" … with new target designs and laser pulse shapes, along with better tools to monitor the miniature explosions, NIF researchers believe they are close to an important intermediate milestone known as “burning plasma”: a fusion burn sustained by the heat of the reaction itself rather than the input of laser energy.
Self-heating is key to burning up all the fuel and getting runaway energy gain. Once NIF reaches the threshold, simulations suggest it will have an easier path to ignition, says Mark Herrmann, who oversees Livermore’s fusion program. “We’re pushing as hard as we can,” he says. “You can feel the acceleration in our understanding.” Outsiders are impressed, too. “You kind of feel there’s steady progress and less guesswork,” says Steven Rose, co-director of the Centre for Inertial Fusion Studies at Imperial College London. “They’re moving away from designs traditionally held and trying new things." Science
The usual kibitzers will now say, "Ho! hum! I have heard that all my life." OK. I hear yah! pl
All my life we’ve been 10 years from a working fusion reactor. I suspect we will continue on that path.
I predict that within 20 years we will have a demonstrated fusion reactor, not from this huge machine, but from a small fusion reactor designed by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Commonwealth Fusion Systems.
I live a few miles away from the NIF and had the chance to do a tour. At the time they had only the first four lasers working. There is so much great stuff going on, yet we live in a
It’s only a matter of time.
Correct me if I am wrong but I thought fusion required maintaining temperatures as hot as the sun here on earth. I can’t see how we could do that. I also cannot see how we could do that safely.
But I admit to being both ignorant and unimaginative. I would love mankind to find a source of cheap, limitless and safe energy. Will fushion deliver that anytime soon — or ever?
We already achievement, here on earth, temperature way higher that what we can find at the center of the sun. The core temperature is estimated to be in the 15 to 20 million °C range. The NIF team discussed here already achieved a plasma temperature of about 57 million °C.
More importantly, another project, the Z machine, reached an incridible 3.7 billion °C ! ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z_Pulsed_Power_Facility ). This put this project well within the reach of aneutronic fusion reaction (fusion with no radioactivity whatsoever). I personally think it is the most promising approach. Those temperature don’t necessarily need to be sustained for a very long time. Think of it like a modern pulsed car engine compared to a continuous steam engine.