Power Of The Sun Within Grasp

LIVERMORE, California - February 12, 2014 US researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) publish a paper on the online version of Nature, detailing their experiments on the National Ignition Facility showing promise of nuclear fusion as a viable alternative energy source.

Unlike its more popular and common atom splitting cousin nuclear fission, nuclear fusion gain its energy by combining atoms together. There exist 2 methods employed in order to create fusion; magnetic confinement (MCF) through the use of magnets and inertial confinement (ICF) using lasers.

Led by Pysicist and Team Leader, Omar Hurricane, his NIF research team used the ICF method by simulating the high temperature, high pressure environment found in the sun. Using 192 lasers to focus energy evenly onto a fuel particle, Hurricane's team was able to create some fusion. Although the technique did not reach full "ignition, which is the point at which the hydrogen fusion feeds on itself, it is important because fusion had not been achieved using lasers.

With laser-mediated ICF showing positive results, the obvious question is how does it compare with magnet-mediated fusion? According to Stephen Cowley, director of Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, there isn’t a precise way of comparing the two technologies. But if a comparison has to be made, MCF still is ahead of ICF because of a breakthrough 1997 experiment by the European fusion leaders Joint European Torus achieved near break-even when they produced 16MW (megawatt) of energy for 24MW of input.

“We have waited 60 years to get close to controlled fusion. We are now close in both magnetic and inertial. The engineering milestone is when the whole plant produces more energy than it consumes,” Cowley said. That may happen at the fusion reactor ITER, under construction in France, which is expected to be the first power plant that produces more energy than it consumes to sustain a fusion reaction.

Related items

RedScope Enterprises, Inc. © 2017. All rights reserved.

RedScope is a nondestructive technology service provider, supporting asset and component owners with traditional and innovative technologies in their maintenance programs.