This milestone moves us one significant step closer to the possibility of zero-carbon abundant fusion energy powering our society.U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announcing that scientists have produced the first fusion reaction which took less energy to produce than the reaction required. It is regarded as one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs of the 21st century.
Why It Matters: Fusion occurs when two atoms collide into one another. The reaction gives off a massive amount of energy, and is basically Einstein’s ‘e = mc2’ in action. For the first time ever in a laboratory, the scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory achieved ‘net energy gain’ which is when the reaction gives off more energy than it consumes. The sun and the stars are examples of giant nuclear fusion reactions.
Looking Ahead: Nuclear fission powers reactors for most energy used today. However, this newly harnessed process – nuclear fusion – could be translated to widespread use once it has been more fine-tuned in the coming years. It could also help produce energy without producing harmful radioactive waste.
The Mechanics: Politico explains that the “world’s largest cluster of lasers” fired off a shot to ignite a BB-sized fuel pellet that became 10 times hotter than the sun’s core temperature for a few billionths of second. The heat energy produced an instantaneous reaction that has been sought after for more than 60 years. The process itself is not yet sustainable because of how much energy the lasers require, but it sets a path to move forward with.
Fusion breakthrough is a milestone for climate, clean energy (The Associated Press)
What to know about DOE’s fusion milestone (Politico)
by Jenna Lee,