And Now Bottled Sunlight?
The massive superconducting stellarator fusion torus dubbed WX-7 briefly, for just a quarter of a second, magnetically contained hydrogen plasma glowing at 80 million degrees C. At a cost of some €400 million, its supporters herald it as the possible breakthrough the planet needs to move beyond our dependence on climate alternating fossil fuels.
Just mere days before the WX-7 fired up in Germany on February 3rd, here in the United States, Randell Mills and his team conducted a similar experiment, but on a much more approachable scale. While his "hydrino" theory remains controversial, some calling it a hoax, Mills has produced increasingly credible evidence in the way of working hardware, which he demonstrated on January 31, 2016 to a roomful of invited guests. The more than a hour and a half-long video is reproduced below. To see the device working, advance to the 55-minute point where Mill's team fires up their prototype 'SunCells.'
Mill's device, which uses a mixture of water and silver, creates a plasma of extremely bright light, which he proposes to convert into electrical energy via concentrating solar cells. Because the system will, ultimately, be enclosed in a vacuum chamber, the water and silver are both recycled to be re-injected into the plasma chamber at a rate of 1000-2000 times per second, creating a continuous glow of light that can be harnessed, as well as cycled up and down as load demands change.
There are no moving parts to the system: everything is essentially solid state, from the supercapacitors to the electromagnetic pump. A commercial system, as envisioned by the above engineering illustration would weigh no more than 250 lbs yet produce the equivalent of 200kW of continuous electrical power, day and night. In effect, capturing sunlight in a bottle.
Of course, Mill's first target market is the automotive industry where his SunCell could produce all the electrical power an EV needs and then some. In fact, he envisions powering homes and businesses with these mobile fleets, noting that every 10 days right now the auto industry produces engines that rival the power output of the entire US electric grid.
Mill's theorizes that his system is taping into the dark matter of which the universe is made: a form of hydrogen he calls an hydrino. This he speculates is a form of hydrogen below the 'ground state.' As the atoms 'shrink', they release vast amounts of energy, which is what we see in the brilliant light show that happens inside the SunCell. Whatever the mechanism, the results appear not only impressive but also viable commercially, unlike Wendelstein WX-7. Mills says Brilliant Light Power plans to have working prototypes by 2017 and that at this point, at least, he sees no 'show stoppers.'
The company's business model involves leasing their powerplants, in effect selling electric power at a rate of 1/10th of a cent per kilowatt, that's $0.001/kW. Where most power plants cost several thousands of dollars per kilowatt (1000 watts) to build, Mills thinks his system can be manufactured for anywhere from $50 to $250/kW. Maybe best of all, there are no consumables, unlike fossil fuels and conventional nuclear power; and therefore, no waste. The couple hundred dollar worth of silver, which must be kept at a vaporization temperate of 1,950 C, is continually recycled, meaning just a onetime cost.
Electricity that cheap and a leasing model is bound to be very disruptive. While Mills sees SunCells powering everything from cars to trains to boats and planes, whether OEMs will be willing to relinquish economic control of the technology that powers their products remains to be seen.
Unlike the fusion stellarator in Greifswald, Germany, we won't have to wait more decades to see if the SunCell is the real deal. We'll know within then next 18-24 months. If it lives up to its promise, it could be the game changer for the planet.
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