Nuclear fusion is the process of combining two different atoms to form a heavier nucleus. The process unleashes a great amount of energy and scientists all around the world are trying to develop ways in which they can safely harness that energy without producing any harmful emissions. This could result in an endless energy source which would have a huge potential in the future. Now it seems like researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), California have caught a big breakthrough and gotten close to ‘ignition’, which is a significant step in acquiring viable nuclear fusion.
In an interview with CNBC, Omar A. Hurricane, Chief Scientist for Inertial Confinement Fusion Program at LLNL said that this is a big milestone on the road towards nuclear fusion and is a “significant step forward in understanding what is required for it to work…This is a Wright Brothers moment.“
For initiating fusion, the scientists at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility are using a powerful laser to heat and compress hydrogen fuel and trying to show that the energy delivered by the laser exceeds the energy released by the fusion. In a recent experiment, they were able to produce 1.3 megajoules of energy which is about 70% of the energy of the laser.
To successfully achieve ignition, they need to produce more than 1.9 megajoules of energy released by the laser. While this isn’t the final process of ignition, it gives way to achieving that milestone. According to the researchers, this experiment shows an 8x improvement over the last ignition experiment conducted in the spring of 2021 and a 25x increase in energy yield over experiments from 2018.