UNITED STATES: According to reports, scientists have achieved a significant victory in finding a “near-limitless, safe, and pure” energy source by extracting more energy from nuclear fusion reactions than they put in.
In nuclear fusion, light elements like hydrogen are fused together to create heavier elements, which results in a massive release of energy. The process, which creates the heat and light of the sun and other stars, has been praised for its enormous potential as a clean, renewable energy source.
However, since the 1950s, when nuclear fusion research first got underway, scientists haven’t been able to prove the existence of ignition—a state in which there is a net gain in energy.
The Rubicon has now been crossed.
The National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, which is responsible for the research, has not yet confirmed a Financial Times report that claims that after only using 2.1 MJ to heat the fuel with lasers, researchers were able to release 2.5 MJ of energy.
The research’s lead author, Dr. Robbie Scott of the Central Laser Facility (CLF) Plasma Physics Group at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), called the findings a “momentous achievement.”
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory could produce such a result about once per day. Still, a fusion power plant needs to do it ten times per second, according to Prof. Justin Wark, professor of physics at the University of Oxford.
Another thing to note is that the 500MJ of energy that was used to power the lasers themselves is not included in the reported positive energy gain.
Chittenden emphasized that the NIF was created for a scientific demonstration rather than as a power plant. He said, “The efficiency of converting electrical energy to laser energy was not a factor in its design.”
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