At the National Ignition Facility in Livermore California, scientists are aiming to build the world’s first sustainable fusion reactor by ‘creating a miniature star on Earth’.
Following a series of key experiments over the last few weeks, the £2.2 billion project has inched a little closer to its goal of igniting a workable fusion reaction by 2012.
According to the National Ignition Facility (NIF) team in Livermore, on November 2 they fired up the 192 lasers beams at the centre of the reactor and aimed them at a glass target containing tritium and deuterium gas.
The resulting release of energy was of a magnitude of 1.3 million mega joules, which was a world record and the peak radiation temperature measure at the core was approximately six million degrees Fahrenheit.
For a direct comparison, the temperature at the centre of the sun is 27 million degrees Fahrenheit.
However, this recent experiment was not ‘live’ in that no self-sustaining fusion reaction was set off, although the scientists at NIF are extremely confident for the future.
‘The results of all of these experiments are extremely encouraging,’ said the NIF director Ed Moses.
‘They give us great confidence that we will be able to achieve ignition conditions in deuterium-tritium fusion targets.’
Researchers have been working towards this kind of breakthrough since the facility began construction in 1997.
Anticipating that self-sustaining fusion could be a reality within two years, the implications for the planet are astounding.
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