March 20, 2023

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Generating energy through laboratory-derived nuclear fusion

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm made the announcement Tuesday alongside scientists LLNL. She called the feathistoricalIt approaches the possibility of creating the world Abundant carbon-free fusion energy.

It took generations of people to achieve this goal. It is a scientific milestone and it is an engineering marvel.said engineer Aarti Prabhakar, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House.

The promise of clean energy

Scientists have been trying for more than 50 years to create energy through nuclear fusion, a clean energy source.

May one day allow humanity to break its dependence on fossil fuels responsible for global warming. Another advantage: it does not produce radioactive waste, unlike nuclear fission.

Fission is different from fission, a technique currently used in nuclear power plants that involves breaking the bonds of nuclear nuclei and recovering energy.

Holram is a laboratory device designed to generate radiation that completely absorbs all electromagnetic energy it receives. It has the type of cryogenic target used to achieve the December 5, 2022 breakthrough.

Photo: LLNL

Net energy gain has long been an elusive goal because fusion occurs at high temperatures and pressures that are incredibly difficult to control.

It is this nuclear reaction that powers the stars, including our Sun. Thanks to the extreme heat and pressure conditions there, hydrogen atoms combine to form helium, producing immense amounts of energy in the process.

On Earth, this process can be achieved using high-powered lasers.

Laboratory test

at LLNLOn December 5, no less than 192 beams of light were pointed at a target as small as a finger, which housed a tiny capsule made of diamond and containing isotopes of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium).

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The photons produced temperatures of about 150 million degrees, ten times the temperature of the Sun, causing hydrogen atoms to fuse together. The reaction takes only a fraction of a second.

The scientists thus produced about 3.15 megajoules of energy, compared to 2.05 megajoules initially delivered via lasers, the report said.

However, powering the lasers required 300 megajoules of energy taken from the electrical grid – making the operation still lossy overall. But according to scientists, eventually this problem can be overcome.

Our calculations suggest that with a large-scale laser system, an output of several hundred megajoules can be achieved.Kim Puddle, director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, explained. But we are still far from it.

Not tomorrow

Industrial and commercial solutions will allow energy generation to supply homes and businesses through nuclear fusion, so there is no tomorrow, as the technical challenges are significant.

I don’t think we or our children or great grandchildren will directly benefit from nuclear fusion.says Pierre-Olivier Pinault, Head of Energy Sector Management at HEC Montreal

A view shared by nuclear reactor expert Guy Marleau.

Maybe 2080… 2090, but there may be other discoveries and other ways to start fusion reactions that appear by then. »

A quote Guy Marleau is an associate professor at Polytechnic Montreal

Other nuclear fusion projects are under development, notably the international ITER project, currently under construction in France.

Instead of lasers, a so-called magnetic confinement technique will be used: hydrogen atoms will be heated in a large reactor, where they will be confined using the magnetic field of magnets.