Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Could limitless clean power be created by LASERS? Breakthrough experiment first to create excess energy from fusion reaction

 limitless clean power be created by LASERS
California scientists have taken a key step forward in harnessing nuclear fusion, which could one day lead to clean and limitless energy.

Fusion, the process that powers the Sun and other stars, entails forging the nuclei of atoms to release energy, as opposed to splitting them, which is fission - the principle behind the atomic bomb and nuclear power.

However, researchers have have run up against a giant hurdle until now, finding the energy yield from the reaction has been dwarfed by the vast amounts of energy needed to trigger the process.
But, in lab experiments described by scientists in the United States, major progress has been made in overcoming this obstacle.

Reporting in the journal Nature, researchers said they were the first to tease more energy out of a fusion reaction than had been absorbed by the fuel used to spark it.

They fixed 192 laser beams onto a spot narrower than the width of a human hair to generate enough energy to compress a tiny fuel-containing capsule to a 35th of its original size.

Lasting less than a billionth of a second, the reaction put out the equivalent of the energy stored in two AA batteries (some 17,000 joules) in their latest experiment in November 2013.

Though 'modest', according to the team, the output was higher than the estimated 9,000-12,000 joules of energy taken up by the fuel.

'This is closer than anyone has gotten before' to generating viable fusion energy, the study's chief author Omar Hurricane of the US government-run National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California said.
The yield was 10 times greater than previously achieved.
There are qualifiers, though.

It was not a sustained reaction, an eagerly sought moment called ignition.
And it still does not answer the efficiency challenge of releasing more fusion energy than is consumed overall.

In this case, the lasers put out about 1.9 million joules of energy - the equivalent energy in a small car battery - of which only 9,000-12,000 joules were absorbed by the fuel.

'Only something like one percent of the energy that we put in from the laser ends up in the fuel right now, maybe even less,' said co-author Debbie Callahan.
'There is a lot of room for improvement.'

The method needs to be refined and the yield boosted 100 times 'before we get to the point of ignition,' Hurricane added.

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