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How Much Closer To Fusion?


Recently, it has been released that a group of scientists has edged significantly closer to the energetic break-even point of nuclear reactions.  Although we have long had the ability to create nuclear fission as an energy source, mankind has never been able to replicate the same processes of the sun, in the form of atomic fusion.  However, through a special process involving shooting a laser at a golden cylinder with a metal sphere filled with hydrogen isotopes inside, scientists at the National Ignition Facility have gained the highest yield of energy back yet.  Because it has never happened, the scientific community is searching for the “break even” point of nuclear fusion, wherein the energy they put in for the reaction to occur at least mirrors the energy given off.  As of right now, the only thing holding researchers back from this point is fine-tuning the instruments and methods used to create fusion.  The gold cylinder used gives off extremely powerful X-rays when hit with the laser, which in turn vaporizes the surface of the interior metal ball, causing the hydrogen isotopes to smash and fuse.  However, small imperfections in the surface of the metal ball cause fluctuations in pressure around the ball, causing implosions that waste energy.  By changing certain variables in the experiment, such as the length of time the gold cylinder is shot with the laser, researchers hope to increase the energy yield from the already impressive 80 percent to something greater.  Image

This is not the only form of the experimental nuclear fusion, however.  Another project, dubbed the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, will examine how to use plasma suspended in magnetic fields as a form of self sustaining fusion.  Although this form of fusion has been done before, never before has it been used as energy for a power plant.  Although the scientist’s progress is slow, the progress they are making keeps them hopeful and optimistic$j7Q52x/


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This entry was posted on October 1, 2013 by .
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