After more than five decades of research, scientists are creating a mini-sun on Earth in a breakthrough that could provide an endless supply of cheap, clean energy. This milestone toward the harnessing of fusion power is being called the ‘fusion ignition’. Unlike nuclear fission, fusion is the merging of two small atoms into one with a prodigious release of energy. Fusion is the same process that powers the sun and is seen as a potential long-term solution to the world’s energy requirement that too without emitting greenhouse gases.
An MIT team led by PSFC Senior Research Scientist Richard Petrasso developed the fusion backlighting method, has now successfully used the method in a test facility at the University of Rochester. They used a helium-filled gold chamber called a hohlraum to contain the pellet of heavy hydrogen fuel at the center of a fusion reaction. Laser beams enter through the two open ends of the hohlraum and are reflected in toward the fuel, heating it up to produce the fusion reaction. The experiment, announced in the journal Science published on Thursday, was conducted at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.