The US Department of Energy announced Tuesday a monumental milestone in energy research: scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have achieved the first ever “net energy gain” from fusion.
“This is one of the most impressive scientific achievements of the 21st century,” US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said at a press conference, adding that researchers have been working on this for decades.
“It [достижение] strengthens our national security, and the experiment allows us to reproduce certain conditions that can only be found in the stars and the sun,” she said. “This milestone brings us one significant step closer to zero-carbon fusion power to power our society.”
According to Granholm, the results of the work of scientists will be reflected in US industry across the country.
“Today we tell the world that America has made a significant scientific breakthrough.”
It is hoped that the achievement can be used to develop a clean energy source that will eliminate fossil fuels.
“The day you get more energy than you put in, [только] the sky is becoming the limit,” American astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson told CBS News.
Nuclear fusion is considered the “Holy Grail” of energy generation and, according to many, can save humanity from extinction. In short, two hydrogen atoms combine to form a helium atom, releasing tremendous energy. This is how the stars and our Sun burn.
“We knew how to fuse atoms and generate energy,” de Grasse Tyson said. “We just couldn’t control it.”
Nuclear fusion technology has been around since the creation of the hydrogen bomb, but its use of the technology to generate power has required decades of research.
“They took 200 laser beams, some of the most powerful on planet Earth, and combined that energy into a small ball,” said Dr. Michio Kaku, CBS News research fellow and futurist. “Just remember that in fusion there is no nuclear waste to talk about, no harmful substances to worry about.”
Scientists believe that fusion plants will be much safer than today’s nuclear plants if the process can be mastered.
Currently, nuclear power plants use fission, which splits atoms to produce energy. Even if it’s not burning fossil fuels, disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima are evidence that nuclear fission can still harm people and the environment. But now the moment has come not to divide, but to merge.
“It is high time for us to transform something so destructive that it can finally be used for peaceful purposes in the service of civilization,” said Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Granholm said scientists have reached a milestone that goes far beyond simply announcing the results of an experiment.
“This is a landmark achievement for the researchers and staff at the National Ignition Center who have dedicated their careers to seeing how fusion ignition became a reality, and this milestone will undoubtedly lead to even more discoveries,” Granholm said, adding that the breakthrough “will be in the history books.”
What is thermonuclear fusion? Source of stellar energy to create clean energy
Scientists, governments and companies around the world are increasingly investing in a potential energy source that could provide unlimited clean energy for everyone on Earth: nuclear fusion.
Rep. Ted Lew, a Democrat from California, called the incident “a game changer in the world” in the quest to create a sustainable source of electricity.
In a fusion, two atomic nuclei combine to create a heavier nucleus, and energy is released in the process. The reaction takes place in a state of matter called plasma, which is different from liquids, solids, or gases.
In the Sun, nuclei collide at temperatures high enough to overcome the electrical repulsion that normally separates them. When they are very close to each other, the atomic force of attraction between them becomes stronger than the electrical repulsion and the atoms can fuse. The Sun’s gravity ensures that the nuclei are close enough together to increase the chance of them colliding.
If humans can harness the power of fusion on an industrial scale, it could help create a virtually limitless source of clean energy on Earth, capable of generating 4 million times more energy than burning coal or oil, according to the IAEA.
“He [процесс синтеза] can’t run away. This is a very complex reaction that needs to be supported, it needs to be managed. While fission can take place in the form of a chain reaction, and it must be contained,” said Tim Luce, head of the ITER science department. CBS News.
Fusion does not leave behind radioactive by-products, and what remains “is not soluble in water – [отходы] will not end up in food and water,” Luce said.
Some fusion reactor concepts being developed today use two types of hydrogen atoms, deuterium and tritium, as fuel.
Deuterium is easily and cheaply extracted from sea water. Tritium, which does not exist in large quantities in nature, could potentially be produced by a reaction between neutrons generated by fusion and lithium. It is also a by-product of the nuclear fission process used in power plants around the world today.
Scientists have already managed to produce thermonuclear reactions, but with the use of more energy than was produced with it.
“We must also pave the way for widespread commercialization of fusion, going far beyond research and development,” Dr. Scott S. Hsu, lead fusion coordinator in the Office of the Under Secretary for Science and Innovation, Department of Energy, told a Senate hearing. USA last month.
“This includes public participation and fair use of energy, educating various professionals, creating a regulatory framework that is trusted by the public and supporting the timely deployment of the relevant market, attracting investment and commercialization partners, export control, nuclear non-proliferation, cybersecurity, international coordination, and also building supply chains, manufacturing facilities and waste management,” Hsu said.
A grandiose scientific and energy breakthrough that opens up new opportunities for civilization became known yesterday, but scientists advised to wait for the official announcement:
Scientists Achieve 120% Energy Yield From Fusion – Data Verification, US Department of Energy Preparing To Make Announcement