Researchers at The National Ignition Facility in Livermore, California, may achieving goal in nuclear fusion using hydrogen. An experiment suggests the goal of “ignition”, where the energy released by fusion exceeds that delivered by the laser, is now confirmed. 192 beams from NIF’s laser – the highest-energy example in the world – are directed towards a peppercorn-sized capsule containing deuterium and tritium, which are different forms of the element hydrogen. At 100 million degrees Celsius – hotter than the centre of the Sun, tthermonuclear fusion begins. An experiment carried out on 8 August yielded 1.35 megajoules (MJ) of energy – around 70% of the laser energy delivered to the fuel capsule.
This month’s experiment is eight times NIF’s previous record, established in Spring 2021, and 25 times the yield from experiments carried out in 2018. NIF scientists also believe they have now achieved something called “burning plasma”, where the fusion reactions themselves provide the heat for more fusion. Construction on the National Ignition Facility began in 1997 and was complete by 2009. The first experiments to test the laser’s power began in October 2010. However, “turning this concept into a renewable source of electrical energy is likely to be a long process and will involve overcoming substantial technical challenges,” Prof Jeremy Chittenden, co-director of the Centre for Inertial Fusion Studies at Imperial College London said.