A team of researchers at a US lab are one step closer to making nuclear fusion a viable source of power, after getting a surplus of energy from a fusion reaction.
The team at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California (pictured) used 192 beams from one of the world’s most powerful lasers to heat a small pellet of hydrogen fuel and trigger the reaction.
It marks a major milestone on the road to achieving a self-sustaining reaction – the holy grail of nuclear fusion.
However they still haven’t achieved full ‘ignition’, as the total amount of energy used by the laser was still greater than the amount given out by the reaction, reported the BBC.
Nuclear fusion could provide cheap, practically unlimited energy by recreating the process that powers the sun. It works by heating hydrogen atoms and forcing them together so they fuse and form helium. As fusion occurs some of the mass of the hydrogen atoms is converted into energy – large amounts of it. It differs from nuclear fission whereby energy is released by splitting atoms apart.
Nuclear fusion is seen by some as the future of energy including famous TV physicist Professor Brian Cox.