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Possible Breakthrough in Fusion Power
Last Updated on Friday, 29 January 2010 05:58 Written by servbot_kill Friday, 29 January 2010 04:36
The Tokamak, cold fusion, sonoluminscence-induced fusion (aka “bubble fusion”). To date, these approaches to fusion haven’t yielded reactions that produced the requisite power surplus sought after in fusion research. The dream of fusion has been around for ages, and has gathered steam with every test, despite their failures.
Recently though at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, a possible breakthrough in fusion power has been made. A test yesterday using the laser inertial confinement method, which in the National Ignition Facility test used 192 laser beams all at the same time to compress a single, tiny target of the hydrogen isotope deuterium, sheathed inside a centimeter-sized cylinder of gold.
Before the test, the fear was that the lasers firing at the target would generate a plasma soup that would disrupt the ability of the lasers to heat and compress the fuel pellet sufficiently to ignite a sustained fusion reaction. The key breakthrough here is that the plasma soup can actually be manipulated (by yet unspecified means) to increase the uniformity of the laser compression and be less of a disruptive element in the process.
From the article:
They now report an energy of one megajoule on target – 50% higher than the amount reported in Science.
The current calculations show that about 1.2 megajoules of energy will be enough for ignition, and currently Nif can run as high as 1.8 megajoules.
Dr Glenzer said that experiments using slightly larger hohlraums with fusion-ready fuel pellets – including a mix of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium as well as tritium – should begin before May, slowly ramping up to the 1.2 megajoule mark.
“The bottom line is that we can extrapolate those data to the experiments we are planning this year and the results show that we will be able to drive the capsule towards ignition,” said Dr Glenzer.
Before those experiments can even begin, however, the target chamber must be prepared with shields that can block the copious neutrons that a fusion reaction would produce.
But Dr Glenzer is confident that with everything in place, ignition is on the horizon.
He added, quite simply, “It’s going to happen this year.”
To be sure, there’s still the matter of seeing the resulting reaction; especially if the reaction will actually produce more energy than it took to start.
Still though, is anyone else stoked at the possibility of witnessing the arrival of the Fusion Age?
See original article here.
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