Another Attempt for Nuclear Fusion: a Star on Earth

Sustainable energy via nuclear fusion has been the goal of many scientists seeking to solve our energy needs for decades.  Now, it seems that a project called LIFE, currently taking place at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is seeking to make that dream into a reality.

As with many futuristic projects whose aim is to solve the energy crisis, this one utilizes high energy laser beams.  After undergoing multiple splits and amplifications, 192 precision-aimed laser beams will focus all of their energy on a 2 millimeter size ball of hydrogen gas so that nuclear fusion will take place. 

While nuclear fusion has been accomplished in the past, the amount of energy needed to make it occur has always exceeded the amount of output energy from the reaction, making it an exercise in futility and not efficient at all.  Controlled, sustainable fusion reactions have also been an impossibility outside of nuclear weapons and stars in the sky.  However, this new project will hopefully create a sustainable nuclear fusion reaction with output energy that far exceeds the energy needed to make it happen, all within a controlled situation.  It will be a scientific breakthrough if they can pull it off, and will set the stage for larger, higher output machines that could take care of our energy needs in ways we cannot possibly imagine.

Another benefit of the LIFE engine is that it can use spent nuclear waste from current nuclear power plants to charge the engine itself.  This means that not only will the fusion process be taking place to create energy, but the engine will also dispose of nuclear waste while creating carbon free energy every day, all day, for decades.

Clearly, this project has far-reaching implications if it proves to be a viable solution for large scale energy production.  The fact that its impact on the environment is essentially zero is especially attractive, considering our current predicament involving fossil fuel extraction.  This is proof that we live in exciting times, and despite current conditions, that are future looks to be much better than the present.

To read the original article, please go to http://kottke.org/10/06/making-a-tiny-star-on-earth

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