Scientists plan to ignite tiny man-made star


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+Mirumir
Scientists plan to ignite tiny man-made star

It is science?s star experiment: an attempt to create an artificial sun on earth ? and provide an answer to the world?s impending energy shortage.e.

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Inside the target chamber, where scientists will attempt to create an artificial sun. Photo: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

While it has seemed an impossible goal for nearly 100 years, scientists now believe that they are on brink of cracking one of the biggest problems in physics by harnessing the power of nuclear fusion, the reaction that burns at the heart of the sun.

In the spring, a team will begin attempts to ignite a tiny man-made star inside a laboratory and trigger a thermonuclear reaction.

Its goal is to generate temperatures of more than 100 million degrees Celsius and pressures billions of times higher than those found anywhere else on earth, from a speck of fuel little bigger than a pinhead. If successful, the experiment will mark the first step towards building a practical nuclear fusion power station and a source of almost limitless energy.

At a time when fossil fuel supplies are dwindling and fears about global warming are forcing governments to seek clean energy sources, fusion could provide the answer. Hydrogen, the fuel needed for fusion reactions, is among the most abundant in the universe. Building work on the ?1.2 billion nuclear fusion experiment is due to be completed in spring.

Scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore, nestled among the wine-producing vineyards of central California, will use a laser that concentrates 1,000 times the electric generating power of the United States into a billionth of a second.

The result should be an explosion in the 32ft-wide reaction chamber which will produce at least 10 times the amount of energy used to create it.

"We are creating the conditions that exist inside the sun," said Ed Moses, director of the facility. "It is like tapping into the real solar energy as fusion is the source of all energy in the world. It is really exciting physics, but beyond that there are huge social, economic and global problems that it can help to solve."

Inside a structure covering an area the size of three football pitches, a single infrared laser will be sent through almost a mile of lenses, mirrors and amplifiers to create a beam more than 10 billion times more powerful than a household light bulb.

Housed within a hanger-sized room that has to be pumped clear of dust to prevent impurities getting into the beam, the laser will then be split into 192 separate beams, converted into ultraviolet light and focused into a capsule at the centre of an aluminium and concrete-coated target chamber.

When the laser beams hit the inside of the capsule, they should generate high-energy X-rays that, within a few billionths of a second, compress the fuel pellet inside until its outer shell blows off.

This explosion of the fuel pellet shell produces an equal and opposite reaction that compresses the fuel itself together until nuclear fusion begins, releasing vast amounts of energy.

Scientists have been attempting to harness nuclear fusion since Albert Einstein?s equation E=mc?, which he derived in 1905, raised the possibility that fusing atoms together could release tremendous amounts of energy.

Under Einstein?s theory, the amount of energy locked up in one gram of matter is enough to power 28,500 100-watt lightbulbs for a year.

Until now, such fusion has only been possible inside nuclear weapons and highly unstable plasmas created in incredibly strong magnetic fields. The work at Livermore could change all this.

The sense of excitement at the facility is clear. In the city itself, people on the street are speaking about the experiment and what it could bring them. Until now Livermore has had only the dubious honour of being home of the US government?s nuclear weapons research laboratories which are on the same site as the NIF.

Inside the facility, the scientists are impatient. After 11 years of development work, they want the last of the lenses and mirrors for the laser to be put in place and the tedious task of adjusting and aiming the laser to be over, a process they fear could take up to a year before they can successfully achieve fusion.

Jeff Wisoff, a former astronaut who is deputy principal associate director of science at the NIF, said: "Everyone is keen to get started, but we have to get the targeting right, otherwise it won?t work.

"We will be firing laser pulses that last just a few billionths of a second but we will be creating conditions that are found in the interior of stars or exploding nuclear weapons.

"I worked on the building of the International Space Station, but this is a far bigger challenge and the implications are huge. When we started the project, a lot of the technology we needed did not exist, so we have had to develop it ourselves.

"The next step is looking at how ignition can be used to deliver something of value to the world. It has the potential to be one of the biggest achievements mankind has made."

Although other experiments have attempted to create the conditions needed for nuclear fusion, lasers are seen as the most likely technique to be able to provide a viable electricity supply.

If all goes well, the NIF will be able to fire its laser and ignite a fusion reaction every five hours, but to create a reliable fusion power plant the laser would need to ignite fusion around 10 times a second.

The scientists are already working with British counterparts on the next step towards a fusion power station. A project known as the High Powered Laser Research facility aims to create a laser-powered fusion reactor that can fire once every couple of minutes.

Prof Mike Dunne, director of the central laser facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford, said: "The National Ignition Facility is going to finally prove fusion can be achieved with a laser. It will start an exciting new period in physics as it will prove what we are trying to achieve is actually be possible."

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+John.

This will be a huge step forward for us if successful. I really hope it works.

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The_Decryptor

The more research into fusion the better, I'd like to be younger than 70 when the first fusion power plant is opened.

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Minimoose

Excellent read! Fusion will change the world when it's a viable power source.

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Andrew Lyle

That could replace every power plant on the earth if successful. If this thing works, they will push the earth years ahead of the times, allowing electric cars and improved technology in our planet. Can't wait to see what happens :D

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Growled

That sounds very cool. I wish them success.

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Cheshire Cat

This is very awesome, but seriously... Did anyone else think Spiderman 2 movie when reading this??

"The power of the sun, in the palm of my hand"

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The_Decryptor

I prefer to only remember the scenes with Bruce Campbell in them.

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_dandy_

I like how this article presents how an artificial micro-sun that'll reach temperatures of 100 million degrees Celcius will help counter "global warming". I understand the implications, it's just that I like the irony of it all.

Granted, it'll be tiny (on a planetary scale), but 100M C...you'd think the heat dissipation's got to be measurable.

But then, quantum mechanics isn't my thing. :-)

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jwjw1

I sure hope they succeed, I sure hate to see Liverpool go up in a puff of smoke. :) since many don't believe in God..they have nothing to worry about..LOL

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vincent
I sure hope they succeed, I sure hate to see Liverpool go up in a puff of smoke. :) since many don't believe in God..they have nothing to worry about..LOL

:huh:

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Lezard

Yay for Doomsday Devices, that may some day prove practical in wars ^_^

So first we have the LHC. We can send this minute billionth of a second Black Hole to Islamic countries, yay fr no more Terrorism.

Then we have the Man made star, hurray for FUSION. We can deploy these on star systems that go against our rise to power, by releasing a tiny star that could possibly be able to nova into a full blown BC( Black Hole.)

Man I love Sci-fi

But in all seriousnes, these types of experiments make me so happy I live in the age when great things are happening.

Kinda like how Darwin felt when he smacked the Bible, with Evolution ^_^

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episode
since many don't believe in God..they have nothing to worry about..LOL

Pretty sure that wishing death upon others is against what your 'god' stands for.

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shockz

100 million degrees Celsius!?... how are they going to sheild that kind of heat?

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XerXis
I sure hope they succeed, I sure hate to see Liverpool go up in a puff of smoke. :) since many don't believe in God..they have nothing to worry about..LOL

what? are you even posting in the correct thread? :s

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Richard Hammond

bike2.jpg

One step closer to Mr Fusion then we can all have time travelling deloreans.

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James7

Are you sure this won't collapse and create a black hole that will suck us all into infinity?

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Lezard

Would not have enough mass, to sustain a BC, most likely, it will just disappear into nothing..

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vincent
Are you sure this won't collapse and create a black hole that will suck us all into infinity?

As has already been said, it won't have enough mass. Stellar Blackholes are created from suns that are about 1 to 3 solar masses.

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James7
As has already been said, it won't have enough mass. Stellar Blackholes are created from suns that are about 1 to 3 solar masses.

So then the scientists wouldn't lose the little suns they create in the lab?

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Lezard

Nope.

Also we can always count on Spider Man ^_^

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wmoley2k
As has already been said, it won't have enough mass. Stellar Blackholes are created from suns that are about 1 to 3 solar masses.

If I remember right, is something more like 20-25 Solar Masses minimum to make stellar blackholes. I think. Either way, this thing won't make blackholes, or be dangerous to the general population! Fusion is something I am really excited about. This, and ITER in Cadarache, France, are some of the most important physics machines being built imo. They have huge implications.

Also, ripgut, I just realised that you are forom Pasco. I am going to be nearby in a couple of weeks. I'm going to be in Richmond for 6 months working at LIGO for part of my PhD.

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HawkMan
I sure hope they succeed, I sure hate to see Liverpool go up in a puff of smoke. :) since many don't believe in God..they have nothing to worry about..LOL

Despite what movies have tried to tell you. when a fusion reator fails. it doesn't explode, the fusion reaction doens't expand unonctrollable. without the energy used to maintain it, the fusion ball will simply go poof. Same if the magnetif containment ield fails. then you're not containing the energy, and poof it goes.

Either way this isn't the first time they make a fusion reaction, but it might be the first one that succeeds in making more energy than it uses.

PErsonally I have bigger hopes that ITER will succeed than this though.

http://www.iter.org/

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jwjw1
Despite what movies have tried to tell you. when a fusion reator fails. it doesn't explode, the fusion reaction doens't expand unonctrollable. without the energy used to maintain it, the fusion ball will simply go poof. Same if the magnetif containment ield fails. then you're not containing the energy, and poof it goes.

Either way this isn't the first time they make a fusion reaction, but it might be the first one that succeeds in making more energy than it uses.

PErsonally I have bigger hopes that ITER will succeed than this though.

http://www.iter.org/

Magnetic confinement fusion and Inertial confinement fusion are totally different and have been tested,unlike what these scientist are attempting.

Magnetic confinement fusion is an approach to generating fusion energy that uses magnetic fields to confine the fusion fuel

Inertial confinement fusion (ICF) is a process where nuclear fusion reactions are initiated by heating and compressing a fuel target, typically in the form of a pellet that most often contains a mixture of deuterium and tritium.....but these Scientist are:

ONE OF the biggest problems in physics has been controlling and harnessing the energy of nuclear fusion reaction. This is the reaction that takes place in the sun and hydrogen bomb.

Scientists have been attempting to harness nuclear fusion since Albert Einstein's equation E=mc?, which he derived in 1905, raised the possibility that fusing atoms together could release tremendous amounts of energy.

Until now, such fusion has only been possible inside nuclear weapons and highly unstable plasmas created in incredibly strong magnetic fields

I do wish success..but one also has to be concerned that this is still only a Einstein Theory...and as the last sentence said..that the only fusion of this type was possible inside a nuclear weapon..and we all know what the results of such weapon (Heat Released) was during WWII. They are attempting now to 'Control' such Fusion that has never been attempted.

scientists now believe that they are on brink of cracking one of the biggest problems in physics by harnessing the power of nuclear fusion, the reaction that burns at the heart of the sun.

I'm sure there won't be no 'bang' but there will be the calculated energy of 100 million Celsius for few billionth of a second released and in an environment that has never be controlled. I do hope it is successful because of what this means to man-kinds energy future.

Edited by jwjw1
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The_Decryptor

We know render.php?latex=E=mc^2 is correct, we've obtained and controlled fusion before, what's important about this is that we might break even (or even better, achieve a energy gain)

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