USA: Historic Breakthrough in Nuclear Fusion

Scientists in the United States have made a historic breakthrough in the field of nuclear fusion. For the first time, the fusion of atomic nuclei produced more energy than was consumed, US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm announced in Washington on Tuesday. “Simply put, this is one of the most impressive scientific achievements of the 21st century.”

The results, obtained by a team of researchers at the state’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) at California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, mark a milestone on the path to unlocking a new energy source. Within a few years, nuclear fusion could be used to generate large amounts of electricity in a safe, climate-neutral manner. However, there is still a long way to go before mass production due to still major technical hurdles.

The fusion reaction is self-sustaining

Almost a year ago, nuclear fusion progress was announced at the institute. A research team reported in the journal Nature at the beginning of the year that plasma ignition had been achieved. This eventually results in a self-fusion reaction. In a nuclear fusion reactor, the fuel is in the form of plasma – this state of aggregation is created when the gas is superheated.

Clean and safe

Both nuclear energy and nuclear fusion derive energy from the binding forces of the atomic nucleus. But with nuclear power, large atoms are split apart, radioactive waste is produced, among other things, and there is a risk of serious accidents. On the other hand, in nuclear fusion, small atomic nuclei are fused – fused – into larger nuclei, and the technology is considered clean and safe. This form of energy generation is similar to what happens in stars like the sun.

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For their experiments, the California researchers used the world’s most powerful laser system to convert trace amounts of heavy and heavy hydrogen (deuterium and tritium) into plasma at a temperature of about a million degrees. Several lasers heat the inner container a few millimeters in size.

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