Editorial Feature

Nuclear Fusion Moves a Step Closer

By Kris Walker

192 Lasers are fired into a container called the hohlraum which contains a mixture of hydrogen isotopes.

Nuclear fusion is a technology that if successful could follow the processes of the sun providing an unlimited source of energy which could bring an end to the energy crisis. Combining light and elements together holds the possibility of producing more energy than that produced by fission reactors.

The BBC have reported a breakthrough from scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore California by which they could scale up the process of fusion and their latest breakthrough is seen as a milestone in the possibility of creating and harnessing nuclear fusion.

The process of nuclear fusion is made possible squashing atoms together. By comparison, nuclear power differs as it uses the process of fission, which generates power by using unstable elements for splitting atoms.

Scientists at the National Ignition Facility fired 192 laser beams inside a hohlraum, a target container, which has a solid mixture of hydrogen isotopes in the form of a cold tiny pellet.

Scientists at NIF are still trying to achieve 'ignition' which should allow fusion.

The lasers hit the walls of the hohlraum which radiates x-rays which heat up the pellet to millions of degrees.

Fusion can result only if the compression of the fuel is high enough.

With the ultimate goal being a state of 'ignition'; which is where nuclear fusion begins to produce the same, if not more energy, as the lasers are supplying, still yet to be achieved, this breakthrough is yet another step on the road to nuclear fusion.

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Further Reading: BBC, Huffington Post, NIF, What is Laser Fusion?
Image Credit: NIF

Countdown to a NIF Laser Shot - Run-time: 0:48mins

Kris Walker

Written by

Kris Walker

Kris has a BA(hons) in Media & Performance from the University of Salford. Aside from overseeing the editorial and video teams, Kris can be found in far flung corners of the world capturing the story behind the science on behalf of our clients. Outside of work, Kris is finally seeing a return on 25 years of hurt supporting Manchester City.


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