Researchers Inch Closer to Limitless Laser-Powered Energy Source

A preamplifer chamber that increases the power of laser beams before they collide.
A laser amplifier chamber at the NIF. Damien Jemison/LLNL

Our Sun uses a process called “fusion” to produce more energy than it consumes. Scientists believe that replicating the fusion process on Earth with clean, non-nuclear components could provide a limitless source of power with minimal consequences. But what could we use to achieve such a feat? Well, lasers look like the best candidate.

Researchers at the LLNL’s National Ignition Facility are using 192 high-powered laser beams to blow up small gold capsules full of fusion fuel. The lasers vaporize the gold lining upon impact, producing X-Rays that explode the fusion fuel. (Using gold may seem a bit wasteful, but these capsules are the size of BB pellets.)

New experiments with this method reach 70% ignition, meaning that the process consumed 1.9 megajoules and produced 1.35 megajoules. If the LLNL can achieve 100% ignition and produce an excess of energy, then they will have successfully triggered the fusion process using lasers.

Because this ignition process is nearly instantaneous, researchers will need to find a way to produce blasts every 10 seconds. Doing so would produce a limitless supply of clean energy, a perfect answer to our strained electrical grids and excessive use of fossil fuels.

Source: Laurence Livermore National Laboratory via Engadget

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
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