A team of California researchers has announced a first-ever net energy gain from a nuclear fusion reaction.
If mastered, this reaction, which takes place in stars like the Sun in our solar system, could provide unlimited amounts of green energy. Until now, more energy has been consumed in experiments for nuclear fusion than has been obtained.
The announcement of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers’ success was made by Jennifer Granholm, US Secretary of Energy. According to her, the achievement will go down in the history books.
Nuclear fusion will allow humanity to leave behind fossil fuels, which contribute massively to the climate problems facing our planet. What’s more, oil and gas are also resources used today as “weapons” in geopolitical disputes by regimes such as those in Russia and Saudi Arabia.
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Nuclear fusion takes place at such high temperatures and pressures that it is very difficult to control. Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory said they were able to briefly reach temperatures of 3 million degrees Celsius, simulating conditions in a star.
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two light atomic nuclei of hydrogen combine to form a new, heavier nucleus of helium. Energy is released in the process. Unlike other nuclear reactions, fusion does not generate dangerous radiation and is not polluting.
The US researchers’ achievement is impressive, but Riccardo Betti, professor of physics at the University of Rochester, says it will be a long time before we have power plants that produce energy through nuclear fusion. He likened the process to the discovery of gasoline in the 19th century. At the time, there were no internal combustion engines or tires to harness the fuel, according to Betti.
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