Scientists hopes of unlimited, clean nuclear energy

A major engineering milestone in the quest for nuclear fusion holds the promise of a future without energy fears

Nuclear-fusion
The JET experiment uses a ‘tokamak’ (pictured) that confines plasma using a magnetic field in the shape of a torus. Image credit: JET

A milestone has been reached in the 60-year struggle to harness the nuclear reactions that power the Sun in an experiment that could lead to a way of producing an unlimited source of clean and sustainable energy in the form of nuclear fusion.

Omar Hurricane, a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, says that for the first time, they’ve produced significant amounts of fusion by zapping a target with their laser, which marks a critical threshold in eventually achieving the goal of a self-sustaining nuclear-fusion reaction.

“We’ve gotten more energy out of the fusion fuel than we put into the fusion fuel,” he says.

Strictly speaking, while more energy came from fusion than went into the hydrogen fuel, only about 1 percent of the laser’s energy ever reached the fuel. Useful levels of fusion are still a long way off.

“They didn’t get more fusion power out than they put in with the laser,” says Steve Cowley, the head of a huge fusion experiment in the U.K. called the Joint European Torus, or JET.

Nuclear fusion uses a fuel source derived from water and produces none of the more dangerous and long-lasting isotopes, such as enriched uranium and plutonium, that result from conventional nuclear power plants, which rely on the fission or splitting of atoms rather than their fusion.

The laser is known as the , or NIF. Constructed at a cost of more than $3 billion, it consists of 192 beams that take up the length of three football fields.

For a brief moment, the beams can focus 500 trillion watts of power — more power than is being used in that same time across the entire United States — onto a target about the width of a No. 2 pencil.

The fuel, composed of the two hydrogen isotopes tritium and deuterium derived from water, was compressed together under enormous pressures and temperatures for less than a billionth of a second, but this was enough to see more energy coming out of the experiment than went into it.

“We are fusing deuterium and tritium, which are isotopes of water, in a way that gets them to run together at high enough speed to overcome their natural electrical repulsion to each other,” said Omar Hurricane of the Livermore laboratory.

“We are finally, by harnessing these reactions, getting more energy out of these reactions than we are putting into the deuterium-tritium fuel… We took a step back from what we tried before and in the process took a leap forward,” said Dr Hurricane, who led the NIF study published in the journal Nature.

The goal is fusion: a process where hydrogen atoms are squeezed together to make helium atoms. When that happens, a lot of energy comes out. It could mean the answer to the world’s energy problems, but fusion is really, really hard to do. Hurricane says that each time they try, it feels like they’re taking a test.

There are currently two parallel approaches to nuclear fusion. One uses laser energy to compress fuel pellets — like the NIF experiment — and aims to keep the fuel in place by a process known as inertial confinement.

The other approach is to build a complex magnetic “bottle” to hold the hot, electrically charged plasma of the fuel in place. This magnetic confinement is the strategy of the Joint European Torus (JET) experiment in Culham, Oxfordshire, and the international ITER nuclear fusion plant under construction at Cadarache in southern France.

The breakthrough at NIF was made possible by altering the laser pulses focusing on the fuel pellet in such a way that it led to the even compression of the capsule holding the deuterium and tritium, said Debbie Callahan, one of the researchers involved.

“We had to compress the capsule by 35 times. This is like saying that if you started with a basketball it would be like compressing it down to the size of a pea, but keeping the perfect spherical shape, which is very challenging,” Dr Callahan said.

“We have waited 60 years to get close to controlled fusion, and we are now close in both magnetic and inertial-confinement research. We must keep at it,” Professor Cowley said.

Find us here

Get news from the CSGLOBE in your inbox each weekday morning

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors/source and do not necessarily reflect the position of CSGLOBE or its staff.

Paid content

Scientists grow human tooth

Scientists in China say they have successfully grown a human tooth using stem cells taken from urine.

People Can See Sound. Here Is How!

People can actually see SOUND. Researchers have found out that, in some cases, when the part of the brain devoted to sight is small,...

This Man One Ups Tesla By Inventing An Electric Car That Never Needs Charging

The concept of the electric car has been around for a very long time, and as with any other world revolutionizing technology, it’s taken...

What's New Today

Georgia House Votes To Allow Citizens To Abolish Police Departments In The State

The Georgia House backed an effort on Friday to dissolve the Glynn County Police Department and any...

Leaked CDC document contradicts Pence claim that U.S. coronavirus cases ‘have stabilized’

Even as Vice President Mike Pence wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Tuesday that coronavirus...

Five bombshells about Trump from Bolton ‘s book

Excerpts from former national security adviser John Bolton ’s book about his time in the Trump administration...

Don’t Listen to Fox. Here’s What’s Really Going On in Seattle’s Protest Zone.

It seems I live in a city undergoing a “totalitarian takeover” that will lead to “fascist outcomes”...

MOST READ

What Is Agenda 21? Depopulation of 95% of the World By 2030

Most people are unaware that one of the greatest threats to their freedom may be a United Nations program which plans to depopulate 95%...

Complete List of BANKS Owned/Controlled by the Rothschild Family

What’s the significance of having a central bank within a country and why should you concern yourself, your family and colleagues? Central banks are illegally...

Racial wounds rip open under a president with a history of exploiting them

President Donald Trump has spent much of his adult life building his brand around racial divisions.

Scientists grow human tooth

Scientists in China say they have successfully grown a human tooth using stem cells taken from urine.

Tesla’s lost inventions

THE SECRET OF THE PURPLE HARMONY GENERATORS Upon the passing of Nikola Tesla, huge boxes containing his private journals and unpatented inventions were retained by...

Thorium: This Car Runs For 100 Years Without Refueling

If your car was powered by thorium, you would never need to refuel it. The vehicle would burn out long before the chemical did....

Google’s AI writes spooky post-modern poetry after reading thousand of romantic books

While Google’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) spoke with grammatical accuracy and factual exactness, its language remained abrupt and floppy. To make it more chatty, researchers from...

Media Manipulation – Are Your Thoughts Your Own?

The media is manipulated in all manners, for example through professional public relations (PR), and covert and overt government propaganda which disseminates propaganda as...

10 Amazing Discoveries That Will Make You Question Everything

What are the true origins of humanity? There are so many ancient artifacts from the past that still perplex us today. How did ancient civilizations create...

The “Doomsday” Seed Vault

I Had No Idea This Vault Hidden Deep In The Mountains Even Existed. Let Alone What’s Inside. Often called the “Doomsday” Seed Vault, the Svalbard Seed...

Petition Demanding Arrest Of Netanyahu For War Crimes Nearing 100,000 Signatures

80,000 Brits demand Netanyahu arrest over Gaza In the UK, a petition has been circulating, calling for the arrest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu...