According to reports, scientists have made a breakthrough in their search for a safe and clean energy source. They have extracted more energy from a nuclear fusion reaction than they have put in.
The process of combining light elements such as hydrogen to create heavier elements is known as nuclear fusion. As a result, a massive amount of energy is released. This method, which generates the heat and light of stars and the sun, has been described as a promising source of low-carbon, long-term energy.
Scientists have been unable to demonstrate a positive energy gain since the 1950s, when nuclear fusion research began. This is referred to as ignition. However, that was only a problem until now. According to the Financial Times, the researchers were able to release 2.5 MJ of energy while only heating fuel with lasers for 2.1 MJ.
Dr. Robbie Scott of the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Central Laser Facility (CLF), Plasma Physics Group, contributed to this study and called it a “momentous achievement.”
He stated: The experiment proves unequivocally that the physics of Laser Fusion work. Much work remains to be done in order to convert NIF’s output into power generation, but this is an important step along the way.
Prof Jeremy Chittenden, of Imperial College London’s Department of Plasma Physics, agreed.
If what has been reported is correct, and more energy has been released than was used to create the plasma, this is a true breakthrough moment, and it is extremely exciting.
However, experts have stated that, while the results would be significant, the technology is still a long way from becoming a regular source of power. In comparison, 0.4 MJ is equivalent to 0.1 kWh, which is only enough to heat a kettle.
While the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory could achieve such a result about once per day, a nuclear power plant would have to produce it 10 times per second, according to Professor Justin Wark of Physics at the University of Oxford.
Another point to note is that the reported positive energy gain excludes the 500 MJ of energy required for the lasers.
Regardless, if these results are correct, they outperform the laboratory’s previous major achievement, which was the conversion of 70% of the energy put into the experiment into nuclear energy.