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Researchers achieve nuclear fusion energy milestone


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WASHINGTON, Jan 26 (Reuters) - U.S. government scientists said on Wednesday they have taken an important step in the long trek toward making nuclear fusion - the very process that powers stars - a viable energy source for humankind.

 

Using the world's largest laser, the researchers coaxed fusion fuel for the first time to heat itself beyond the heat they zapped into it, achieving a phenomenon called a burning plasma that marked a stride toward self-sustaining fusion energy.

 

The energy produced was modest - about the equivalent of nine nine-volt batteries of the kind that power smoke detectors and other small devices. But the experiments at a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory facility in California represented a milestone in the decades-long quest to harness fusion energy, even as the researchers cautioned that years of more work are needed.

 

The experiments produced the self-heating of matter in a plasma state through nuclear fusion, which is the combining of atomic nuclei to release energy. Plasma is one of the various states of matter, alongside solid, liquid and gas.

 

"If you want to make a camp fire, you want to get the fire to hot enough that the wood can keep itself burning," said Alex Zylstra, an experimental physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory - part of the U.S. Energy Department - and lead author of the research published in the journal Nature.

 

"This is a good analogy for a burning plasma, where the fusion is now starting to become self-sustaining," Zylstra said.

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U.S. government scientists said on Wednesday they have taken an important step in the long trek toward making nuclear fusion - the very process that powers stars - a viable energy source for humankind.

 

This is a major breakthrough. Essentially this would be the ignition device for some future nuclear energy source. The ignition needs to produce more energy than it uses and that has been a difficult task for scientists to achieve. 

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Edited by UltraMega

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13 hours ago, GanjaSMK said:

I wonder if this will achieve desired results in my life time.  And then if it is, I wonder if I'll also witness this technology further developing at smaller scale, assuming that it could be scaled down for other unique applications. 

Wanting to add some "kick" to your Ironman cosplay suit? 😉

TDM

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1 minute ago, GanjaSMK said:

LOL ^^

 

For unique application I was thinking more along the lines of submersible vehicles and motor-home sized roaming vehicles for true 'off grid' capabilities in the boonies... 😛

 

 

That would be a different tech. There is tech being developed to burn nuclear waste in a clean way that can be done on small and large scales. If that ever works out, that would be a great fit for mobile applications like vehicles. 

 

The tech here in the OP would be for powering cities. 

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Oh no doubt; my mind just see's the technology eventually being scaled downward.  Akin to computers - once giant sized buildings required, now held in your hand.  Something along those lines, but likely not at that kind of absolute scale.  I don't know enough about it but have been loosely following most developments around plasma, fusion, fission and nuclear since a kid. 

 

I believe we'll figure out so much more this century that'll catapult us in 'technological' achievements, so long as we don't destroy ourselves in the process or surrounding bureaucracy.  

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