On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Energy will announce a major advancement in the search for a clean, renewable source of energy.
Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California bombarded a sphere of hydrogen plasma with the world’s largest laser to trigger a nuclear fusion reaction that produces a net energy gain, according to a report in the Financial times.
This would be the first time scientists have succeeded in creating a fusion reaction that produces more energy than it consumes.
Get excited… press conference of @ENERGY on merger results from the US National Ignition Facility @lasers_llnl on Tuesday with a potential HUGE #nuclear fusion Announcement: FT Reports NIF Achieved a Scientific Net Energy Gain! https://t.co/RMqYVRWrU1 #TheStarBuilders
— Arthur Turrell (@arthurturrell) December 11, 2022
A historic achievement
The United States, Russia and several European countries have spent billions for decades trying to master net energy gains. Now net energy technology is finally here.
Researchers produced 2.5 megajoules of energy, 120 percent of the 2.1 megajoules used to power the experiment.
Related: Here’s why the world needs investment to pour into renewables now
What is Net Energy? It puts 1 unit of energy into a fusion machine and takes out *more* than 1 unit. Breakeven in energy = the same out as was put in. Scientists refer to percentages: 100% for breakeven, >100% for net energy gain. Profit is like a single match lighting a great fire pic.twitter.com/tkOH7RHaO2
— Arthur Turrell (@arthurturrell) August 13, 2021
Long road ahead
But don’t expect the new discovery to change the world overnight.
“The resources required to replicate the reaction on the scale needed to make fusion practical for energy production are enormous,” said the Washington Post.
First, we still need to make machines that can affordably convert the nuclear reaction into electricity that can be used on the power grid.
Second, “building devices large enough to create fusion power on a large scale would, scientists say, require materials that are extremely difficult to produce. At the same time, the reaction creates neutrons that place an enormous amount of stress on the equipment that creates it. , so that it can be destroyed in the process,” WaPo reports.
Still, the announcement is a huge breakthrough in the quest for clean, cheap, renewable energy, and one that governments looking to invest dollars in alternatives to fossil fuels will take very seriously.