New research has brought us to the brink of fusion fusion

You almost feel it.

We went decades deep in inertial fusion research, and scientists achieved a record yield of more than 1.3 megajoules (MJ) with laboratory fusion reactions for the first time, according to recent press release.

And advances in several technologies inherent in targeting the synthesis threshold have made possible new benchmarking techniques to better assess our growing proximity to “greater than unity” energy generation levels.

One third of the way to the threshold of synthesis

The experiment took place on August 8 this year at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the results revealed an 8-fold improvement over earlier experiments this spring, in addition to 25 – a multiple increase from NIF’s previous record yield in 2018. NIF’s experiments work by fine-tuning, amplifying, reflecting and focusing 192 strong laser beams on a small target no larger than a pencil eraser. And that’s only happening for a few billionths of a second, according to the press release.

The NIF creates temperatures of more than 180 million degrees Fahrenheit, with pressures above 100 billion Earth’s atmospheres. It is heavy. And these extremely hot and severe conditions force the hydrogen atoms to undergo fusion in order to release huge amounts of energy in a controlled reaction called fusion. Achieving such high power yields remains a long-term goal for inertial limitation of fusion, and the latest laboratory results prove that we have reached the ignition threshold of synthesis.

Scientists have used several definitions of ignition during their efforts to advance fusion research, but after a 1997 review of the NIF, the National Academy of Sciences decided that the best definition should be “getting more than unity.” “. This means that we will not actually say that the synthesis works until it can give more output energy than is invested in a device. And the latest experiment yielded a synthesis of approximately two-thirds of the laser input energy, approaching the “greater than unity” threshold ever.

New criteria for approaching the synthesis threshold

In particular, this latest experiment also expanded several features of a key technology implemented in the interim years since the start of the NIF team, including improvements in the production of targets in the capsule shell, filling tube and hohlraum (which is a gold cylinder in which houses the target capsule), new diagnostic capabilities, improved precision with lasers and significant changes in the design of energy amplification equipment, combined with both the implosion of the synthesis and the subsequent impression of the implosion. Taken together, these new achievements open the door to a new plateau of experimental possibilities that allow for new potential for modeling standards.

And with more indicators, we could more accurately assess our proximity to the ultimate ignition of the world’s first “greater than unity” thermonuclear reactor, which could fundamentally transform the world’s energy infrastructure. Instead extraction of coal, fossil fuels or lithium for conventional energy or “all-electric” production, we would have a completely clean, fully renewable and breathtaking powerful energy source, with almost unlimited potential to improve access to modern living conditions. Of course, access to and application of fusion, once implemented, may be hampered by bureaucratic processes or the interests of companies and governments. with an interest in maintaining scarce resources and for single use. Time will tell whether the future of energy will help to improve the human condition for all or only for a few.

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