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Fusion researchers’ breakthrough – record-breaking

Scientists in California have made new discoveries in the field of fusion energy.

They’ve repeated their experiments several times this year – where the reaction gives off more energy than it takes – and this summer they set a new record.

We now have the conviction that it is not only possible, but likely, that fusion energy will become a reality, says US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.

Jennifer Granholm.

A little over a year ago, word spread around the world. For the first time, researchers extracted more energy than they supplied in the experiment Fusion strengthFusion strengthA nuclear reaction that occurs in the sun and requires only the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium as fuel..

The milestone was reached at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California on December 5, 2022. It was over in an instant, but it is nonetheless historic: 2.05 megajoules of energy saved. 3.15 extracted.

Three more times since then, experiments in the lab have produced a net increase in energy, and at the end of July the researchers broke their own record. Even then, 2.05 MJ was introduced into the reaction, but 3.88 MJ came out.

No bigger than a peppercorn

The experiments are carried out using the most powerful laser in the world. 192 beams bombard a diamond capsule with hydrogen plasma. that it, According to CNNIt is no larger than a peppercorn and is surrounded by a golden cylinder.

An explanation of how fusion power works.

The energy extracted is not enough to boil ten jugs of water. But the research world sees great potential in the possibility of repeating experiments over and over again.

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– It shows robustness to the process, as it can succeed even when the conditions of the laser or fuel capsule differ, Brian Appleby of the Fusion Center at Imperial College London tells CNN.

Each individual attempt also provides new clues.

– Provides researchers with valuable information to succeed in the next challenge: maximizing the energy that can be achieved.

Nature: “New Age”

The scientific journal Nature wrote that repeated successes in the laboratory mean “new era”. Small aberrations in the laser beams and minor imperfections in the diamond capsule can cause energy to escape, but scientists are now starting to better understand “the variables that matter most and how to deal with them.”

“Even when we face these problems, we can still get more than a megajoule of fusion energy and that’s a good thing,” Annie Critcher, one of the co-researchers, tells Nature.

Photo of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where a technician inspects optics in the fusion laboratory.  Archive photo.

Now she and her colleagues aim to improve the use of lasers. It is not appropriate yet to increase the cylinder volume.

We have four experiments next year. She says: We’ll see.

Different way in Europe

The experiments in California are funded by the US government and are conducted using so-called inertial confinement fusion. In Europe, another method is primarily used where the reaction is controlled using strong magnetic fields.

Per Brunsel, a professor in the Department of Fusion Plasma Physics at KTH University, told Aftonbladet a year ago that he saw greater potential for the magnetic function than in American laser experiments.

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However, he acknowledged the significance of the achievement achieved at the California laboratory:

– It has a great symbolic meaning, that you put out more energy than you put in. They have been making gradual progress all the time.

Minister: “Not only possible – likely”

At the COP28 climate summit recently hosted by Dubai, US envoy John Kerry announced an international project that includes more than 30 countries to develop nuclear fusion energy.

Fusion has the potential to revolutionize our world, change all of our choices, and provide the world with abundant, clean energy without harmful emissions. where.

In the United States, the Biden government earlier in December launched a new investment in which just over 400 million Swedish krona was allocated to fusion research.

Controlling fusion energy is one of the greatest scientific and technological challenges of the twenty-first century. “We now have the conviction that it is not only possible, but likely, for nuclear fusion energy to become a reality,” said US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

Earlier in the fall She said in an interview with the Associated Press news agency The United States hopes to have a fusion reactor in commercial operation within ten years.

However, this timeline seems very optimistic.

Regarding the breakthrough that occurred a year ago, KTH University professor Per Brunsel estimated that it would take at least 30 years.

“You have a plan, but it requires one or two generations of test facilities with a long construction time,” he said.

In fission, atomic nuclei split into smaller nuclei, and in fusion, atomic nuclei fuse together.