California – After fifty years of research, scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore, have made a breakthrough in harnessing and controlling fusion.
Fusion is the process that powers the sun and by using this form of energy, an unlimited and affordable source of energy will be available to everyone.
According to the BBC, NIF conducted an experiment where the amount of energy released through the fusion reaction was more than the amount of energy being absorbed by it. This process is known as ‘ignition’ and is the first time it has successfully been done anywhere in the world.
192 Beams from the strongest laser in the world heated and compressed a small pellet of hydrogen fuel to the point where the nuclear fusion reaction took place, the BBC reported.
In order to for a fusion power plant to be successful, the plant would have to produce more energy than it consumes. Until now that has not been possible.
In 2009 NIF officials announced their goal to produce a net energy in nuclear fusion by 30 September 2012. Due to technical problems they did not reach their goal until late September of this year.
The $3.5 billion company is not the only one conducting research on nuclear fusion. ITER, based in Cadarche, France, is also working on this project by using magnetic fields to control the fusion fuel. This is a different method to the one used by NIF.
Image Source: WIkimedia Commons. National Ignition Facility