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This Lab Has Confirmed That It Carried Out A Historic Fusion Ignition Experiment

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has shared good news about its fusion experiment from 2022. This is a big deal for fusion research. Fusion is when hydrogen atoms come together to make helium and release energy. People think fusion could be a great way to make clean energy.

Making fusion happen isn’t too hard if you have the right conditions like heat and pressure. But the tricky part is making sure you get more energy out of fusion than you put in. Before December 5, 2022, this had only happened with hydrogen bombs.

At Lawrence Livermore, they used 192 laser beams on a target made of deuterium and tritium. These beams gave out 2.05 megajoules of ultraviolet light, causing the atoms to fuse and create 3.15 megajoules of energy. This was a big step because it was the first time fusion ignition happened outside of a bomb.

This success shows progress in fusion research. It brings hope for finding cleaner energy sources for the future.

Following the successful experiment, a team of over 1,370 researchers from 44 international institutions collaborated to verify and document the results. The newly published peer-reviewed paper details the achievement of a target gain of 1.5 times and traces the experiment’s progress back to its proposal in 1972 by LLNL Director John Nuckolls and his colleagues. It also outlines the challenges faced in reaching ignition.

The primary purpose of the experiment was to simulate fusion reactions inside nuclear weapons to ensure the reliability of the US nuclear stockpile without conducting nuclear tests. However, the results also hold promise for future fusion power plants, offering the potential for limitless clean energy.

Despite the achievement of fusion ignition, the energy required to power the lasers—100 times more than the energy produced by the reaction—poses a significant hurdle for practical fusion energy applications. Researchers note that further developments are needed in laser energy usage, shot rate, target robustness, fuel compression levels, and cost to advance inertial fusion energy applications for practical use in fusion power plants.

While the experiment marks a significant step forward in fusion research, additional advancements and innovations will be necessary to realize the full potential of fusion as a viable clean energy source.

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