National Institute Achieves “Wright Brothers Moment” in Fusion


Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory On Tuesday, we announced the important results of fusion research. fusionThe lesser-known opposite reaction to fission is when two atoms hit together to form a heavy atom, releasing energy. That’s how the sun makes energy.

“Our results are an important step in understanding what it takes to work. For me, this is the Wright brothers’ moment.” Omar A. Hurricane, The Chief Scientist of the Inertial Confinement Fusion Program at the Institute in Livermore, California, told CNBC.

“It’s not practical, but we got off the ground for a moment,” said the hurricane.

Lab announced it on Tuesday, August 8th, It generated 1.3 megajoules of energy in it National Ignition FacilityAlthough it is very short.

At the National Ignition Facility, the size of three football stadiums, a super-powerful laser beam reproduces temperatures and pressures similar to those inside the cores of stars and giant planets and exploding nuclear weapons, a spokesman told CNBC. ..

On August 8, laser light focused on a BB-sized target, resulting in “a hotspot of human hair diameter, generating over 10 trillion watts of fusion power in a hundredth of a second. “It was,” said the statement.

The important thing is that the result is an “important step towards ignition.” Statement from the lab..

“Ignition is a turning point in the fusion process, which heats itself and overwhelms all possible cooling losses,” Hurricane told CNBC. “When this happens, a feedback process is created, with heating increasing fusion, heating increasing, and fusion increasing.”

Reaching a place where fusion reactions produce more energy than they use, ignition is like a holy grail for companies looking to commercialize fusion and sell it as a clean energy source.

Whether Livermore’s experiments were able to generate “net energy” is complicated because “the answer depends on where the calculation of the energy input begins,” says Hurricane.

“The bottom line is that there is very little energy going into the fusion fuel compared to the electricity we used to charge the laser,” said the hurricane.

“As a result, the net energy gain is zero compared to the electricity drawn to carry out the experiment. This is one of the reasons I think our plan is not practical for energy production.” He said. “But the fusion energy produced was about five times the energy absorbed by the capsule and about 70% of the laser energy directed at the target. These are important aspects.”

The results have not been published in peer-reviewed journals, but the lab states that the process will occur. News announcements are usually tied to peer-reviewed journal publications, but “I felt it was important to publish the facts because the news was so widespread because of the scale of this outcome,” a spokesman said on CNBC. Told to.

It’s an important milestone, but there’s a long way to go

This news certainly represents progress, but it does not represent a change in the ocean about how energy will be produced in the near future.

“Current experiments generate a lot of power … but only for a very short time … and as yields increase, such experiments generate more power over a longer period of time. This is an important step on the road to commercial electricity production, said Brett Lampal, director of nuclear innovation at Clean Air Task Force, an energy policy thinking tank.

“There is still a long way to go,” Rampal said.

Andrew HollandThe CEO of the Fusion Industry Association, who was enthusiastic about the announcement on Tuesday.

“Proving ignition is the” Kitty Hawk Moment “of fusion energy,” the Netherlands told CNBC.

“It will prove that we can unleash fusion energy for electricity production on Earth,” says the Netherlands. “It provides a deep scientific understanding of how fusion works, which will help all fusion developers build their power plants better.”

However, the hurricane was more cautious about seeing fusion as the answer to the need for clean energy.

“Our team is very excited about this result, but I don’t think it will be useful for a clean energy source as it is a hard-earned science / engineering achievement. But our result Learning from may be relevant, “Hurricane told CNBC.

“I’m generally very concerned about fusion being touted as a solution to climate change,” he said. “In my personal opinion, fusion energy is still a future technology, so it’s stupid for those who bet the planet on fusion to address the immediate climate problem.”

Also noteworthy is the research at the Livermore Institute. National Ignition Facility Is part of Stockpile Stewardship ProgramA government effort born in 1995 to study aging nuclear weapons without a nuclear test.

“One of NIF’s original visions was to replace underground nuclear tests, tying weapons scientists to the reality of the test, allowing the country to rely on their skills, knowledge, and most importantly, judgment. It was to do, “said Hurricane. “This new result helps support that vision.”