Major nuclear fusion breakthrough for near-limitless clean energy
Scientists have achieved a significant breakthrough, as they have managed to repeatedly produce nuclear fusion ignition for the first time. This accomplishment marks a crucial step towards realizing near-limitless clean energy at scale.
In December, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) team in the US successfully achieved fusion ignition, marking the first time a net energy gain was produced from a fusion reaction.
LLNL scientists have now replicated the feat three additional times, a moment that physicists are calling a significant event in history.
Using the National Ignition Facility (NIF), the laboratory directed 192 laser beams towards a frozen pellet containing isotopes. This pellet was encased in a diamond capsule and placed within a gold cylinder.
The experiment produced a reaction that mimicked natural processes in the Sun, resulting in an 89 per cent jump in energy. While this amount was sufficient to boil a kettle, further development of this breakthrough could usher in a “new era” of energy, as stated by the respected publication Nature.
“I’m feeling quite positive,” stated Richard Town, the physicist in charge of LLNL’s inertial-confinement fusion science programme, in an interview with the journal. “It is a collective achievement that we should all take pride in.”
At the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), governments made it a priority to accelerate the development of nuclear fusion.
China, Japan, Russia, and the European Union have all made substantial investments in nuclear fusion research. In fact, according to the Fusion Industry Association, the total amount invested has surpassed $6 billion.
One of the companies investing in this technology is the US-based tech giant Microsoft, who made headlines earlier this year with their announcement of the world’s first purchase agreement.
No other laboratory has replicated LLNL’s successful experiment, though a joint project between the EU and Japan officially opened a six-storey nuclear fusion reactor earlier this month.
The JT-60SA reactor, located in Japan’s Ibaraki Prefecture, will strive to achieve fusion ignition in the upcoming months. Meanwhile, a larger reactor is also being built in France.