For the first time in history, American scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility in California have successfully produced a nuclear fusion reaction resulting in a net gain of energyA source familiar with the project confirmed to CNN.
The result of the experiment would mean a giant step forward in a decades-long search An infinite source of clean energy that could help end dependence on fossil fuels, Researchers have tried for decades to recreate nuclear fusion, that is, to reproduce the fusion that powers the Sun.
US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will announce a “major scientific breakthrough” on Tuesday, the department announced on Sunday.
Nuclear fusion occurs when two or more atoms fuse into a single larger atom, a process that generates enormous amounts of energy in the form of heat.
In February, British scientists announced that they had more than doubled the previous record for generating and maintaining nuclear fusion.
Scientists working near Oxford have managed to generate a record amount of continuous power in a giant doughnut-shaped machine called a tokamak, equipped with huge magnets. Even then, it only lasted for 5 seconds.
The heat created by the process of fusion of atoms is the key to help generate energy.
As CNN reported earlier this year, The fusion process creates helium and neutrons, which are lighter in mass than the parts that originally formed.
The missing mass is then converted into enormous amounts of energy. Neutrons, which are able to escape the plasma, collide with a “blanket” that covers the walls of the tokamak, and their kinetic energy is transferred as heat. This heat can be used to heat water, make steam, and drive turbines to generate electricity.
All of this requires that the machine generating the reaction be very hot. The plasma has to reach at least 150 million degrees Celsius, which is 10 times hotter than the Sun’s core.
The major challenge in harnessing fusion power is sustaining it long enough to power electric grids and heating systems around the world.
A British fusion scientist told CNN that the result of the US breakthrough is promising, but also shows that more work needs to be done before fusion is able to generate electricity on a commercial scale.
“They worked on the design and structure of the target and the shape of the energy pulse to get better results,” Tony Rolston from Cambridge University’s engineering department told CNN.
“The counter-argument is that this result is miles away from the actual energy gain required for power generation. Therefore, we can say (that) it is a breakthrough of science but it is far from providing useful energy.’
(Taken from CNN in Spanish)