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New Milestone in Nuclear Fusion Studies with Burning Plasma Now Attained

published: 2022-02-07 9:30

Nuclear fusion finally became real at that instant. In order to create energy comparable to that of stars on earth, scientists have been studying nuclear fusion technology for years, and a scientific research team in the US has recently managed to attain burning plasma through high power laser, where the energy produced from nuclear fusion at that instant had exceeded the total energy input.

Nuclear fusion is a reaction that primarily simulates the occurrence of solar energy. The core of the sun is at approximately 27 million °C, and fuses roughly 620 million tons of hydrogen into 616 million tons of helium each second, then converts 4 million tons of substances into energy. It would require immense energy to activate the process in creating these reactions on earth.

This achievement happened at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), which was activated in 2009, and became the place for scientists to study nuclear fusion. In order to create considerable pressure and temperature, these scientists have been emitting 1.9 trillion MJ of ultraviolet energy from 192 units of laser, and reflecting the corresponding energy onto the hohlarum that is as small as a ball bearing to implode the fuel capsule inside, which leads to possible fusion of atom to helium and releases significant energy.

This time, the NIF managed to release 1.35MJ of energy from nuclear fusion, which is also the first time where the energy produced from such process exceeds the total energy input.

LLNL physicist Alex Zylstra commented that nuclear fusion experiments in past decades used a sizable level of “external” heating systems in order to achieve nuclear fusion reaction under high temperature and pressure, and the team at LLNL has now managed to arrive at a new milestone by facilitating self-heating in nuclear fusion. According to the research team, such phenomenon is defined in a way that the plasma of nuclear fusion is able to heat up by itself, and enters burning plasma when its heating energy surpasses external energy.

Scientists have now marched a small yet critical step at the NIF. For this experiment, scientists first made minor adjustments to the device, such as expanding on the concentration of laser energy from the fuel, as well as altering the geometric shapes of the targets and the energy transmission method between laser beams, where a pristine method is adopted to control compression and heat up the implosion process of fuels that eventually created self-heating plasma.

LLNL physicist and first author Annie Kritchey commented that their attainment of burning plasma for mere nanoseconds at the nuclear fusion facility will require decades to achieve continuous and stable nuclear fusion reaction, but the team has now finally taken a critical step towards ignition, and believes that the ephemeral self-heating plasma is an essential proof of concept.

 (Cover photo source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

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