Scientists Say Their Giant Laser Has Produced Nuclear Fusion


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Scientists Say Their Giant Laser Has Produced Nuclear Fusion

 

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The National Ignition Facility's 192 laser beams focus onto a tiny target.

 

Researchers at a laboratory in California say they've had a breakthrough in producing fusion reactions with a giant laser. The success comes after years of struggling to get the laser to work and is another step in the decades-long quest for fusion energy.

Omar Hurricane, a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, says that for the first time, they've produced significant amounts of fusion by zapping a target with their laser. "We've gotten more energy out of the fusion fuel than we put into the fusion fuel," he says.

Strictly speaking, while more energy came from fusion than went into the hydrogen fuel, only about 1 percent of the laser's energy ever reached the fuel. Useful levels of fusion are still a long way off. "They didn't get more fusion power out than they put in with the laser," says Steve Cowley, the head of a huge fusion experiment in the U.K. called the Join European Torus, or JET.

The laser is known as the National Ignition Facility, or NIF. Constructed at a cost of more than $3 billion, it consists of 192 beams that take up the length of three football fields. For a brief moment, the beams can focus 500 trillion watts of power ? more power than is being used in that same time across the entire United States ? onto a target about the width of a No. 2 pencil.

The goal is fusion: a process where hydrogen atoms are squeezed together to make helium atoms. When that happens, a lot of energy comes out. It could mean the answer to the world's energy problems, but fusion is really, really hard to do. Hurricane says that each time they try, it feels like they're taking a test.

 

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Great, now who has $500,000 to build a Fusion Power Plant? At least that's what it cost in Sim City 2000.

The answer is France and the actual price is ?13bn.

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The answer is France and the actual price is ?13bn.

 

Actually, the answer is the EU plus a bunch of other countries including India, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea and the United States :)  ITER is just based in France.

Wow, glad Professor X let them borrow the Cerebro chamber for this experiment.

 

That was my first thought :laugh:

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Actually, the answer is the EU plus a bunch of other countries including India, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea and the United States :)  ITER is just based in France.

Yeah, my comment was based on physical location for brevity.

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Great news!

 

Still plenty of room for improvement. For example, half the lasers' energy is lost during the final conversion from infrared to ultraviolet. Hohlraum design could also be improved.

 

The Europeans also have a laser fusion experiment planned which will work slightly differently.

 

What's happening with ITER? I haven't heard anything new in ages.

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Does anyone believe the end result will be cheap power??

Eventually, yes. Doing fusion isn't that hard. You can do low level fusion in a desktop device that runs on wall current. What's hard as extracting enough power to be worthwhile and preventing the reactor chamber from deteriorating from the neutron flux and needing replacement every few months. That's the problem with ITER.
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It always worries me that they'll accidentally create a star and kill us all. Mind you, I'm completely ignorant to the feasibility of that happening and I don't research anything, at all, to calm my nerves about it. ...I guess I like to worry about it. 

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It always worries me that they'll accidentally create a star and kill us all. Mind you, I'm completely ignorant to the feasibility of that happening and I don't research anything, at all, to calm my nerves about it. ...I guess I like to worry about it. 

 

I was reading a book by Bill Bryson, it came out years ago and he talked about the Hadron Collider that at that point was still being built, I love his humour, when he talks about a black hole being created etc he dryly adds "If you're reading this, that hasn't happened yet".

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It always worries me that they'll accidentally create a star and kill us all. Mind you, I'm completely ignorant to the feasibility of that happening and I don't research anything, at all, to calm my nerves about it. ...I guess I like to worry about it.

Uh, no, not possible at all.

Real life fusion reactions aren't like the ones from Spider Man, they're not a miniature sun burning away, they're just clouds of plasma in a metal tube (Which, if we're not very careful, dissipate, they're not and cant be runaway reactions).

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Great, now who has $500,000 to build a Fusion Power Plant? At least that's what it cost in Sim City 2000.

You mean $40k right?

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Uh, no, not possible at all.

Real life fusion reactions aren't like the ones from Spider Man, they're not a miniature sun burning away, they're just clouds of plasma in a metal tube (Which, if we're not very careful, dissipate, they're not and cant be runaway reactions).

 

I'm not sure if this is a relief or if I feel upset that my imagination can no longer run wild.

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