World's most powerful laser to trigger fusion reaction this year
A pivotal step in the march towards fusion power, the ''holy grail'' of sustainable clean energy, could be taken this year.
Scientists in the US are preparing for the dramatic moment when the world's most powerful laser unleashes the nuclear force that lights up the sun and achieves ''ignition''.
At that moment, 192 laser beams housed in a building the size of three football pitches will focus on a target the size of a peppercorn to trigger a self-sustaining fusion reaction.
If all goes according to plan, this could be achieved in October. Although no more than a test of the technology, it could mark the start of a revolution that will change the science and politics of energy for ever.
Inside the target chamber, where scientists will attempt to create an artificial sun.
Photo: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Scientists have spent decades chasing the dream of fusion power, which holds out the promise of producing unlimited amounts of clean energy from hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe.
Nuclear fusion happens when the nuclei of atoms are driven together so hard that they fuse to form a heavier particle. A self-sustaining chain reaction occurs as more atomic nuclei collide, releasing huge amounts of energy in the process.
Stars are driven by nuclear fusion, as is the immense destructive power of the hydrogen bomb. But no one has yet managed to contain and sustain a fusion reaction under controlled conditions.
The biggest problem facing fusion scientists is how to generate the enormous temperatures and pressures necessary for long enough in a confined space.
Self-sustaining fusion requires conditions more extreme than at the centre of the Sun, with temperatures of around 100 million centigrade.
At the new National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, scientists are closer to overcoming this hurdle than anyone has been before.
The 10-storey high NIF is a £2 billion sledgehammer built to crack a nut.
Opened last year, the facility houses an array of optical and electronic devices designed to split a laser 192 ways and boost the combined energy of the beams to 1.8 megajoules.
At its heart the ''nut'' is a tiny beryllium capsule the size of a peppercorn, designed to hold a dash of nuclear fuel in the form of deuterium and tritium.
Both are isotopes, or different atomic versions, of hydrogen.
The aim is to focus the laser beams on the capsule and blast it with a pulse of energy that causes the fuel to implode in an instant, reaching temperatures and pressures greater than those at the centre of the Sun.
Crushed together, the deuterium and tritium nuclei will fuse, releasing a flash of energy. If the experiment is a success, more energy will be generated than was pumped into the capsule in the first place.
A report of the latest progress at the NIF published last week in the journal Science shows that the scientists are on target.
Dr Siegfried Glenzer and colleagues described the first experiments in which all 192 of the lasers were tested on targets empty of fuel, achieving a beam energy of about 40% the NIF's maximum.
A major problem that had to be overcome was getting the capsule to implode evenly.
This was done by encasing it in a gold cylinder called a hohlraum, pierced by holes through which the laser beams were shone.
''We're doing the real thing, and it's going better than expected,'' said Dr Glenzer, quoted in a Science news article.
The facility's ''ignition campaign'', leading to the first attempt to produce a self-sustaining fusion reaction is due to start in earnest in May.
A decision will be made in July on whether or not to push ahead with full-scale fusion experiments paving the way to ignition in October.
British expert Professor Mike Dunne, director of the Central Laser Facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot, Oxfordshire, said: ''It's come up better than anyone thought. They're ahead of the curve predicted.''
Article from: Telegraph.co.uk
Fusion power - Wikipedia
Scientists hope to tap energy of the sun
The nuclear reactor that could clean up
Nuclear fusion energy project could lead to limitless clean electricity
Scientists plan to ignite tiny man-made star
Latest News from our Front Page
Kanye West says in his VMA 2015 speech that he's running for president in 2020
'And yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president.'
Kanye West received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at tonight's MTV Video Music Awards, and he closed his acceptance speech by announcing he's running for president in 2020. Yes, really!
The segment started with a bang when West was handed his ...
White students in Australia rejecting "multicultural" agenda, this is a problem apparently
According to Dr Christina Ho from Sydney’s University of Technology, White Students have not obeyed the command to become “multicultural”.
White Students have very rarely mixed with non-White groups, and Dr Ho thinks that this is a problem which must be solved.
“Schools are becoming more segregated in terms of both class and ethnicity,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald. “More and more ...
Sweden: The De-balling of the Vikings
For some reason, the deliberately-injected moral and mental cancer known as 'liberalism', aka 'progressivism' has always seemed to metastasize faster in the Nordic countries, particularly Scandinavian ones. This phenomenon is also observable among the American descendants of Scandinavian immigrants in places like Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The hypothesis of this reporter is that the innate, perhaps even genetic, altruism and human ...
New Monsanto Spray Kills Bugs by Messing With Their Genes
In a fascinating long piece in MIT Technology Review, Antonio Regalado examines the genetically modified seed industry's latest blockbuster app in development—one that has nothing to do with seeds. Instead, it involves the industry's other bread-and-butter product: pesticide sprays. But we're not talking about the poisonous chemicals you convinced your dad to stop dousing the lawn with. The novel sprays ...
Obama to speak with Jewish groups on Iran deal
President Barack Obama is using a Friday webcast to try to allay concerns from Jewish communities about the nuclear agreement with Iran.
Obama will deliver remarks about the agreement and take questions from participants. The webcast is being organized by two major Jewish organizations that have held similar events with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
The Israeli ...
|More News » |