For the first time, US scientists at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have successfully produced a nuclear fusion reaction that resulted in a net energy gain, a source familiar with the project confirmed to CNN.
The US Department of Energy is expected to officially announce the breakthrough on Tuesday.
The test’s outcome is a major step in the decades-long quest to unleash an infinite supply of clean energy that could help end our dependence on fossil fuels. Researchers have spent decades trying to recreate nuclear fusion — the kind of fusion that powers the Sun.
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will make an announcement on Tuesday about a “major scientific breakthrough,” the department announced Sunday. The breakthrough was first reported Financial Times.
Nuclear fusion Occurs when two or more atoms are fused together to form a large mass of energy as heat.
Scientists around the world are making strides towards progress; In February, British scientists have announced They doubled the previous record of creating and sustaining nuclear fusion.
In a giant doughnut-shaped machine called a tokamak adorned with giant magnets, scientists working near Oxford have managed to generate record amounts of sustained energy. However, it only lasted for 5 seconds.
The heat generated by the process of fusing atoms together holds the key to producing energy.
As per CNN reported earlier this yearThe fusion process creates helium and neutrons – which are lighter than the parts they were originally made from.
The missing mass is then converted into a large amount of energy. Neutrons that escape the plasma then strike a “blanket” on the walls of the tokamak, and their kinetic energy is converted into heat. This heat can be used to heat water, generate steam and power turbines.
The engine producing the reaction must experience intense heat. The plasma must reach at least 150 million degrees Celsius, 10 times hotter than the core of the Sun.
A major challenge in harnessing fusion energy is sustaining it long enough to power power grids and heating systems around the world.
A UK fusion scientist told CNN that the results of the US breakthrough are promising, but also show that more work needs to be done before fusion can generate electricity on a commercial scale.
“They worked on the design and makeup of the target and the shape of the energy pulses,” Tony Rollstone of the University of Cambridge’s engineering department told CNN.
“The counter-argument is that this result is miles away from the actual energy gain needed to generate electricity. So, we can say it is a science victory, but it is far from providing useful energy.