U.S. scientists are at the threshold of fusion ignition after achieving a large amount of energy in an experiment at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, the LLNL said in a new statement.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) achieved a yield of more than 1.3 megajoules (MJ)—an advancement that puts researchers at the threshold of fusion ignition.
Fusion ignition is an important goal of the NIF, and opens access to a new experimental regime, the laboratory said.
Although nuclear fusion has been long recognized as totally carbon- and by-product-free and the source atoms in hydrogen are abundant on Earth, replicating fusion energy generation on Earth has been a challenge. That’s because this fusion needs to take place at extremely high temperatures that create hot plasma and because researchers have struggled to obtain more energy from those plasmas than the energy input to run them.
The California research experiment could bring scientists closer to understanding and one day ultimately achieving nuclear fusion.
“This result is a historic step forward for inertial confinement fusion research, opening a fundamentally new regime for exploration and the advancement of our critical national security missions. It is also a testament to the innovation, ingenuity, commitment and grit of this team and the many researchers in this field over the decades who have steadfastly pursued this goal,” said LLNL Director Kim Budil.
Last year, researchers at MIT and a startup spun out of MIT said they were working on a nuclear fusion experiment, which they are fairly certain would achieve its goal of creating a hot burning plasma to produce for the first time ever fusion energy more than the energy consumed to generate that fusion energy.
In the UK, the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) announced in June 2021 a possible breakthrough in nuclear fusion technology, in which an experiment achieved at least a tenfold reduction in the heat on materials on the key fusion machine components.
The nuclear fusion dream is being pursued by private companies, too, and they are receiving increased attention from investors.
Private companies experimenting with nuclear fusion in North America and Europe attracted $300 million worth of investment last year, which accounted for 20 percent of their historical total, BloombergNEF says.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.