Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Researchers were able to produce 2.5 megajoules of energy, 120 per cent of the 2.1 megajoules used to power the experiment. This means more energy out versus the energy deposited on the fuel pellet. The laboratory recently conducted a “successful” experiment at the National Ignition Facility. The National Ignition Facility is mainly doing nuclear tests to help make sure our thousands of nuclear bombs will continue to work as they age.
This is a step in many steps to get to commercial nuclear fusion. However, commercial nuclear fusion would need the entire plant to generate many times more power than is put into it. This is on the order of 1000 times more net energy gain than was demonstrated. The number of 1000X net energy gain pellets would need to scale up to one million pellets per day. This would enable a gigawatt fusion reactor. They are not doing 10 pellets per second they are doing one pellet every few weeks or months.
However, the work and science was difficult and I congratulate the team for this milestone.
* In August 2021, the NIF in California produced >1.3 MJ of fusion yield with 1.9 MJ of laser drive – a 70% conversion of laser energy to fusion energy. NOTE: A little over one hear to go from 70% conversion to 125%
* Very high efficiency in laser-driven proton sources has been experimentally observed. More than 10% of picosecond laser pulse energy has been converted to a proton burst, and new techniques for fabricating cone-in-shell proton fast ignition targets are being developed.
* Lasers with many hundreds of joules of energy operating at 10 Hz can now be constructed, and 100 J pulsed lasers operating at 10 Hz have been fielded. This is only within about a factor of 10 or 20 of what will be needed for the laser beams in an operating fusion power plant.
Commercialising fusion will have significant implications for the energy sector, provide a reliable way forward to solving climate challenges, and be a remarkable achievement in science and technology.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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