Nuclear Fusion: New Energy Source On The Horizon
Scientists in the United States of America on Tuesday announced a breakthrough in the pursuit of an alternative source of energy through nuclear fusion.
What is nuclear fusion?
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atoms combine to form one bigger atom, which releases a tremendous amount of energy. The Sun and other stars are propelled by it. It is the fusing of two pairs of light atoms; this “fusion” generates a lot of energy. It is the reverse of nuclear “fission,” which is the splitting apart of heavy atoms. The National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California is where the experiment was conducted. With the technique holding the promise of a potentially endless source of clean energy, physicists have been working on it for decades.
How soon will this be available for public use?
A fusion-powered future is one step closer to becoming a reality. However, there’s still a long way to go before we get there. Although the energy they produced in this experiment was minute, it is a sign of great things to come and validates the efforts put into it. It needs to be replicated, and polished, and the quantity of energy it produces will need to be greatly increased before scientists can consider scaling it up. “This is a historic achievement… over the past 60 years thousands of people have contributed to this endeavor and it took real vision to get us here”, said LLNL director Dr. Kim Budil.
In contrast to nuclear fission, nuclear fusion generates far more energy and just trace amounts of short-lived radioactive waste. Additionally, and more significantly, the process doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases, preventing it from causing climate change. However, one of the challenges is that in order to force and maintain the atoms together in fusion, extremely high temperatures and pressures are needed.