increasing.

And one thing that keeps it increasing are the constant technological breakthroughs that make them possible. That is, it'll be the energy of the fusion reactor that will, in part, enable us to create the next thing that much more easily.

Yes, we'll squander much of it along the way, as we have oil. But it's oil, make no mistake, that's enabled fusion to be developed.

Or will have enabled it, once we have it. :-)

So I think worrying about the waste level is without prescedent.

Mike

93143
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Post by 93143 »

Mike Holmes wrote:There are so many more plausible existential threats than running out of energy...
First off, I don't think you're using the word "existential" correctly.

Second, you've badly misinterpreted me. I'm not an environmentalist; I'm an aerospace engineer - and getting talked to as though I were some sort of green nut without any attempt being made to actually understand what I'm saying is really starting to annoy me.

My objection is partly semantic and partly philosophical. Technically, borax is not a limitless resource - and don't give me any nonsense about how ten thousand years is forever; it's not. One has to make very pessimistic assumptions to even begin to put a squeeze on the timetable as regards securing more fusion fuel supplies in space. But it remains technically true that if we don't do that and our civilization stays high-energy and dependent on fusion, we will eventually run out of easy fusion fuel. It's not limitless - it's just virtually limitless. This should be kept in mind, just in case...

You sound like you believe religiously in Progress. The inevitable advance of technology; always something new and better. I like the idea of technological progress (otherwise I wouldn't be an aerospace engineer), and I see no real reason it can't continue for quite some time. But it may not. If you discount the electronics industry, how much progress has really happened over the past 40 years? How much of that was driven by computer technology? My own field is NOT increasing its pace of advancement; it's relatively mature and requires breakthroughs in other areas (fusion, for example) in order to continue developing. (A little more money would help too...) Besides, who says the sci-fi idea of godlike technological sophistication is anything more than wishful thinking? It's entirely possible that fusion is the best energy source we will ever develop.

PLEASE NOTE that none of the hypothetical pessimistic scenarios I've been pushing actually represent my opinion. These things need to be said, but they remain extremely unlikely and I remain hopeful.

Although I will be quite choked if Polywell turns out to be a crock...

I also very much doubt that the next power source will be available sooner after fusion than fusion was (will be?) after oil. Fusion looks like it's supposed to be more long-term - it certainly appears adequately suited to the task of powering a multi-millenial spacefaring civilization, although perhaps not a starfaring one...

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