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Old November 17th, 2006, 05:24 AM
Antichrist Antichrist is offline
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I really can't help thinking in certain ways and of certain things, and recently I began thinking of the ramifications of fusion power and what it means, and will mean if/when humanity ever gets it going.

The thing is that fusion power is going to make amounts of energy available that are impossible to imagine at today;s combustion scale. Basically combustion is a molecular process that releases about 1/32 billionth of the energy contained in a given mass. Seriously, molecular level processes like burning or rapid breaking of molecular bonds like in some explosives releases one about 1 out of 32 billion parts of the enrgy contained in mass, that's a pretty small amount of power, really.

Now fusion is a nuclear process that releases 0.7% of the energy in a given mass (This is all based on what I've picked up over the years, BTW)

So a fusion power plant, fusing hydrogen at maximum efficiency, releases about 0.7% of the energy that the mass of the hydrogen contains under E=MC^2.

An ounce of mass contains roughly one megaton of energy, if it were possible to convert energy directly to mass (And it is with the help of antimatter, for example.)

This all means that when a starship in traveller "burns" a ton of liquid hydrogen fuel in it's fusion reactor, it's converting 32,000 ounces of mass into energy at an efficiency rate of 0.7%.

This would mean that it's creating 0.7% of 32,000 megatons of energy, or about 224 megatons of energy. Now we have to assume some of the power is lost thru various means, even so if we round it down to 200, it means that each ton of liquid hydrogen 'burned' in a good fusion reactor produces about 200 megatons of energy.

That amount may be comparable to the total combined power of all the explosives used in ww2, from just one ton of liquid hydrogen. Think of how much liquid hydrogen a beowulf uses every time it jumps, and we see that when the captain of a beowulf order a jump, he's essentially commanding an amount of energy that would make the total amount of force used in WW2 pale in comparision.

If all that energy were released as a single explosion... Well, think about it.

So in traveller fusion powerplants in private hands may be commonplace, byt by today's standards even a run down, sagging rustbucket of a free trader generates and uses power on levels no one alive today could command.

Asides from the power issue, there's the fact that while 0.7% of the liquid hydrogen tossed into the reactor gets turned into energy, 99.3% remains as helium. I was wonderign where it went. Does it just get vented into space? I guess it could be done but it seems wasteful, helium has some useful properties after all. Liquified it makes a great coolant, and if liquified then rapidly superheated it makes a great non polluting propellent for a reaction drive. Just heat it thru the fusion reactor, vent it out the rear and you've got a decent reaction thruster.

If you fuse helium again, tho it takes more energy and force to fuse elements the higher up the periodic table you go, you get useful elements like beryllium, a useful metal, or after a couple more fusionings you get oxygen, a very useful thing for people in space.

I was just thinking of the ramifications and inmplications of fusion power, and wondered if anyone has done rules or such for using fusion to create hiugher elemntns out of hydrogen and if regular fusion reactors were capagle of it. If so it would mean a lot of basic elements could be produced as 'waste products' of energy production, and, for example, beryllium would be very, very cheap and common which would be a good thing as beryllium is useful for making extremely strong and light metals, like, say, spacecraft hulls and armor.
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