Viable Nuclear Fusion Achieved 1st Time on Earth; Know Why it is a Milestone for Humans

For the first time in human history, researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California of America managed to produce more energy in a fusion reaction than was used to ignite it. This net energy gain is a major scientific breakthrough, said US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, on Tuesday.

This scientific achievement can become the source of clean power in the future.

“The fusion breakthrough “will go down in the history books,” said Ms Granholm. White House science adviser Arati Prabhakar, termed the fusion ignition as “an engineering marvel beyond belief.”

It is hoped that this small but major breakthrough will one day produce nearly limitless, carbon-free energy, displacing fossil fuels and other traditional energy sources. Unlike fission nuclear reaction, fusion does not produce any nuclear waste.

But the real mass production of energy from fusion reaction is still decades away.

Small But Great Step Forward:

Net energy gain has been an elusive goal because fusion happens at extremely high temperatures and pressure which needs a great amount of energy.

Fusion is the process through which the sun produces its energy.

Fusion works by pressing hydrogen atoms into each other with such force that they combine into helium, releasing enormous amounts of energy and heat.

Billions of dollars and decades of work have gone into fusion research that has produced the recent results.

Scientists have compared recent fusion achievement to the time when humans first learned that fossil fuel can be refined into petrol and igniting it could produce an explosion. But we still do not have the engines or the technology to tap the fusion technology for mass use.

Learning from the Sun:

For fusion, the fuel has to be hotter than the center of the sun. It is a great challenge for achieving fusion reaction in the laboratory. Researchers at the National Ignition Facility, the division of Lawrence Livermore where the success took place, used 192 lasers and temperatures multiple times hotter than the center of the sun to create an extremely brief fusion reaction. The result was a superheated plasma environment where fusion may occur.

When hydrogen turns into plasma, which is an electrically charged gas, it can be controlled by humongous magnets. This method is being explored in France in a collaboration among 35 countries called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor as well as by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a private company.


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