Fusion ignition produces more energy than was used to create it

  • For the first time scientists at the National Ignition Facility have achieved a scientific energy breakeven fusion ignition.
  • The reaction produced 3.15 megajoules of energy from an input of 2.05 megajoules.
  • There is still a lot work and scientific advancement that needs to happen before this energy type is widely available.

At the heart of our Sun there is currently a reaction taking place that humanity has been trying to recreate for years. That reaction is nuclear fusion and this month, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility managed to recreate it.

The Department of Energy in the US as well as its National Nuclear Security Administration and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory were able to create a fusion reaction that produced more energy than was used to drive the reaction. While the news has only just been broken, the experiment actually took place on 5th December at the lab’s National Ignition Facility.

This was the first experiment to reach the milestone of a scientific energy breakeven. This means that the ignition produced more energy than was used to create it. According to the laboratory the reaction created 3.15 megajoules of fusion energy from an input of 2.05 megajoules.

If you’d like a really simple explanation of what happened here, we recommend watching the video below.

@hankgreen1I hope i got all of this right!! Its so exciting!!!♬ original sound – Hank Green

At the National Ignition Facility a series of increasingly powerful laser systems were set up to created the largest and most energetic laser system in the world. The facility this is housed in is the size of a sports stadium.

These laser systems are so powerful it’s said that they create “temperatures and pressures like those in the cores of stars and giant planets, and inside exploding nuclear weapons.”

“The pursuit of fusion ignition in the laboratory is one of the most significant scientific challenges ever tackled by humanity, and achieving it is a triumph of science, engineering, and most of all, people,” Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s director Dr Kim Budli said in a statement.

The question many folks will have is how long before fusion is powering our homes and the answer is, a while.

As reported by Engadget, during a presentation scientists said that the number of reactions per minute needed to improve, the process of achieving inertial fusion energy needed to be simplified and the reaction needed to be made repeatable. We can’t all have a stadium filled with lasers in the back garden after all.

Furthermore, a number of advanced science and technology developments need to happen for fusion energy to become more affordable and simple.

Scientists do state that together with private sector investment, there is potential to drive rapid progress toward commercialisation.

While we may still be far off from wide spread access to cleaner, more efficient energy, the fact that this experiment was successful is very encouraging.

[Image – Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory]


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