Home Lighting Control Micro Fusion Electricity Climate Change Contacts Links



By Charles Rhodes, P. Eng., Ph.D.

Micro Fusion is a modular micro-nuclear process that is expected to play a critical role in reduction of net global carbon dioxide emissions by enabling efficient conversion of plant carbohydrate into liquid fuels that displace liquid fossil fuels in transportation, space heating and water heating applications.

Due to the vast size of their country Canadians presently consume a lot of liquid fossil fuels for transportation purposes. In Ontario, which contains about one third of the Canadian population, the annual gasoline consumption is about 16,000 million litres, approximately 1316 litres per annum per capita. However, on-going large scale use of liquid fossil fuels is not sustainable due to depletion of petroleum reserves and due to fossil carbon dioxide related global warming.

Most of Canada is subject to a near polar climate. Almost every building in Canada has both a space heating system and a potable water heating system. Canada's total per capita liquid fossil fuel consumption is extraordinarily high, in part because of the large amounts of liquid fossil fuels that are used for winter space heating and potable water heating at rural locations that cannot obtain piped natural gas.

Each Micro Fusion module converts about 30 kW of electricity into about 250 kW of delivered heat without producing greenhouse gas or long lived radioactive waste. Micro Fusion can be applied to distributed stationary applications that require continuous heating or cooling. Subject to availability of sufficient electricity, arbitrary numbers of Micro Fusion Units can be clustered together to obtain any desired thermal output.

Subject to the further availability of sufficient cooling water, Micro Fusion can be used to enhance agricultural production of liquid biofuels such as ethanol (C2H5OH) and butanol (C4H9OH). These alcohols can largely displace liquid fossil fuels without production of green house gas and without soil depletion.

In a suitable refinery and with addition of hydrogen these alcohols can be reformed at high temperatures (~600 C) to produce high energy density liquid fuels such as methylcyclopentane (CH3C5H9) for use as an aircraft fuel.

Micro Fusion is a micro-nuclear process that produces heat without producing greenhouse gas or fine particulate matter. The heat is output via an isolation heat exchanger that is fed by a heat transfer fluid that operates in the bulk fluid temperature range 190 to 260 degrees C. In principle this heat can be used for: water heating, space heating, low pressure steam generation, absorption cooling or biofuel production. However, the main application of this heat is believed to be biofuel production.

The principal advantages of Micro Fusion are:
1. Ability to displace heat derived from oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels in many stationary applications;
2. No greenhouse gas emissions;
3. No fine particulate matter emissions;
4. Modular construction for easy transport;
5. Each Micro Fusion unit has an electrical input of about 30 kWe and a useful thermal output of about 250 kWt;
6. Any number of Micro Fusion Units can be connected in parallel to increase the total heat output;
7. The Micro Fusion process does not involve fissionable materials;
8. The Micro Fusion process does not produce long term radioactive waste;
9. The Micro Fusion process is inherently safe because the significant heat producing nuclear decay reactions stop when the electricity feed to the process is cut off;
10. If the electricity required to drive a Micro Fusion heating system comes from a 50% efficient combined cycle natural gas fueled generator, there is about a five fold reduction in natural gas consumption and in emissions of carbon dioxide and particulate matter per unit of useful heat output as compared to a conventional natural gas fueled heating system;
11. In principle the thermal output of a Micro Fusion Unit can be harnessed to provide the required electricity input. However, that is not likely to be an economic way to use Micro Fusion technology in the forseeable future.

The principal limitations of Micro Fusion are the relatively high weight and high capital cost of the equipment per unit of heat produced. Ongoing development work is focused on mitigating these limitations.

The deciding issue relating to the applicability of Micro Fusion in most practical applications is the cost of heat from alternative sources. In Ontario the end user cost of heating oil in early 2012 was about $1.08 per litre plus 13% HST. Due to the recent increases in the price of electricity this cost is barely sufficient to make Micro Fusion price competitive with heating oil in base load heating applications.

At present most heat used in stationary applications in major urban markets is obtained from natural gas. The cost of natural gas is much less than the cost of heating oil. However, natural gas is not available at many rural locations. Furthermore, the demand for natural gas and hence its price will likely increase as natural gas is increasingly used to displace coal for electricity generation in the USA and elsewhere. However, there has to be some certainty about the future price of natural gas before any nuclear projects can attract investment capital. At this time over production of natural gas has led to its spot price being lower than at any time during the past decade.

Electricity utilities view natural gas combustion turbines as a proven means of balancing the output of wind turbines. This balancing method is presently used to delay or avoid facing the capital cost of constructing energy storage for load following. It is anticipated that in the near future natural gas generation in combination with wind turbines will be used to replace existing coal fuelled electricity generation. Natural gas can now be shipped across oceans via Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) tanker ships. The increased world wide demand for natural gas for electricity generation should eventually cause the price of natural gas to approach the world price of oil.

Technical details relating to the Micro Fusion process and the detailed design of Micro Fusion equipment are presently proprietary. However, approximate overall Micro Fusion System performance data is available on this web site.

This web page last updated April 16, 2012.

Home Lighting Control Micro Fusion Electricity Climate Change Contacts Links