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Science & Technology

US set to reveal breakthrough in nuclear fusion energy

By T.K. Randall
December 13, 2022 · Comment icon 34 comments

Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
The US Department of Energy is about to announce a 'major breakthrough' in the hunt for limitless, clean energy.
Often seen as the Holy Grail of power generation, nuclear fusion is the same process that produces energy in the Sun and works by fusing hydrogen nuclei together to create helium.

Unlike nuclear fission which comes with the inherent risk of a meltdown, fusion is much cleaner and safer while the hydrogen fuel used by the process is so abundant that it is practically limitless.

While physicists have been attempting to build a working nuclear fusion reactor for the purpose of energy generation for over 60 years, success has always remained tantalizingly out of reach.

This may soon be set to change, however, following the news that physicists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have, for the first time, succeeded in achieving a net energy gain in a nuclear fusion experiment involving lasers.
An official announcement is expected by the US Department of Energy very soon.

The news is particularly welcome at a time when many countries are experiencing energy shortages, though it may be some time before a viable nuclear fusion power station can be built.

Even with the ability to produce more power than it takes to run, a fusion reactor would likely need to generate 100 times more energy than it uses in order to be commercially viable.

Even so, it's a big step in the right direction.

Source: Reuters | Comments (34)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #25 Posted by DieChecker 1 year ago
It's theoretically why they're working on it to begin with.
Comment icon #26 Posted by Ozymandias 1 year ago
If you confine your analysis to the hydrogen pellet that was bombarded by the 192 lasers that produced the fusion effect, then you can make your numbers work, but that only looks at a small part of the whole system. The lasers directly delivered 2.05MJ of energy to the tiny pellet and the fusion reaction that ensued generated 3.15MJ of energy in an infinitesimal fraction of a second. That is a gain of a little over 1.5 or 50%+. And that is a massive breakthrough on previous experiments. But, this restricted analysis ignores the total energy required to maintain and operate the lasers which was... [More]
Comment icon #27 Posted by DieChecker 1 year ago
https://www.npr.org/2022/12/13/1142208055/nuclear-fusion-breakthrough-climate-change Appears to still need more work. Maybe a more efficient way to get the ultraviolet lasers to hit that fusion nugget with? Cant you create a "stepper" effect with lasers based on optics? Maybe a huge cheap ultraviolet emitter and then a ton of lenses and fiber optics splitting individual tiny lasers off? Guess we'll hear more about this in time.
Comment icon #28 Posted by Harte 1 year ago
Fusion releases energy that used to be mass - so the energy so derived can always be accounted for that way. Harte
Comment icon #29 Posted by Abramelin 1 year ago
Promising? After 50 years of experimenting?
Comment icon #30 Posted by Earl.Of.Trumps 1 year ago
Yes. "Going forward" - understood. 
Comment icon #31 Posted by Ozymandias 1 year ago
I have not disputed that. In Message #23 DieChecker said: 'I think the hope is that eventually fusion will generate MUCH more power then put in.' I responded (#24) by saying that that would contravene the known laws of physics, specifically the Second Law of Thermodynamics which I had been discussing earlier. It is not possible to get more energy out of a process than is put into it and all energy conversions are inefficient. The fact that some mass is converted to energy in a fusion process does not change that fact. No fusion process to date has violated the Second Law, entropy is always inc... [More]
Comment icon #32 Posted by DieChecker 1 year ago
@Ozymandias E = mc2 Thermodynamics isn't contradicted, since mass is being converted into energy. The amount of mass that converts defines the "Lot More". Conservation of mass/energy is a underpinning law of physics. Thermodynamics is a set of rules inside that to relate heat transfer, not energy conversion. For example Thermodynamics can't define mechanical kinetic/potential energy systems. Also going off your definition, how does a fire work??
Comment icon #33 Posted by kartikg 1 year ago
Just to be clear, there was no total net gain, the power involved in running the lasers and the facility was not taken into account. 
Comment icon #34 Posted by TripGun 1 year ago
Fusion has been around since the 80's but they've had no way to contain it because it vaporizes the container. It can blow up but the radiation levels would be lower than a fission meltdown.  


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