US Department of Energy announces 'breakthrough' in fusion energy research

US Department of Energy announces 'breakthrough' in fusion energy research

Updated: 3 months, 17 days, 2 hours, 28 minutes, 2 seconds ago

The announcement was made on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Energy, which took to its website to share the achievement that was conducted at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The achievement is being described as a "major scientific breakthrough" that has been "decades in the making". The experiment was held on December 5 when scientists used 2.05 megajoules to create a fusion reaction that generated more energy than was used to create it, giving researchers the new categorization of a net positive reaction. This achievement is a crucial step toward creating a sustained fusion reaction that will be able to provide clean energy to the country, and perhaps the world.

For those that don't know, fusion reactions are the process by which atomic nuclei merge to form a heavier nucleus, releasing a large amount of energy in the process. This is the same process that powers the sun and other stars, and scientists have been trying to replicate it on Earth for many years.

"Scientifically, this is the first time that they showed that this is possible. From theory, they knew that it should happen, but it was never seen in real life experimentally," Gianluca Sarri, a physicist at Queen's University Belfast, told New Scientist. US Department of Energy announces 'breakthrough' in fusion energy research 01 2

Unlike traditional nuclear power, which relies on the splitting of atomic nuclei (fission), fusion reactions do not produce dangerous radioactive waste and are much safer overall. In addition, fusion reactions have the potential to provide nearly limitless clean energy, as the fuel used in these reactions - typically hydrogen isotopes - is abundant and can be easily sourced from seawater.

However, achieving and maintaining the extreme temperatures and pressures necessary for a fusion reaction to take place has proven to be a major challenge. Despite these challenges, there is significant ongoing research and development in the field of fusion energy, and many scientists believe that it holds great promise as a source of clean, renewable energy.

"This is a landmark achievement for the researchers and staff at the National Ignition Facility who have dedicated their careers to seeing fusion ignition become a reality, and this milestone will undoubtedly spark even more discovery. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to supporting our world-class scientists - like the team at NIF - whose work will help us solve humanity's most complex and pressing problems, like providing clean power to combat climate change and maintaining a nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing," said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.

Despite the massive step forward that has recently been taken, creating a large-scale, sustained presence of nuclear fusion energy is still likely some years away. However, with every achievement like this, scientists and researchers are able to learn more about the process and yield better results from the experiments.

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