For the first time, US scientists at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have successfully produced a nuclear fusion reaction that results in a net energy gain. A source familiar with the project confirmed to him CNN.
The U.S. Department of Energy is expected to formally announce the breakthrough on Tuesday.
The results of this experiment are a major step in a decades-long quest to unlock limitless sources of clean energy that can help end our dependence on fossil fuels. Researchers have been trying for decades to replicate nuclear fusion – replicating the nuclear fusion that powers the sun.
US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is set to announce a “major scientific breakthrough” on Tuesday, the department said Sunday. The breakthrough was first reported by the Financial Times.
Nuclear fusion occurs when two or more atoms fuse into one larger atom. This is a process that produces a large amount of energy as heat.
Scientists around the world are nudging towards a breakthrough. In February, British scientists announced they had more than doubled his previous record for producing and sustaining fusion.
A giant donut-shaped machine called a tokamak, equipped with giant magnets, scientists working near Oxford were able to produce record amounts of sustained energy. lasted only seconds.
The heat maintained during the fusion of atoms is key to helping produce energy.
As CNN reported earlier this year, the fusion process produces helium and neutrons. These are lighter in mass than the original parts.
The lost mass is converted into a huge amount of energy. Neutrons that are able to escape the plasma hit the “blanket” that covers the tokamak walls and their kinetic energy is transferred as heat. This heat can be used to heat water, generate steam, or run turbines to generate electricity.
The machine that produces the reaction must be subjected to serious heat. The plasma must reach at least 150 million degrees Celsius, which is ten times the temperature of her in the core of the Sun.
A major challenge in harnessing fusion energy is sustaining it long enough to power grids and heating systems around the world.
A British fusion scientist told CNN that while the results of the US breakthrough are promising, more work is still needed before fusion can generate electricity on a commercial scale. He said he was.
“They worked on the design and configuration of the target and the shape of the energy pulse and got better results,” Tony Roulstone of the University of Cambridge Engineering Department told CNN.
“The argument to the contrary is that this result is far from the actual energy gain needed to generate electricity. It’s so far away.”