Scientists achieve historic fusion ‘ignition’ to produce ‘almost limitless’ clean energy
The United States has announced a breakthrough in nuclear fusion, a historic step towards the promise of “almost limitless” clean energy.
“This will go down in the history books,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Tuesday in Washington DC, alongside scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
For 70 years, hundreds of scientists and engineers have attempted to replicate the energetic process of atoms merging together that powers the sun and other stars.
It is an extremely complex – and expensive – process that is highly unstable due to the high temperatures and pressures involved.
Now, for the first time, the team from the California lab has used lasers to achieve a “net energy gain”, producing more energy in a fusion reaction than was used to ignite it.
Scientists announced the breakthrough, but said there were still decades of work to be done before fusion would propel our daily lives.
Nonetheless, the fusion breakthrough has the potential to significantly impact the trajectory of the climate crisis – driven by global warming emissions created by the burning of fossil fuels.
“Producing useful energy from fusion explosions faces enormous challenges”
A professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, Ian Hutchinson, said The Washington Post that the work carried out at the National Ignition Facility “is not aimed at the production of fusion energy but at the understanding of fusion explosions”.
“Producing useful energy from miniature fusion explosions still faces enormous engineering challenges, and we don’t know if these challenges can be overcome,” he added.
Gustaf KilanderDecember 14, 2022 12:05 a.m.
‘We’ve had a hard time’: Congressman fought efforts to defund National Ignition Facility
California Rep. Zoe Lofgren has worked against attempts to fund the National Ignition Facility.
“We had some tough times,” she said The Washington Post. “To see that they’ve successfully ignited is fabulous. It’s a profound breakthrough that brings a tantalizing promise that we could produce a pollution-free, basically limitless source of energy.
Commercial fusion power has been attempted for some time, as results from national labs have disappointed some and amid the possibility that funding for the experiments will dry up.
Gustaf KilanderDecember 13, 2022 11:25 p.m.
VIDEO: The lab shares footage depicting the experimentation process
Gustaf KilanderDecember 13, 2022 10:40 p.m.
The risk posed by unchecked optimism about unlimited free energy
The risk posed by unchecked optimism about the prospect of unlimited free energy is that it could undo the small steps that have already been taken to decarbonize the energy sector and other industries that have relied heavily on fuels. fossils.
Just as polluting industries are already factoring in barely adequate carbon capture technology in pursuit of their own net-zero goals, fusion should not be treated as a “get out of jail free” climate crisis card.
The technology cannot be ready in the time required to meet the climate goals that governments are already failing to meet. Our society’s priority must remain the rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
It may not be quite as sexy, but a combination of energy efficiency, insulation, heat pumps and wider deployment of renewable energy remains our greatest asset in tackling the climate crisis and strengthening energy security.
Harry CockburnDecember 13, 2022 10:10 p.m.
Laser used in an experiment installed in a football stadium complex
The laser needed to create the required reaction was so large that it was housed in a football stadium complex, The Washington Post Noted.
It was built after the project went over budget and faced years of delays.
Generating electricity from fusion would require the reaction, called “ignition”, to occur every second of the day, the newspaper reported.
Reaching this point would require large-scale engineering. Just creating a small energy gain puts such strain on expensive equipment that it sometimes breaks.
Gustaf KilanderDecember 13, 2022 9:40 p.m.
“Success, however long, would be transformational”
The long-held promise of nuclear fusion is that it could provide energy in such abundance that it would effectively displace all other forms of energy, bringing free and unlimited energy to people around the world, revolutionizing our societies. and helping to reduce emissions the climate crisis to stalk.
Scientists are now cautiously optimistic that we could see a major breakthrough that could radically alter the energy landscape.
Professor Sir Robin Grimes, of Imperial College London, said on Monday: “This is a key step on a possible route to commercial merger. It demonstrates and underpins our basic understanding of physics, and is a triumph of engineering.
“Nevertheless, extracting this energy in a way that it can be harnessed and developing materials that can withstand continuous operation are daunting challenges. There is no doubt, the price is worth the effort. Success, however long it takes, would be transformational.
Harry CockburnDecember 13, 2022 9:10 p.m.
‘300 megajoules on the wall, two megajoules on the laser’
The Department of Energy said the December 5 nuclear fusion power was a success because when the hundreds of lasers hit the cylinder containing a small amount of hydrogen, 2.05 megajoules were fired at the target and 3.15 megajoules of energy are released.
But that didn’t take into account the energy needed to create the lasers themselves – the so-called wall plug energy, The Washington Post Noted.
Lawrence Livermore Laboratory Director Kim Budil said at the press conference on Tuesday that there were “300 megajoules on the wall, two megajoules on the laser.”
Gustaf KilanderDecember 13, 2022 8:40 p.m.
PHOTOS: Scientists reveal new discovery at Department of Energy press briefing
Gustaf KilanderDecember 13, 2022 8:10 p.m.
Scientists achieve energy gain during lab experiments
Fusion has always been a solid alternative when concerned about the climate impact of emissions from other energy sources.
Fusion combines hydrogen atoms into helium in the sun and stars, which leads to sunlight and heat heating the planets.
The process has proven to be a clean source of energy in laboratory experiments, unlike fossil fuels and nuclear power which leave behind radioactive waste.
But so far, scientists have been unable to retain more energy from the reactions than they have used.
At 1:03 a.m. on December 5, scientists used 192 lasers to explode a cylinder containing a small amount of hydrogen, creating three megajoules of energy while injecting only 2.05 megajoules, The New York Times reported.
Gustaf KilanderDecember 13, 2022 7:40 p.m.
VIDEO: ‘This is one of the most impressive scientific feats of the 21st century,’ says Energy Secretary
Gustaf KilanderDecember 13, 2022 7:15 p.m.