From the ABC, an exciting step forward in cheap, sustainable power generation
China’s ‘artificial sun’ reaches 100 million degrees Celsius marking milestone for nuclear fusion
Chinese nuclear scientists have reached an important milestone in the global quest to harness energy from nuclear fusion, a process that occurs naturally in the sun.
- The ‘artificial sun’ is designed to replicate the fusion process that occurs in the sun
- Dr Matthew Hole said the achievement is significant for fusion science around the world
- Fusion is seen as a solution for energy issues as it is clean, sustainable and powerful
The team of scientists from China’s Institute of Plasma Physics announced this week that plasma in their Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) — dubbed the ‘artificial sun’ — reached a whopping 100 million degrees Celsius, temperature required to maintain a fusion reaction that produces more power than it takes to run.
To put that in perspective, the temperature at the core of the sun is said to be around 15 million degrees Celsius, making the plasma in China’s ‘artificial sun’ more than six times hotter than the original.
The news comes after China shocked the science community last month with plans to launch an ‘artificial moon’ bright enough to replace city streetlights by 2020.
Speaking to the ABC, associate professor Matthew Hole from the Australian National University said the achievement was an important step for nuclear fusion science.
“It’s certainly a significant step for China’s nuclear fusion program and an important development for the whole world,” Dr Hole told the ABC, adding that developing fusion reactors could be the solution to global energy problems.
“The benefit is simple in that it is very large-scale base load [continuous] energy production, with zero greenhouse gas emissions and no long-life radioactive waste.
“It provides a silver bullet energy solution … providing that one can harness it.”
He added that nuclear fusion reactors also avoid risks associated with the currently employed nuclear fission reactors, which can be adapted into dangerous weapons and are prone to possible catastrophic meltdowns.
The news went viral on Chinese social media, with most users excited by the achievement.
“There is nothing China can’t make,” one user on Weibo said.
Another proclaimed that “if this technology is put in use, the world will no longer feel anxious about the energy crisis.”
So how did China manage to pull it off?
While current nuclear power plants rely on nuclear fission — a chain reaction where uranium atoms are split to release energy — nuclear fusion effectively does the opposite by forcing atoms to merge.
One way of achieving this on Earth is by using what’s known as a tokamak, a device designed to replicate the nuclear fusion process that occurs naturally in the sun and stars to generate energy.
The EAST that pulled off the 100 million Celsius feat stands at 11-metres tall, has a diameter of eight metres, and weighs around 360 thousand kilograms.
It uses a doughnut-shaped ring to house heavy and super-heavy isotopes — atomic variations — of hydrogen known as deuterium and tritium.
The isotopes are heated by powerful electric currents within the tokamak, tearing electrons away from their atoms and forming a charged plasma of hydrogen ions.
Powerful magnets lining the inner walls of EAST then contain the plasma to a tiny area to maximise the chance that the ions will fuse together.
When the ions fuse they give off a large amount of energy, which can then be harnessed to run a power plant and produce electricity.
The Chinese research team said they were able to achieve the record temperature through the use of various new techniques in heating and controlling the plasma, but could only maintain the state for around 10 seconds.
The latest breakthrough provided experimental evidence that reaching the 100 million degrees Celsius mark is possible, according to China’s Institute of Plasma Physics.
Nuclear fusion a global mission, but not in Australia
Dr Hole said that while the energy possibilities of nuclear fusion as a clean energy source has attracted large investment from countries all over the world — including China — Australia has lagged behind.
“As a nation, Australia is about to lose its capability in fusion,” Dr Hole said, adding that many of his colleagues have changed field or are looking for work overseas due to a lack of investment in fusion science.
“Australia used to have good investment in this space, but it has really been neglected in recent years.”
He said that the achievement by EAST will be important to the development of the next major experiment in global nuclear fusion science: the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).
Currently being built in southern France with collaboration from 35 nations including China, ITER is set to be the first fusion device to consistently produce net energy, producing 500 Megawatts of clean and sustainable power.
As EAST has a similar design to ITER but on a far smaller scale, it is likely to be an important testing device during the development of ITER, according to China’s Institute of Plasma Physics.
ITER is expected to be ready to create its first plasma and begin operations in 2025.
Everything that the environmentalists and Greens demand that we have to do to “save the environment” just does the opposite.
Wind Turbines are new top predator in the ecosystem
Wind turbines either kill or scare away three quarters of buzzards, hawks and kites at three sites in India. That makes them the new “top predator” in the ecosystem according to new research. Perhaps not the niche that Greens were expecting wind farms to occupy.
It’s not all bad news though, fan-throated lizards are pretty happy about not being dinner.
Wind farms are the ‘new apex predators’: Blades kill off 75% of buzzards, hawks and kites that live nearby, study shows
Harry Pettit for Daily Mail Online
- Predatory bird numbers are four times higher in areas away from wind turbines
- This is having a devastating ’ripple effect’ across the food chain
- It means numbers of certain small animals are growing unchecked
Wind turbines are the world’s new ‘apex predators’, wiping out buzzards, hawks and other carnivorous birds at the top of the food chain, say scientists. A study of wind farms in India found that predatory bird numbers drop by three quarters in areas around the turbines. This is having a ‘ripple effect’ across the food chain, with small mammals and reptiles adjusting their behaviour as their natural predators disappear from the skies.
Study coauthor Professor Maria Thaker said:
‘Every time a top predator is removed or added, unexpected effects trickle through the ecosystem. What is actually happening here is the wind-turbines are akin to adding a top predator to the ecosystem.’
From the abstract:
The cascading effects of wind turbines on lizards include changes in behaviour, physiology and morphology that reflect a combination of predator release and density-dependent competition. By adding an effective trophic level to the top of food webs, we find that wind farms have emerging impacts that are greatly underestimated. There is thus a strong need for an ecosystem-wide view when aligning green-energy goals with environment protection.
300,000 wind turbines too late.
Those pesky facts do get in the way of a “good” social change program.
Tired of left-wing media manipulation, liberal researcher declares: ‘Science shows sex is binary’
After The New York Times leaked a memo describing how the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to reverse the Obama administration’s guidance allowing students to use restroom and locker room facilities of the opposite sex based on which sex students “identify” as, media outlets and activist organizations unleashed relentless attacks on the Trump White House, claiming it seeks to harm “transgendered” people.
In two recent articles, one written for RealClearPolitics and the other for Playboy, Debra W. Soh, who holds a Ph.D in sexual neuroscience research from New York University, doused the raging firestorm with facts.
“As much as I understand the public’s concern, it’s important to offer a fact-based approach to the issue,” wrote Soh, a self-described liberal, in her Playboy essay.
“It isn’t necessary to redefine ‘sex’ in order to facilitate the acceptance of people who are different,” said Dr. Soh in her RealClearPolitics commentary. “Pushing for social change for the sake of change, as many of those on the left seem wont to do, only leads to misguided policies and unnecessary confusion for the public.”
Humanity: 10 fingers, two sexes
Soh points out that the inflammatory New York Times article incorrectly sought to use the existence of a very small minority of people who are “intersex,” i.e., born with genitalia of both sexes or otherwise ambiguous genitalia, as proof that sex is on a spectrum, not binary.
Certainly, research has shown that as many as 1 percent of the population is intersex, a medical condition denoting that an individual possesses anatomy characteristic of both sexes, such as a combination of vulvar and testicular tissue. Statistically speaking, however, this means that the vast majority of us fall into one category of sex or the other.
It therefore becomes a question of whether a statistically rare occurrence in the general population should be considered typical. An analogy that is commonly used to illustrate this is the fact that most of us have 10 fingers. There exist individuals who possess fewer or more than 10 digits on their hands, but this hasn’t called for a re-conceptualization of how many fingers a human being has.
Ironically, the term ‘transgender’ implies that sex is binary
“This argument has been extended to include the transgender community, with its proponents contending that transgender people defy male and female categorization, and offer proof that sex and gender are a spectrum,” said Soh. “But in reality, the term ‘transgender’ means that a person identifies more as the opposite sex than their birth sex — which still operates within a framework of sex being binary.”
Left-wing media incite outrage, falsely accuse Trump administration of bigotry
According to Soh, the HHS memo suggesting that governmental agencies define sex as being “either male or female, unchangeable and determined by the genitals that a person is born with” is an accurate statement based on science.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ clear statement on defining sex “left most of us with a half-hearted understanding of human biology confused exactly why people are outraged, as there is nothing factually incorrect with this definition,” said Soh. “And yet, left-wing media has been treating it as bigotry.”
Trump administration has it right
“Indeed, a single definition of sex should be reinstated across the U.S. government’s agencies,” asserted Soh. “This is basic demographic information that shouldn’t be seen as controversial or difficult to attain. Don’t get me wrong: acknowledging a transgender person’s sex at birth feels insensitive, especially for those of us who aren’t transgender. But the solution to ending discrimination against gender-variant people is not to adopt the position that biological sex doesn’t exist.”
“To suggest that this group proves that gender is completely unrelated to anatomy, or that a person’s sense of gender in the brain somehow operates in a way that is distinct from the rest of their body, is foolish and erroneous,” she added.
Tired of left-wing media’s manipulative tactics
Soh, who is a supporter of equal rights for “transgender” people, nonetheless views the stances of left-wing activists and media as unsupportable, arguing that important differences between females and men who identify as female certainly do exist. “We should be able to advocate for equal rights for transgender individuals while also acknowledging that differences exist between trans women and women who were born female.”
People should not “deny science” or “make sweeping claims in order to ramp up the backlash,” said Soh in her Playboy essay. “In our current climate, heightening political polarization is reckless and only serves to frustrate and alienate well-meaning people who would otherwise be sympathetic to the cause.”
“Rather, they must contend with whether they are being manipulated by the media,” continued Dr. Soh. “These changes have no doubt been a wider response to the left’s increasingly extreme views on gender; some liberals, including myself, have become tired of its nonsensical ideas, including the concept that self-identification supersedes everything else, and that shaming and silencing someone is the only acceptable reaction should they question the outrage.”
From the ABC, good news about a real competitor to petrol driven cars, hydrogen. Electric cars really aren’t a starter once you get outside the major cities, but a car fuelled by hydrogen with a range of 800 km and a re-fuel time similar to petrol is a real possibility.
Hydrogen fuel breakthrough in Queensland could fire up massive new export market
Two cars powered by hydrogen derived from ammonia will be tested in Brisbane today thanks to a Queensland breakthrough that CSIRO researchers say could turn Australia into a renewable energy superpower.
CSIRO principal research scientist Michael Dolan said it was a very exciting day for a project that has been a decade in the making.
“We started out with what we thought was a good idea, it is exciting to see it on the cusp of commercial deployment,” he said.
For the past decade, researchers have worked on producing ultra-high purity hydrogen using a unique membrane technology.
The membrane breakthrough will allow hydrogen to be safely transported and used as a mass production energy source.
“We are certainly the first to demonstrate the production of very clean hydrogen from ammonia,” Dr Dolan said.
“Today is the very first time in the world that hydrogen cars have been fuelled with a fuel derived from ammonia — carbon-free fuel.”
Program leader David Harris said Australia has a huge source of renewable energy — sunlight and wind — that can be utilised to produce hydrogen.
But the highly flammable element is difficult to ship long distances because of its low density.
CSIRO researchers found a way to turn Australian-made hydrogen into ammonia, meaning it could be shipped safely to the mass market of Asia.
It is converted back into hydrogen using their membrane, then pumped into hydrogen-powered cars.
As of now, there are only five such cars in Australia, but there are tens of thousands across Japan, South Korea and Singapore.
“The key here is we can transport the hydrogen from the place where it is produced from renewable energy — let’s say maybe that is in outback WA — and we can ship that form of ammonia anywhere in the world,” Dr Harris said.
‘A massive step for Australia’
Both Toyota and Hyundai have invested millions of dollars into hydrogen-powered cars.
Today’s road test will be on Hyundai’s flagship eco car the Nexo SUV, and Toyota’s Murai.
The ABC got a sneak peek at the testing station where the cars were fuelled up and given a short test at CSIRO’s Pullenvale technology hub in western Brisbane.
Hyundai spokesman Scott Nargar said the main advantage of hydrogen over electric cars was they could be filled up in three minutes like a normal car and had a range of up to 800 kilometres.
“So they are just like driving a normal car but there will be zero emissions,” he said.
“From a car manufacturer’s point of view, we see this as a massive step for Australia.
“Working in and out of South Korea quite regularly, I know Hyundai has a massive contract to provide hydrogen buses to the Korean Government.
“It just announced 16,000 hydrogen-powered cars will go on the road and 310 hydrogen refilling stations across the country under a five-year plan.
“They need to power those cars from somewhere so why can’t it be renewable hydrogen from Australia?”
Toyota spokesman Matthew Macleod said the breakthrough was exciting because it addressed one of the key challenges with hydrogen.
“It is a game-changer,” he said.
“Ammonia already has established routes for transportation and to transport at relatively normal temperatures.
“When it gets to where it is going they can actually pull the hydrogen out using the CSIRO technology, which opens up fuel cell technology to markets that previously did not have the technology.
“From an energy perspective, the ability to move solar energy or wind energy from one place to another using ammonia opens up doors that previously would have been closed because of the difficulties of transporting hydrogen.”
Australia’s next export boom
The CSIRO team has already received expressions of interest from Japan, South Korea and Europe, with industry players looking at taking up supplies initially to fuel commercial vehicles like buses, taxis, trucks and trains.
Dr Dolan said a million hydrogen-powered cars were expected to hit the streets by 2025.
Currently hydrogen-fuelled cars sell for about $80,000, but, as with electric cars run on power-grid charged batteries, the price is expected to fall as production increases.
Mr Nargar said they expected to see price parity with petrol and diesel cars within a decade.
Dr Dolan said the cost for the fuel would be around $15 a kilogram, with an average car holding five kilos of pure hydrogen in a tank.
“But the efficiency of the car is twice as good as current gasoline cars, so you can actually drive twice as far on a tank,” he said.
Dr Dolan said renewable hydrogen was seen as Australia’s next export boom.
“It could potentially rival our LNG export industry,” he said.
“As of this year Australia is the world’s biggest natural gas exporter. Hydrogen could be in the same position in the next couple of decades.”
Hydrogen-powered cars could be on sale in Australia with the next two years.
With the latest environmental hysteria gaining traction to ban plastic straws (as usual both irrational and unscientific) here is a graph that puts Australia’s plastic pollution in perspective:
Yeah, we don’t even make the top 12.
You may have also heard about the incredible figure of 500 million plastic straws used by Americans every day. It turns out that came from a science project by a 9 year old boy. That doesn’t prove it is wrong, just lacking in academic rigour because most 9 year olds have not been trained in the scientific method (much like most adult environmentalists)
Anemone eats bird
Scientists reported a Giant Green Anemone (Anthopleura xanthogrammica) consuming a nestling cormorant (Phalacrocorax sp.) in the journal, Marine Ornithology. It is unclear whether the baby bird was alive or dead when it was captured by the anemone. Either way, it’s certainly an unforgettable visual.