NOVA Now Universe Revealed Podcast: Can We Recreate the Power of Stars Down on Earth?

What does it take to create fusion power and how will the world look once achieved?

The process that powers our sun was still a mystery about 100 years ago. Bit by bit, scientists have worked out that the fusion of hydrogen at a star’s core can generate enough power to keep it shining for billions of years.

Now, armed with this knowledge, researchers around the world are trying to figure out if we can recreate that fusion process here on Earth. (And yes, trying to kickstart fusion—and then contain superheated plasmas that reach temperatures up to 100 million degrees Celsius—is just as hard as it sounds.)

If scientists can pull it off, the payoff could be huge: A deep understanding of stellar physics could one day lead to a virtually unlimited supply of clean energy. To discover just how, Dr. Alok Patel hears from an astrophysicist and a fusion scientist.

Complete podcast is available at NOVA PBS Official

NOVA Now Universe Revealed is a production of GBH and PRX. It’s produced by: Terence Bernardo Jennie Cataldo Ari Daniel Caitlin Faulds Jocelyn Gonzales

Julia Cort and Chris Schmidt are the co-Executive Producers of NOVA Sukee Bennett is Senior Digital Editor Christina Monnen is Associate Researcher Robin Kazmier is Science Editor Robert Boyd is Digital Associate Producer Shyla Duff is Digital Video Intern And Devin Maverick Robins is Managing Producer of Podcasts at GBH

Thanks to our guests Hakeem Oluseyi, author of A Quantum Life, and Dennis Whyte, director of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center. © WGBH Educational Foundation 202

Major breakthrough on nuclear fusion energy

Here is yet another major breakthrough in the pursuit of fusion power. The Joint European Torus (JET) laboratory in the U.K have generated a sustained fusion reaction long enough, 5 seconds, to boil 60 kettles of water.

To read the complete article please visit BBC


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Utilities Eye Mini Nuclear Reactors as Climate Concerns Grow

Burn, baby, burn: Nuclear scientists achieve major fusion feat

With 192 lasers and temperatures more than three times hotter than the center of the sun, scientists hit — at least for a fraction of a second — a key milestone on the long road toward nearly pollution-free fusion energy.

Researchers at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California were able to spark a fusion reaction that briefly sustained itself — a major feat because fusion requires such high temperatures and pressures that it easily fizzles out.

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Utilities Eye Mini Nuclear Reactors as Climate Concerns Grow

Utilities Eye Mini Nuclear Reactors as Climate Concerns Grow

Despite the enticement of carbon-free power, critics say small modular reactors have the same safety and cost challenges of big nukes

The U.S. Energy Department says it would invest $3.2 billion over seven years to support the development of small modular reactors, like X Energy’s TRISO-X.

U.S. utilities are looking to miniature nuclear reactors, as they seek a steady energy source that can help reduce the carbon emissions linked to climate change.

While power companies have stopped building big nuclear reactors because of cost overruns and construction delays, not all utilities are giving up on nuclear power.

Several U.S. utilities and power consortia—including Energy Northwest, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, and PacifiCorp, part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. —have entered into partnerships with manufacturers to build small modular reactors, or SMRs attracted to their potential to produce carbon-free, 24-hour-a-day power.

Dozens of SMR developers worldwide—ranging from 22-person startup Oklo to Bill Gates-founded TerraPower—are testing designs for the reactors, which have less than a third of the generating capacity of traditional nukes and have components that can be mass-produced in factories.

To read the complete article please visit the Wall Street Journal


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Extraordinary New Material Converts Waste Heat Into Energy

Abstract Energy Generation Concept

Purified tin selenide has extraordinarily high thermoelectric performance.

Perseverance, NASA’s 2020 Mars rover, is powered by something very desirable here on Earth: a thermoelectric device, which converts heat to useful electricity.

On Mars, the heat source is the radioactive decay of plutonium, and the device’s conversion efficiency is 4-5%. That’s good enough to power Perseverance and its operations but not quite good enough for applications on Earth.

A team of scientists from Northwestern University and Seoul National University in Korea now has demonstrated a high-performing thermoelectric material in a practical form that can be used in device development. The material — purified tin selenide in polycrystalline form — outperforms the single-crystal form in converting heat to electricity, making it the most efficient thermoelectric system on record. The researchers were able to achieve a high conversion rate after identifying and removing an oxidation problem that had degraded performance in earlier studies.

The polycrystalline tin selenide could be developed for use in solid-state thermoelectric devices in a variety of industries, with potentially enormous energy savings. A key application target is capturing industrial waste heat — such as from power plants, the automobile industry, and glass- and brick-making factories — and converting it to electricity. More than 65% of the energy produced globally from fossil fuels is lost as waste heat.

Tin Selenide Pellet

Purified tin selenide showed in pellet form. The material has extraordinarily high thermoelectric performance. Credit: Northwestern University

“Thermoelectric devices are in use, but only in niche applications, such as in the Mars rover,” said Northwestern’s Mercouri Kanatzidis, a chemist who specializes in the design of new materials. “These devices have not caught on like solar cells, and there are significant challenges to making good ones. We are focusing on developing a material that would be low cost and high performance and propel thermoelectric devices into the more widespread application.”

Kanatzidis, the Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, is a co-corresponding author of the study. He has a joint appointment with Argonne National Laboratory.

Details of the thermoelectric material and its record-high performance were published on August 2, 2021, in the journal Nature Materials.

In Chung of Seoul National University is the paper’s other co-corresponding author. Vinayak Dravid, the Abraham Harris Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering, is one of the study’s senior authors. Dravid is a long-time collaborator of Kanatzidis’.

Thermoelectric devices are already well defined, says Kanatzidis, but what makes them work well or not is the thermoelectric material inside. One side of the device is hot and the other side is cold. The thermoelectric material lies in the middle. Heat flows through the material, and some of the heat is converted to electricity, which leaves the device via wires.

The material needs to have extremely low thermal conductivity while still retaining good electrical conductivity to be efficient at waste heat conversion. And because the heat source could be as high as 400-500 degrees Celsius, the material needs to be stable at very high temperatures. These challenges and others make thermoelectric devices more difficult to produce than solar cells.

‘Something diabolical was happening’

In 2014, Kanatzidis and his team reported the discovery of a surprising material that was the best in the world at converting waste heat to useful electricity: the crystal form of the chemical compound tin selenide. While an important discovery, the single-crystal form is impractical for mass production because of its fragility and tendency to flake.

Tin selenide in polycrystalline form, which is stronger and can be cut and shaped for applications, was needed, so the researchers turned to studying the material in that form. In an unpleasant surprise, they found the material’s thermal conductivity was high, not the desirable low level found in the single-crystal form.

“We realized something diabolical was happening,” Kanatzidis said. “The expectation was that tin selenide in polycrystalline form would not have high thermal conductivity, but it did. We had a problem.”

Upon closer examination, the researchers discovered a skin of oxidized tin on the material. Heat flowed through the conductive skin, increasing the thermal conductivity, which is undesirable in a thermoelectric device.

A solution is found, opening doors

After learning that the oxidation came from both the process itself and the starting materials, the Korean team found a way to remove the oxygen. The researchers then could produce tin selenide pellets with no oxygen, which they then tested.

The true thermal conductivity of the polycrystalline form was measured and found to be lower, as originally expected. Its performance as a thermoelectric device, converting heat to electricity, exceeded that of the single crystal form, making it the most efficient on record.

The efficiency of waste heat conversion in thermoelectrics is reflected by its “figure of merit,” a number called ZT. The higher the number, the better the conversion rate. The ZT of single-crystal tin selenide earlier was found to be approximately 2.2 to 2.6 at 913 Kelvin. In this new study, the researchers found the purified tin selenide in polycrystalline form had a ZT of approximately 3.1 at 783 Kelvin. Its thermal conductivity was ultralow, lower than the single-crystals.

“This opens the door for new devices to be built from polycrystalline tin selenide pellets and their applications explored,” Kanatzidis said.

Northwestern owns the intellectual property for the tin selenide material. Potential areas of application for the thermoelectric material include the automobile industry (a significant amount of gasoline’s potential energy goes out of a vehicle’s tailpipe), heavy manufacturing industries (such as glass and brick making, refineries, coal- and gas-fired power plants) and places where large combustion engines operate continuously (such as in large ships and tankers).

To read the complete article please visit

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Helion Energy Says It Will Offer the World’s First Commercial Fusion Power

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Clean Energy Breakthrough: Making Hydrogen Is Hard, but Researchers Just Solved a Major Hurdle

For decades, researchers around the world have searched for ways to use solar power to generate the key reaction for producing hydrogen as a clean energy source — splitting water molecules to form hydrogen and oxygen. However, such efforts have mostly failed because doing it well was too costly, and trying to do it at a low cost led to poor performance.

Now, researchers from The University of Texas at Austin have found a low-cost way to solve one half of the equation, using sunlight to efficiently split off oxygen molecules from water. The finding, published recently in Nature Communications, represents a step forward toward greater adoption of hydrogen as a key part of our energy infrastructure.

As early as the 1970s, researchers were investigating the possibility of using solar energy to generate hydrogen. But the inability to find materials with the combination of properties needed for a device that can perform the key chemical reactions efficiently has kept it from becoming a mainstream method.

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US NUCLEAR CORP’S strategic partnership with Magneto-Inertial Fusion Technologies, Inc. (MIFTI). MIFTI is in the late stages of the development of fusion power.

Nuclear power utilizing (fusion) energy is one of the most promising and safe sources for an unlimited timeframe and extremely economical fuel costs. For example, one gallon of seawater can produce energy approximately equal to 300 gallons of gasoline energy. With minimal reduced radioactive waste and limited impact on the environment, fusion energy generators will provide the ever-growing electricity requirements the global community demands.

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Clean Energy: Fission or Fusion is the Future?

Clean Energy: Fission or Fusion is the Future?

Current renewable energy sources are a good start in the alternative energy field. Unfortunately, they will never be able to completely satisfy the insatiable and increasing thirst for energy/electricity of our world.  Fusion power derived from hydrogen in seawater will substantially and in an environmentally responsible way fill the gap.

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Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRS)

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRS)

Providing clean, safe, and affordable energy to serve the growing power requirements of our country and the world, Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), appear to be a reasonable solution. They are about a third of the size of a conventional nuclear power plant. The vision is to have these deployed around the country in single or multiple units, generating from a couple of megawatts to hundreds of megawatts.

The vision includes not just use as power generators but to process heat, desalination, or other industrial uses. The modular construction provides a great benefit in the ability to be manufactured in a facility and then be shipped for assembly at the approved power site.

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