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That is the great hope raised by researchers who believe they have found a radical new path to the ultimate goal of solving the world's energy crisis through nuclear fusion power, as detailed in a paper published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.
The international team of researchers - led by Emeritus Professor Heinrich Hora, of the University of New South Wales Department of Theoretical Physics -has shown through computational studies that a special fuel ignited by brief but powerful pulses of energy from new high-energy lasers may be the key to a success that has long eluded physicists.
The intense laser beam would be used to ignite a fuel made of light hydrogen and boron-11. The resulting ignition would be largely free of radioactive emissions and would release more than enough energy to generate electricity.
The amount of radiation released would be even less than that emitted by current power stations that burn coal, which contains trace amounts of uranium. In another plus, the fuel source is plentiful and readily accessible and the waste product of ignition would be clean helium gas.
"This has the potential to be the best route to fusion energy," says Steve Haan, an expert in nuclear fusion at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, in a news report in the Royal Chemical Society's Highlights in Chemical Technology.
Hora says the proposed new process overcomes previous objections to hydrogen-boron11 fuel because it would not have to be compressed and therefore need much less energy than previously thought to start the ignition.
"It was a surprise when we used hydrogen-boron instead of deuterium-tritium," says Hora. "It was not 100,000 times more difficult to ignite, as it would be under the usual compression process. It would be only 10 times more difficult, using the latest generation of lasers."
As it happens, a unique new laser capable of producing the required amount of ignition energy is in its early stages of testing in the US at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
It’s not the first time we’ve heard these words, but US scientists say they’ve achieved a breakthrough that brings us “one step closer” to finally achieving the ultimate of clean and endless power: nuclear fusion.
That breakthrough came yesterday, when researchers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) fired a record-breaking shot of laser energy onto a tiny target containing two different isotopes of hydrogen fuel. That historic, one-megajoule-plus blast lasted just a few billionths of a second but, at its peak, delivered 500 times more power than the entire US uses in any single moment.
It also fired out about 30 times more energy than any other group of lasers in the world has before.
“Breaking the megajoule barrier brings us one step closer to fusion ignition at the National Ignition Facility, and shows the universe of opportunities made possible by one of the largest scientific and engineering challenges of our time,” said Thomas D’Agostino, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
This new process is clean, highly efficient and most important of all, simple. The output of the new reactor is electricity with its by-product being the same helium gas used to make voices squeaky and party balloons float, so there's no toxic radioactive waste to dispose of.
Initial calculations also show that this new type of fusion generation could produce clean electricity at similar levels but far more cheaply than oil or coal.
Because the reactor also operates using relatively simple engineering principles (especially compared to the current crop of fusion reactors), commercialising it is likely to involve significantly shorter time-frames than other fusion technologies.
Although technology is still however very experimental and has yet to be fully proven, a feasibility study into this new fusion process has been kicked off, and if it is found to be viable, it could become commercially available in as little as a decade, here's hoping.
Originally posted by C0bzz
Good luck in your pursuit of free energy.
Originally posted by hawkiye
reply to post by OnceReturned
Which means they can meter it is and continue to rob us. Until there is an energy device that can be distributed like a laptop or home computer there will never be energy independence for the little guy which is where it needs to be to free us from the energy cartels.
Do you have any idea how powerful a small fusion reactor would be? If it were allowed out into the public domain, it would be a terrorist's dream. Even a single one would cause extreme damage if it were detonated/overloaded. Never mind the thought of purchasing enough to fill up a van/truck/lorry full of them.