Nuclear fusion plant may become a reality in 10 years
Washington, January 29 (ANI): A new study has determined that by using the most powerful laser system ever built, scientists have brought us one step closer to nuclear fusion power, with a nuclear fusion plant becoming possible within a decade.
The same process that powers our sun and other stars, nuclear fusion has the potential to be an efficient, carbon-free energy source-with none of the radioactive waste associated with the nuclear fission method used in current nuclear plants.
Thanks to the new achievement, a prototype nuclear fusion power plant could be operating within a decade, study leader Siegfried Glenzer, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, told National Geographic News.
Glenzer and colleagues used the world's largest laser array-the Livermore lab's National Ignition Facility-to heat a BB-size fuel pellet to millions of degrees Fahrenheit.
"These lasers are pulsed, and for a very short amount of time"-one ten-billionth of a second-"the power they produce is more than all the power generated by the entire electrical grid of the United States" at any given moment, according to Glenzer.
The test confirmed that a technique called inertial fusion ignition could be used to trigger nuclear fusion-the merging of the nuclei of two atoms of, say, hydrogen-which can result in a tremendous amount of excess energy.
Nuclear fission, by contrast, involves the splitting of atoms.
The laser demonstration means scientists are now much closer to triggering nuclear fusion in a controlled setting-something that's never been done before and which is necessary if fusion is to be harnessed for energy.
"A working prototype of a such a plant could be built in a decade," Glenzer said.
Performing nuclear fusion in the lab requires enormous amounts of laser power, but if perfected, controlled fusion should generate ten to a hundred times more electrical energy than is used to spark the nuclear reactions.
Fusion could be not only powerful, but clean and green as well.
"Not only does nuclear fusion not produce long-lasting nuclear waste, but fusion could potentially be used to chemically neutralize radioactive pollutants and has been proposed as a cure to our nuclear waste problem," Glenzer said.
Nuclear fusion energy is also potentially carbon free, meaning it could be used to generate power without creating any more carbon dioxide gas, which contributes to global warming. (ANI)