Science Snapshot: Nuclear Fusion as Clean Energy, Desert Fuels, And Graphene
To stay innovative, it helps to stay curious about the trends in science and what may be on the horizon. Recently there has been breakthroughs in Nuclear Fusion energy, Graphene’s amazing new conductivity and programmes to grow biofuels in the desert.
Laser-sparked fusion power passes key milestone
The dream of a completely renewable, clean energy source, which is high powered and almost limitless is getting closer. Nuclear Fusion is the process by which atoms are compressed to such a degree that their nuclei fuse, releasing a huge amount of energy. Essentially it is the opposite of current Nuclear Power, based on fission whereby large nuclei are torn apart to release energy. This is the process which happens in stars, turning Hydrogen into the heavier Helium, and all other natural elements.
The National Ignition Facility in California began experimenting in 2009 to slow progress. They are using lasers and X-rays to compress a fuel pellet with a frozen Hydrogen Istotope, but it takes significantly more energy to start the fusion reaction than the process actually produced, making it currently ineffective as a fuel source.
However, an article in Nature this week confirmed that a milestone had been passed, whereby of the amount of energy actually delivered to the pellet, the reaction released a surplus of energy. The next step is to improve the efficiency of how the lasers deliver energy to the pellet. However, this is still a long way away, perhaps decades, but once that has been refined, mankind will essentially be able to build miniature stars to produce nearly unlimited clean energy.