Reporting in multiple media sites indicate an experimental nuclear fusion reactor has reportedly generated more energy than it consumed for the first time ever. If verified, this would indicate that fusion is a viable method for meeting the world’s growing energy demands, essentially replicating the process that occurs at the heart of our sun.
The reports seem to be based on pre-releases of information from the US National Ignition Facility.
Reportedly, for the first time ever, a nuclear fusion reactor has created more energy than was put into it, according to an experimental result. If corroborated, the experiment will verify that fusion is a viable method for meeting the world’s growing energy demands, by recreating the reaction that has been occurring at the heart of our sun for billions of years – with some reservations.
Historically, fusion has appeared to be a distant dream for providing abundant, clean energy. Recently, experiments across the world have been increasingly promising, but all of them have required more energy than they produced.
According to the Financial Times, scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California have reportedly resolved this major obstacle to fusion. The National Ignition Facility (NIF) fusion reactor creates a plasma out of deuterium and tritium using lasers, which creates heat and pressure, and the FT reports that an experiment in which lasers generated 2.1 megajoules of energy resulted in 2.5 megajoules was generated, roughly 20 percent more than usual.
The newspaper reported that some equipment had been damaged when energy output was higher than expected.
We’re still conducting our research, so we cannot provide any information or verification at this time. We look forward to providing more information on Tuesday, when the procedure is complete,” an LLNL spokesman told New Scientist, as reported by the FT and sources who spoke to New Scientist.
According to Gianluca Sarri at Queen’s University Belfast, caution should be exercised until the reports are verified, but if they are, it will be a significant breakthrough. “This was not guaranteed,” he says. “It was not self-evident that this would be possible. Now we know that we can achieve fusion on Earth.”
Has fusion been solved?
It would be extremely positive if NIF’s reactor were powered by lasers producing an energy output higher than that of the lasers currently in use. However, much more work must be done before this can become a reality.
NIF would have had to draw “tens” of megajoules of electricity from the grid if 2.1 megajoules of laser light were produced, according to Sarri’s estimate. In order for a reactor to be useful, it would have to produce more energy than was initially put into the lasers. Currently, this is not the case—Sarri estimates that NIF would have had to draw “tens” of megajoules of electricity if 2.1 megajoules of laser light were generated.
Even after a reactor has offset the true energy required by the lasers, it would still be breaking even. In order for fusion to become a viable alternative to existing power sources, we must be able to extract a large amount of net energy.
Sarri notes that the significant thing is that this has been scientifically proven to be possible for the first time. From theory, they knew that it should occur, but it had never been observed in an actual experiment. “All the other bits are difficult, but there is no showstopper—it’s just a technical problem.”
For more see: NewScientist
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