In Fusion Breakthrough, US Scientists Reportedly Produce Reaction With Net Energy Gain
Monday December 12, 2022. 06:55 AM , from Slashdot
'U.S. scientists have reportedly carried out the first nuclear fusion experiment to achieve a net energy gain,' reports the Independent, 'a major breakthrough in a field that has been pursuing such a result since the 1950s, and a potential milestone in the search for a climate-friendly, renewable energy source to replace fossil fuels.'
The experiment took place in recent weeks at the government-funded Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, where researchers used a process known as inertial confinement fusion, the Financial Times reports, citing three people with knowledge of the experiment's preliminary results. The test involved bombarding a pellet of hydrogen plasma with the world's largest laser to trigger a nuclear fusion reaction, the same process which takes place in the sun.
Researchers were able to produce 2.5 megajoules of energy, 120 per cent of the 2.1 megajoules used to power the experiment. The laboratory confirmed to the FT it had recently conducted a 'successful' experiment at the National Ignition Facility, but declined to comment further, citing the preliminary nature of the data....
'Scientists have struggled to show that fusion can release more energy out than is put in since the 1950s, and the researchers at Lawrence Livermore seem to have finally and absolutely smashed this decades-old goal,' Arthur Turrell, deputy director of the UK Office for National Statistics, wrote on Twitter on Sunday. 'This experimental result will electrify efforts to eventually power the planet with nuclear fusion — at a time when we've never needed a plentiful source of carbon-free energy more!'
But 'the resources needed to recreate the reaction on the scale required to make fusion practical for energy production are immense,' reports the Washington Post:
More importantly, engineers have yet to develop machinery capable of affordably turning that reaction into electricity that can be practically deployed to the power grid. Building devices that are large enough to create fusion power at scale, scientists say, would require materials that are extraordinarily difficult to produce. At the same time, the reaction creates neutrons that put a tremendous amount of stress on the equipment creating it, such that it can get destroyed in the process. And then there is the question of whether the technology could be perfected in time to make a dent in climate change.
Even so, researchers and investors in fusion technology hailed the breakthrough as an important advancement.
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