“The quest to make fusion power a reality recently took a massive step forward. The National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory announced the results of an experiment with an unprecedented high fusion yield. A single laser shot initiated reactions that released 1.3 megajoules of fusion yield energy with signatures of propagating nuclear burn.
Reaching this milestone indicates just how close fusion actually is to achieving power production. The latest results demonstrate the rapid pace of progress — especially as lasers are evolving at breathtaking speed.
Indeed, the laser is one of the most impactful technological inventions since the end of World War II. Finding widespread use in an incredibly diverse range of applications — including machining, precision surgery and consumer electronics — lasers are an essential part of everyday life. Few know, however, that lasers are also heralding an exciting and entirely new chapter in physics: enabling controlled nuclear fusion with positive energy gain.
After six decades of innovation, lasers are now assisting us in the urgent process of developing clean, dense and efficient fuels, which, in turn, are needed to help solve the world’s energy crisis through large-scale decarbonized energy production. The peak power attainable in a laser pulse has increased every decade by a factor of 1,000.
Physicists recently conducted a fusion experiment that produced 1,500 terawatts of power. For a short period of time, this generated four to five times more energy than what the whole world consumes at a given moment. In other words, we are already able to produce vast amounts of power. Now we also need to produce vast amounts of energy so as to offset the energy expended to drive the igniting lasers.”
Comment: The scoffers and skeptics will have a good time with this. pl
Sunday happens to be 59th anniversary of JFK’s Moon speech at Rice Stadium. Some here will remember hearing it live, it was a little before my time. Whatever you think of his politics the man was certainly not afraid of a challenge. Oh for such a leader today. With this kind of can do attitude a Manhattan type project and I expect, rather less than $3.5 trillion, we could make a captive ‘star’ on earth a reality by the end of this decade.
Instead our imagination is limited to Quixotic policies. The ‘green’ lobby champions an essentially medieval technology (wind power) and efforts to capture what little residual energy reaches us from a star 90 million miles away – and in the process carpeting countless acres of valuable living space. I wish the good folk at Livermore the best of luck.
Commercial fusion is feasible within the next decade. This is the future. In the meantime, breakthroughs in small modular reactors (SMRs) are real and immediate. One US company NuScale has contracts with national labs in Idaho to produce SMRs. These small, safe nuclear plants can be networked together, attached to the power grid, and can be floated to locations, power desalination, and provide affordable power in the gap period between now and when commercial fusion is a reality. Cervantes disposed of windmills centuries ago, and solar panels are low-efficiency and cannot remotely provide the expanded electricity needs of a future economy. Time to get real and give the genuine scientists and engineers the backing to bring this reality about soonest.
I am posting this very exciting news item here, as this is another angle toward sustainable power-positive nuclear fusion technology that may prove successful. A group working at MIT has succeeded in generating a magnetic field of 20 Teslas in strength, a field that may be enough to contain a fusion reaction. They have done this through application of a novel design that employs high-temperature superconducting magnets. This is a substantial advance over previous research on topamac magnetic containment. Now this research group is headed towards a small-scale reactor feasibility demonstration on a very short timeline, and if successful, then moving toward a full-scale reactor system. Big news.