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posted by janrinok on Saturday December 03 2022, @01:03AM   Printer-friendly

Fusion power is 'approaching' reality thanks to a magnetic field breakthrough:

Fusion power may be a more realistic prospect than you think. As Motherboard reports, researchers at the Energy Department's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have discovered that a new magnetic field setup more than tripled the energy output of the fusion reaction hotspot in experiments, "approaching" the level required for self-sustaining ignition in plasmas. The field was particularly effective at trapping heat within the hotspot, boosting the energy yield.

The hotspot's creation involved blasting 200 lasers at a fusion fuel pellet made from hydrogen isotopes like deuterium and tritium. The resulting X-rays made the pellet implode and thus produce the extremely high pressures and heat needed for fusion. The team achieved their feat by wrapping a coil around a pellet made using special metals.

The notion of using magnets to heat the fuel isn't new. University of Rochester scientists found they could use magnetism to their advantage in 2012. The Lawrence Livermore study was far more effective, however, producing 40 percent heat and more than three times the energy.

Practical fusion reactors are still many years away. The output is still far less than the energy required to create self-sustaining reactions. The finding makes ignition considerably more achievable, though, and that in turn improves the chances of an energy-positive fusion system. This also isn't the end of the magnetism experiments. A future test will use an ice-laden cryogenic capsule to help understand fusion physics. Even if ignition is still distant, the learnings from this study could provide a clearer path to that breakthrough moment.


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  • (Score: 2) by turgid on Saturday December 03 2022, @04:53PM (1 child)

    by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 03 2022, @04:53PM (#1281027) Journal

    Do they need to be self-sustaining? If you can cause fusion with pulses of laser light, and the fusion produces more energy that you put in, and if you can convert (some of ) that energy back into electricity, at some point you could get enough to power the lasers and have some left over as "profit" which you export for sale.

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  • (Score: 2) by deimtee on Saturday December 03 2022, @09:49PM

    by deimtee (3272) on Saturday December 03 2022, @09:49PM (#1281056) Journal

    Pretty sure the "self-sustaining" is marketing. The researchers are aiming at exactly what you say, a repeating small explosion from which they can harvest more energy than they put in. This "breakthrough" is interesting in that it confined the plasma for longer and tripled the energy production. It's still thirty years from net energy production, but it's now a slightly smaller thirty years.

    --
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