The US Department of Energy is expected to announce, on Tuesday, that scientists have succeeded, for the first time, in producing a nuclear fusion reaction that led to a net increase in energy, according to the financial times And the Washington Post.
The result of the experiment will be a huge step in the decades-long quest to unlock an endless source of clean energy that can help end dependence on fossil fuels. Researchers have tried for decades to recreate nuclear fusion – the iteration of fusion that powers the sun.
Scientists at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California made the discovery, according to The Post.
US Department of Energy Jennifer Granholm on Tuesday announced a “major scientific breakthrough,” the Energy Department announced Sunday.
The ministry declined to comment to CNN on Sunday on whether it had made a breakthrough in the merger, which was first reported by the Financial Times.
Nuclear fusion It occurs when two or more atoms fuse into a larger one, a process that generates a huge amount of energy in the form of heat.
Scientists around the world have been slowly making progress towards this breakthrough. in february, UK scientists announced They doubled the previous record for generating and sustaining nuclear fusion.
In a giant donut-shaped machine called a tokamak fitted with giant magnets, scientists working near Oxford have managed to generate a record amount of sustainable energy. However, it only lasted 5 seconds.
The heat generated by the process of fusing atoms together holds the key to helping produce energy.
Like CNN I reported earlier this yearthe fusion process produces helium and neutrons – which are lighter in mass than the parts from which they were originally made.
The lost mass is then transformed into a massive amount of energy. The neutrons able to escape from the plasma then strike a “blanket” lining the walls of the tokamak, transferring their kinetic energy as heat. This heat can then be used to heat water, generate steam and power turbines to generate power.
All this requires the machine that generates the reaction to withstand intense heat. The temperature of the plasma must reach at least 150 million degrees Celsius, 10 times hotter than the core of the sun.
The big challenge of harnessing fusion energy is to keep it going long enough for it to be able to power electric grids and heating systems around the world.
The result of the US breakthrough is promising, a British fusion scientist told CNN, but it also shows more work needs to happen to make fusion capable of generating electricity on a commercial scale.
“They worked on designing and fitting the target and the shape of the energy pulse to get much better results,” Tony Rolston, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, told CNN.
“The opposing argument is that this result is miles away from the actual energy gain required to produce electricity. Therefore, we can say (it is) a success for the science but far from a useful energy saving.”