‘Major Day’: US Celebrates Fusion Energy Breakthrough | Scientific and technological news

The United States announced that scientists had made a breakthrough in fusion energyin what officials called a “milestone” that has the potential to one day become an endless source of clean energy.

At a news conference on Tuesday, US officials said scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California produced more energy in a fusion reaction, the process that powers the sun and stars, to the first time.

“Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, was an important science day,” Jill Ruby, undersecretary for nuclear security at the Department of Energy, told reporters on Tuesday. “Achieving ignition in a controlled fusion experiment is an achievement that has been achieved after more than 60 years of worldwide research.”

The scientific breakthrough raised hopes that fusion could become a powerful source of clean energy and stimulate new technological and scientific innovations.

However, there is still a long way to go before fusion is viable on an industrial scale.

The resulting ignition was a single event – to produce continuous power, it would have to be done regularly several times per minute. Getting to this point will require additional investment and research to create the technologies needed to build a power plant.

LLNL’s lasers, for example, date back decades.

LLNL said a team from its National Ignition Facility (NIF) conducted the first controlled fusion experiment in history on Dec. 5, reaching what is called the “scientific energy break-even point.”

The NIF used 192 lasers all aimed at a thimble-sized cylinder filled with hydrogen to induce conditions several times hotter than the center of the sun, which created a very short fusion reaction.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Tuesday that generating more energy than is consumed by ignition, called “net energy gain,” was a critical new step that “would go on the books.” ‘story”.

Although the production of energy from fusion that could power homes and other areas of daily life is decades away, officials said Tuesday’s announcement was an important step towards that future.

“It’s almost like it’s a kickoff,” said Professor Dennis Whyte, director of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “We should strive to make fusion energy systems available to combat climate change and energy security.”

Nuclear power plants around the world currently use fission – the splitting of the nucleus of a heavy atom – to produce energy.

Fusion is to push hydrogen atoms against each other with enormous force, so much so that they combine to create helium, releasing a large amount of energy and heat. The process produces no greenhouse gases, leaves little waste and poses no risk of nuclear accidents.

Arati Prabhakar, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said the experiment represents a “tremendous example of what persistence can accomplish.”

Nuclear scientists outside the lab said the achievement would be a crucial stepping stone, but much more needs to be done before fusion becomes commercially viable.

Tony Roulstone, a nuclear energy expert at the University of Cambridge, estimated that the experiment’s power output was only 0.5% of the energy needed to fire the lasers in the first place.

“Therefore, we can say that this result … is a success of science – but still far from providing useful, abundant and clean energy,” Roulstone said.

The electricity industry greeted this step with caution, while stressing that to achieve the energy transition, fusion should not slow down efforts to develop other alternatives such as solar and wind energy, storage by battery and nuclear fission.

“It’s the first step that says, ‘Yes, it’s not just fantasy, it can be done, in theory,'” said Andrew Sowder, senior technology executive at EPRI, a research and development group not-for-profit energy.

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