My personal view of integral life

World’s most powerful laser to trigger fusion reaction this year

Scientists in the US are preparing for the dramatic moment when the world’s most powerful laser unleashes the nuclear force that lights up the sun and achieves ”ignition”.

At that moment, 192 laser beams housed in a building the size of three football pitches will focus on a target the size of a peppercorn to trigger a self-sustaining fusion reaction.

If all goes according to plan, this could be achieved in October. Although no more than a test of the technology, it could mark the start of a revolution that will change the science and politics of energy for ever.

Scientists have spent decades chasing the dream of fusion power, which holds out the promise of producing unlimited amounts of clean energy from hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe.

Nuclear fusion happens when the nuclei of atoms are driven together so hard that they fuse to form a heavier particle. A self-sustaining chain reaction occurs as more atomic nuclei collide, releasing huge amounts of energy in the process.

Stars are driven by nuclear fusion, as is the immense destructive power of the hydrogen bomb. But no one has yet managed to contain and sustain a fusion reaction under controlled conditions.

The biggest problem facing fusion scientists is how to generate the enormous temperatures and pressures necessary for long enough in a confined space.

Self-sustaining fusion requires conditions more extreme than at the centre of the Sun, with temperatures of around 100 million centigrade.

At the new National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, scientists are closer to overcoming this hurdle than anyone has been before.

The 10-storey high NIF is a £2 billion sledgehammer built to crack a nut.

Opened last year, the facility houses an array of optical and electronic devices designed to split a laser 192 ways and boost the combined energy of the beams to 1.8 megajoules.

At its heart the ”nut” is a tiny beryllium capsule the size of a peppercorn, designed to hold a dash of nuclear fuel in the form of deuterium and tritium.

Both are isotopes, or different atomic versions, of hydrogen.

The aim is to focus the laser beams on the capsule and blast it with a pulse of energy that causes the fuel to implode in an instant, reaching temperatures and pressures greater than those at the centre of the Sun.

Crushed together, the deuterium and tritium nuclei will fuse, releasing a flash of energy. If the experiment is a success, more energy will be generated than was pumped into the capsule in the first place.

A report of the latest progress at the NIF published last week in the journal Science shows that the scientists are on target.

Dr Siegfried Glenzer and colleagues described the first experiments in which all 192 of the lasers were tested on targets empty of fuel, achieving a beam energy of about 40% the NIF’s maximum.

A major problem that had to be overcome was getting the capsule to implode evenly.

This was done by encasing it in a gold cylinder called a hohlraum, pierced by holes through which the laser beams were shone.

”We’re doing the real thing, and it’s going better than expected,” said Dr Glenzer, quoted in a Science news article.

The facility’s ”ignition campaign”, leading to the first attempt to produce a self-sustaining fusion reaction is due to start in earnest in May.

A decision will be made in July on whether or not to push ahead with full-scale fusion experiments paving the way to ignition in October.

British expert Professor Mike Dunne, director of the Central Laser Facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot, Oxfordshire, said: ”It’s come up better than anyone thought. They’re ahead of the curve predicted.”

via World’s most powerful laser to trigger fusion reaction this year.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

RSS Helsinki Paleo

  • Paremmat unet tuova Nuku koko yö -verkkovalmennus alkaa 19.10.2017 October 12, 2017
    Nuku koko yö -verkkokurssi alkaa 19.10.2017. Lähde mukaan matkalle kohti parempia unia! Haluatko nukahtaa helposti iltaisin, lopettaa yöllisen heräilyn ja varmistaa, että nukut sikeästi läpi yön? Silloin tämä valmennus on sinua varten! Kurssille osallistuneista 91,2 % suosittelee valmennusta. “Aivan upea kokonaisuus! Sisällöstä näkyy kuinka perinpohjaisesti […]
    Jaakko Savolahti
  • Kun uni ei tule June 12, 2017
        Moni uniongelmista kärsivä on kokeillut jo todella monia keinoja parempia unia tavoitellessaan. Osa kokee, että on kokeillut jo ihan kaikkea! Mutta silti uni ei ota tullakseen. Esimerkkejä yleisesti kokeilluista keinoista ovat: – Melatoniinitabletin ottaminen yötä vasten – Rauhoittavien äänien kuuntelu, kuten aallot tai muut luonnon äänet – Elektronisten […]
    Jaakko Savolahti
  • Kesän 2017 leirit Lohjansaaressa April 3, 2017
      Luonnollista liikettä ja lepoa. Luonnonrauhaa ja lintujen laulua. Puissa kiipeilyä ja rentoa yhteisöllisyyttä. Kesällä 2017 leireillään taas Lohjansaaressa ja nautiskellaan kesästä ja inspiroivasta seurasta! Luonnollisen liikkumisen leiri järjestetään 4.-6.7. ja sen perään Lepoleiri 7.-9.7. Molemmille leireille osallistuville on tiedossa erikoisalennus :) […]
    Jaakko Savolahti
%d bloggers like this: