U.S. researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have just conducted a successful experiment in nuclear fusion; a development which brings the world one step closer to green energy.
Green energy has been something that researchers have been working on for decades. In the 1930s, researchers first began to split atoms, a process known as nuclear fission. In the 1940s, they began fusing atoms in a process called nuclear fusion, which is two or more atomic nuclei joining together at a rapid speed. Additionally, this is also something that is necessary to achieve green energy. The use of nuclear fission and the combined use of nuclear fission and nuclear fusion led to the development of nuclear weapons during World War II. Although it has been used for destructive purposes, nuclear fusion can also be used for positive things, like green energy.
For the eventual goal of green energy to be achieved (which may only happen far in the future, according to researchers), scientists will need to achieve fusion; a process whereby hydrogen atoms create helium atoms by being squeezed together and creating mass energy. This is the ultimate intention if green energy is to be brought about. The aim of the experiment was to develop fusion power and ultimately ignition, which multiplies the fusion. If this is accomplished, it would potentially create a solution for the world’s energy crisis. However, scientists say that this is an extremely difficult process to achieve. This difficulty is the reason the experiments to discover how to make it possible have been taking so many decades.
Although it is possible that green energy might be possible far from now, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have made a small, albeit, still beneficial step toward the ultimate objective. In the experiment, they managed to produce more energy than the amount of energy that was consumed. The energy that was coming from the nuclear fusion fuel was greater than the nuclear fusion fuel input, although they have not yet ultimately achieved ignition.
The scientists said that they achieved nuclear fusion by use of a huge laser, which they call the National Ignition Facility (NIF). This large laser, which cost more than $3 billion to construct, contains 192 beams of light. For very short periods, the laser is capable of using 500 trillion watts of power. This is more power than is used across the entire United States at the same time. In their nuclear fusion development to bring the world closer to green energy, the scientists used this laser to produce fusion reactions by aiming it at a small target, usually one that was no larger than the width of a pen or pencil.
Now that this breakthrough has been achieved, scientists are moving toward the next step. The complication they are running into is that they cannot seem to find a way to get the hydrogen fusion to multiply and make more of itself by process of ignition. Fortunately, despite this setback the scientists are still closer to success given what they have recently accomplished. The process of ignition is what researchers will continue to work toward, now that this nuclear fusion development has been made, bringing the world one step closer to green energy.