National Ignition Facility

There is a national facility in California.

There is a person named Damian Jemison.

Researchers have confirmed that a controlled fusion reaction has generated more power than it requires. The experiment is a major step towards commercial fusion power, but experts say there is still a lot of work to be done.

The news of the experiment at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was officially announced in a press conference this afternoon. The lab's fusion reactor generated a power output of 3.15 megajoules from a laser power output of 2.05 megajoules in an experiment on 5 December. The 300 megajoules drawn from the electrical grid to power the lasers is more than enough.

Two main research approaches aim to achieve nuclear fusion. One uses a magnetic field while the other uses a laser. Insturment confinement fusion is a method where a tiny capsule containing hydrogen fuel is blasted with lasers to cause it to heat up and rapidly expand.

The fuel is compressed by an equal and opposite reaction inside. Some of the mass from the fusion of hydrogen atoms is released as energy, just as it is in the sun.

All fusion experiments need more energy input than they produce. The output was equivalent to 72 per cent of the energy input from the lasers. If you ignore the energy required to power the lasers, researchers have surpassed the break-even milestone. At peak power, the lasers draw 500 trillion watt, which is more power than the entire US national grid produces.

The policy director of the White House Office of Science and Technology said that the results bring viable fusion power one step closer.

Generations of people pursued this goal. She said, "This is how we do really big hard things, and it's just a beautiful example."

Jeremy Chittenden is a professor at Imperial College London. Everyone in the fusion community has been trying to achieve this milestone for 70 years. It is a major victory for the approach that we have been trying for fifty years. The significance is very significant.

A reactor design called a tokamak is one of the most popular fusion designs. The Joint European Torus started operating in 1983. It is the hottest place in the solar system when running. A record 59 megajoules of heat energy were produced earlier this year.

The International thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in France is nearing completion and will begin its first experiments in 2025. The Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research device was able to sustain a reaction for 30 seconds at temperatures over 100 millionC.

Read more: DeepMind uses AI to control plasma inside tokamak fusion reactor

Kim Budil said at the press conference that there was a delay in the announcement because a team of experts peer-reviewed the data. She said that a laser-based power plant could be built within a few decades, but that the technology for tokamak reactor was more mature.

She said there are significant hurdles in technology. To realise commercial fusion energy, you have to do many things; you have to be able to produce many, many fusion ignitions per minute, and you have to have a robust system of lasers.

NIF has to be cooling its components before it can be turned on again. Approaches being tried by new start-ups may be a better way to go.

"If we stick at trying to do this through massive scale projects, which take billions of dollars to construct and tens of years to develop, it could be that fusion arises too late to have an impact on climate change." We need to increase the diversity of approaches so that we can try to find something that has a lower impact cost and a quicker turn around.

Chittenden says that NIF's results could lead to other advances in physics, as the reactions seem even more intense and rapid than those in our sun, and more like those happening in a supernova. He says that they have never been able to access extreme pressures, densities and temperatures in the lab before. These processes allow us to study what happens in the most extreme states of matter.

The fusion researchers will be safe in the knowledge that they can extract energy from fusion.

It is just, and I say it in inverted commas, a matter of refining and technical changes. There are technical issues that will prevent it from happening tomorrow. We aren't close to a reactor. He says that they are on the correct road. In terms of clean energy,fusion research is the most ambitious route, but eventually will be the most rewarding because the amount of energy that you canunlock is potentially unlimited.

The first working reactor will be tokamak devices, but that doesn't mean the research isn't important. Both routes should continue because they inform each other. A lot of information is exchanged between the two schemes. They work the same way.

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  • fusion power
  • fusion