Using the world’s most powerful laser, researchers at the National Ignition Facility in Livermore, California, and the NIF have succeeded in merging the tiny atomic nucleus into one and releasing it. The fusion of hydrogen atoms into large atomic nuclei is called fusion, the energy-giving reaction of the Sun and all other stars.
– As a result of physics, it is very exciting, says Geran Erickson, Professor of Applied Nuclear Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Uppsala University.
Since the early 1970s, scientists have tried to design fusion power plants, where hydrogen is heated to a higher temperature than the interior of the sun, without success. Like nuclear fission, the process in nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons is a way of extracting energy from the atomic nucleus. A fusion reactor will give us clean, harmless, inexpensive and indispensable energy. Fuel is easily accessible and does not produce greenhouse gases, a hazardous and long-lasting waste that we have had to deal with for thousands of years.
But this process is difficult to tame. It takes a lot of energy for the two atomic nuclei to combine together because they both repel each other because they are positively charged. So far, we have only been able to create large-scale fusion in hydrogen bombs.
Researchers at NIF 192 laser beams lead to a mass of hydrogen the size of a pepper, so that it shrinks and heats up to 100 million degrees Celsius. On August 8, they were able to initiate a merger reaction at one-tenth of a second, According to a press release from the laboratory.
The results have not yet been published or reviewed by other researchers, and the energy from the fusion reaction is only 70 percent of the energy supplied by the laser. If the results hold, it is still an important breakthrough for research on fusion.
– They seem to have received burning plasma, where the reactions continue on their own without the need to add external energy. It can give us some parts of the puzzle in our understanding of the physics of this, says Goran Erickson.
The goal of the NIF’s research facility is to study the possible reactions of hydrogen bombs, and whether it is difficult or impossible to increase laser testing into large – scale energy production. In the fall, the UK’s Fusion Research Facility will test the same type of fuel on the jet, which Goren Erickson says will be more interesting to combine as a possible energy source in the future.
– There is a type of reactor envisioned in future fusion reactors. We can translate more directly into how those results work and what we need to learn more, he says.
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