the first Nuclear fusion They declared that self-sufficiency in history had been achieved in the laboratory of the United States government Senior officials in the Department of Energy from that country on Tuesday, December 13. This achievement came in an experiment that formed a kind of miniature sun that generates enough energy to operate without relying on external sources.
Nuclear fusion, the energy source of stars, has been experimentally replicated in recent decades by various research teams in developed countries. However, no attempt was successful Produces more energy than the total used For the process, a target is known as ignition.
This long-awaited “net energy gain” is what the team of scientists is up to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) from California. This is the first self-sustaining demonstration of nuclear fusion, and represents a huge leap toward using this clean, cheap, safe and unlimited source of energy.
Nuclear fusion inside a miniature “sun”.
The main reference for this process is the Sun, in whose core the enormous pressure and temperature cause hydrogen atoms to unite and form helium, which releases a large amount of energy.
The last experiment that replicated this phenomenon occurred in National Ignition Facility (NIF), a facility the size of three football fields belonging to the LLNL. In this case, 192 lasers (the most powerful in the world) are aimed at a golden cylinder less than two centimeters wide. In its center is a spherical capsule containing hydrogen gas.
When the laser heats the cylinder to more than 3 million degrees Celsius, it emits X-rays that bombard the capsule so much that it causes it to explode from the inside, compressing and heating the gas to extreme levels. Thus, it is possible for hydrogen atoms to fuse and form helium and produce energy as our star does.
According to the official report, on December 5, the laser used an amount of energy equivalent to 2.05 megajoules (MJ), while the tiny ‘sun’ 3.15 MJ released.
The NIF has repeated the experiment over the past 15 years, and while the results have been increasingly promising, it has failed to get off the ground. For the new scientific achievement, they had to make a number of modifications and even revise the physics behind the process.
“This is a landmark achievement for the researchers and staff at NIF who have dedicated their careers to making fusion ignition a reality, and this achievement will undoubtedly lead to many more discoveries,” said US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.
The source of energy that humanity needs
Unlike nuclear fission (the splitting of atoms to release energy), which occurs in today’s power plants, fusion produces virtually no radioactive waste or pollutants, nor does it risk producing a chain reaction that leads to an explosion, as has happened at the Chernobyl and Fukushima plants.
Meanwhile, the raw materials used, isotopes of hydrogen called deuterium and tritium. The first abounds in sea water. The other, which is rare in nature, can be obtained from the same fusion reaction. This is why it is also known as a relatively cheap and unlimited source of energy.
“This is a huge step forward in the belief that this could indeed be the massive, concentrated, high-intensity energy source humanity needs,” he said in a statement. Science Media Center José Perlado, Head of the Guillermo Velarde Institute for Nuclear Physics at the Polytechnic University of Madrid.
LNLL has emerged in Release that “many advanced scientific and technological developments are still required” to make this method — called inertial confinement fusion — “simple and affordable for powering homes and businesses.”
“It is clear that there is still a long way to go to make this energy efficient,” Perlado stressed.
However, the method that has a better possibility of producing fusion energy on a large scale is magnetic confinement, which is implemented in tokamak reactors, Known as “artificial suns”. These experimental systems operate in countries such as China, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
In fact, the ITER project, which brings together about 30 countries – including those already mentioned – will build a giant reactor in France to test the viability of commercial fusion plants.
Typical creator. Subtly charming web advocate. Infuriatingly humble beer aficionado.