The Super X Divertor sounds like some fantasy invention from a 1950s Popular Mechanics. But it’s a real device that helps enable two eco-friendly processes: Generating zero carbon-footprint power, and eating up dangerous nuclear waste from older power stations.
Physicists at the University of Texas have invented the Compact Fusion Neutron Source (CFNS), which is a clever system that mixes of two types of nuclear power reactors. The older fission reactor we’re all familiar with (which generate lots of dangerously radioactive waste) and a tokamak fusion reactor (where small atoms are fused together much more cleanly).
The CFNS will eat up so-called nuclear “sludge,” which is a dangerous, highly toxic, long-lived radioactive by-product of existing nuclear power stations. The sludge is formed into a jacket around the core fusion reactor. The CFNS spits out neutrons and heat which “burn” the sludge, releasing more energy as heat–which is used to generate more electricity–and reducing the sludge into less dangerous material. And the Super X Divertor makes it possible for the compound reactor to produce lots of neutrons and heat without destroying itself.
It’s as if a new type of hybrid engine was invented for your car that caught the exhaust from your gas-powered engine and turned it into extra power and cleaner by-products.
Pure fusion reactors have long been the ultimate goal, since they release vast amounts of energy from small amounts of “fuel” and have very few dangerous by-products. But the Super X Divertor could act as a solution until the diffcult problems of building a fusion reactor are solved.