The Device, in which teams of agents must save Milwaukee from doom, is based on the story of Dr. Watson Dangerfield. He is the inventor of cold fusion, and now he’s been taken captive and his fusion device set to explode!
While Dr. Dangerfield’s device is a product of fiction, cold fusion is a topic of real scientific research. I couldn’t help but think of our escape room when I noticed a thorough description of the current state of cold fusion research recently in the business section of the New York times.
The article first explains the attraction of fusion. All current nuclear power plants are based on fission, which is splitting a heavy nucleus such as uranium into smaller daughter nuclei. This creates the hazardous, long term radioactive waste which is such a drawback of this type of power. The fuel for fusion is usually a scarce element such as uranium which must be mined and also enriched, which raises safety and environmental concerns along with fears regarding the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Fusion has no such drawbacks. Fusion products, such as helium, are harmless and can either be used or released safely into the environment. The various isotopes of hydrogen, which are the fuel for fusion, can be safely extracted from water. Weapons proliferation will not be a concern at all.
Fusion research has traditionally been sponsored by governments, due to its tremendous cost. One example is ITER, a 35 nation fusion reactor that cost more than $20 billion. But this article explains that now small startups are attempting to solve the fusion problem on their own.
One project, with a $30 million price tag funded by investors, shoots disc shaped bullets the size of a dime at speeds of about 50,000 mph at beads of hydrogen to compress it to fuse. Another European attempt, called First Light Fusion, uses a different form of shock and compression to get the hydrogen atoms to fuse.
The ITER project has made progress as well. ITER attempts to contain superhot hydrogen plasma in a magnetic bottle for the fusion to occur. The Department of Energy’s Princetom Plasma Physics Laboratory recently succeeded at using radio frequency technology to reduce ‘plasma disruption’ which is a major breakthrough for that method.
Fusion reactors will not be powering our air conditioners and electric cars anytime in the short term, but exciting research is ongoing. Dr. Dangerfield may be imaginary, but the science we tell you at Save Milwaukee is real. And one more good thing for the world- a real fusion reactor won’t be able to explode!