U.S. announced a breakthrough in nuclear fusion energy – is it coming finally to our homes? – Technology Org

The U.S. scientists have announced their success in creating more energy through nuclear fusion than they needed to put in to sustain the process.

This is the fusion chamber where lasers heated the hydrogen sample until it started to fuse into heavier elements. Image credit: LLNL

This confirmation was announced this Tuesday.

The fusion technology promises almost endless amounts of clean and environmentally-friendly energy. The energy is produced using nuclear synthesis, when lighter nuclei are merged to form heavier elements. This is the opposite process of nuclear fission. In fission, the energy is obtained by splitting radioactive elements like Uranium.

Does this latest breakthrough mean that we will finally be able to reduce our energy bills? Experts believe that more time is needed until we have a working powerplant based on nuclear fusion technology.

The experiment involved using a small amount of hydrogen placed into a capsule the size of a grain, and using a system of powerful lasers to heat and compress the hydrogen until the hydrogen atoms start to fuse. This means that it is necessary to heat the sample until it reaches the temperature 100 million degrees Celsius – hotter than at the center of our Sun.

Scientists who participated in the experiment say they were able to produce 3.15 MJ (megajoules) of energy, while hydrogen-heating lasers consumed 2.05 MJ.

This amount of generated energy is small – enough to boil a kettle of water, maybe two. But the experiment proved that the principle is working, and that in the future it will be possible to scale it to much larger sources capable of powering millions of homes.

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