Three football field-sized lasers were employed by scientists to generate a vast amount of energy from fusion, potentially presenting hope for a new source of clean energy.
An array of roughly 200 laser beams was focused on a tiny point to create an eight-times more powerful blast of energy than they had ever done in the past.
Even though the energy lasted for only 100 trillionths of a second, it brought researchers closer to the fusion ignition's “holy grail” – the moment when they are producing more energy than they are using
Kim Budil, director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which operates the National Ignition Facility in California, where the experiment took place this month, said, “This result is a historic advance for inertial confinement fusion research,”
Nuclear fusion is seen by some experts as the future of energy because it creates no waste and emits no greenhouse emissions, among other benefits.
Nuclear power plants currently use a mechanism called fission to release energy from heavy atomic nuclei. As part of the fusion process, two light atomic nuclei are combined to form a heavy one.
Two hydrogen isotopes were employed in this experiment, which resulted in the creation of helium. Even our Sun goes through a similar process.
Professor Steven Rose, co-director of Imperial College London's center for research in this field, said, “The NIF teams have done an extraordinary job.”
“This is the most significant advance in inertial fusion since its beginning in 1972,” he added.
Co-director of the same London center, Jeremy Chittenden warns, it won't be easy to turn this into a usable source of energy.
He said “turning this concept into a renewable source of electrical power will probably be a long process and will involve overcoming significant technical challenges.”