Nuclear fusion, which is the process the sun uses to create energy, could in theory provide cheap energy globally. This process and ideology is becoming increasingly closer to reality as US scientists have created more fusion energy than that needed to power the process. This is a groundbreaking discovery with scientists saying that the equivalent of a kg of fusion fuel could provide the same amount of energy that 10 million kgs of fossil fuel produces.
In the past the problem behind nuclear fusion has always been that the process to generate it has required more energy than it creates, which therefore cancels out the benefits. This is a step “short of the lab’s stated goal of ignition, where nuclear fusion generates as much energy as the lasers supply.” (BBC 2013)
The National Ignition Facility in California has used 192 of the most power lasers in the world to heat a small hydrogen pellet to millions of degrees. The pellet is extremely cold so once the lasers hit the walls of the pellet, it produces x rays that radiate to create the ferocious temperature.
The whole process happens at the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administrations facility where researchers began working on this idea 16 years ago.
The facility houses a 130 tonne chamber where the 192 lasers are uses to create the nuclear fusion. For the lasers to be safe to use, the chamber is large and surrounded by thick concrete. The temperature that is reached inside the chamber exceeds 100 million degrees creating pressures of 100 billion times more than the Earth’s atmospheric pressure.
This milestone is very significant as it means that the future of nuclear fusion could be a source of cheap clean energy that will save money.