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Don’t Get Too Excited About That Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough

It looks a whole lot like nuclear fusion, maybe.

It looks a whole lot like nuclear fusion, maybe.
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it’s big, big news that scientists were recently capable of doing perform a nuclear fusion reaction that gives off more energy than it consumes, it is also true that type can react potential become a useful energy source in the future. Or as physicists are fond of saying, useful nuclear fusion has been “10 years away”. for the last 50 years or so, Read on to learn more about why scientists are excited, as well as why our homes are likely to be powered by the same ol’ power plants for a long time to come.

Is nuclear fusion the same as nuclear power?

Nuclear power plants and atomic bombs use Fragmentation reaction, which is different from fusion reaction Which recently made news. fragmentation occurss when An atom breaks apart. Usually you start with a uranium or plutonium atom, put a neutron in it, and split that atom into a number of pieces that can then be broken into more pieces. Fission produces energy in the form of heat and nuclear power plants use that heat to boil or vaporize water, There are no emissions from nuclear power, but there is the inconvenient problem of nuclear waste—the tiny atoms that are still radioactive.

Nuclear fusion is the opposite reaction :SMuller atoms are combined into a larger one. It’s an exciting prospect because it doesn’t emit carbon either Current issues with radioactive waste.

So fusion could be a waste-free, emissions-free power source?

This is the dream. We know that fusion reactions can create energy, because that’s what the sun does all day long. It fuses hydrogen atoms so that they become helium (helium atoms are twice the size of hydrogen). Fusion reactions are what create the Sun’s heat and light. The extreme temperatures and gravity on the Sun make fusion happen so easily; It is very difficult to be on earth.

Fortunately, hydrogen is readily available, at least; it is most common element in the universe, Instead of coal that is dug from the earth, a fusion reactor can use deuterium (heavy hydrogen) from abundant sources such as water as its main fuel. as of cnn reportsA glass of tap water theoretically contains enough deuterium to power a house for a year. You also need tritium, a rare form of hydrogen, but finding fuel isn’t the main problem.

The intriguing part is that it takes a lot of energy for the fusion reaction to happen. Scientists have been able to fuse atoms before, but before this week, response always Used more energy than produced—which is the opposite of what you need a power source to do.

What Happened at the National Ignition Facility Breakthrough?

For the first time, scientists managed to start a fusion reaction more energy produced than used, like. Big caveat at that.

Technically, the reaction produced more energy than laser energy who operated it. But if you compare the output of the response to the facility’s entire electricity bill, it’s a different story: The lasers provided 2.05 megajoules of energy to the reaction, and the reaction produced 3.15 megajoules as output. But those lasers themselves use a lot of electricity—more like 300 Megajoule.

The entire setup for React was not cheap or easy to put together. In addition to hydrogen, There was also gold, uranium and diamonds involved, and it took researchers Months are needed to find out the exact size of the diamond part.

Scaling up this process to the size of a power plant won’t be possible anytime soon. science magazine reports that a different type of reactor, called a tokamak, Considered a better bet for practical power generation, but considered the dominant facility in France working Tokamak fusion is “significantly over budget, long overdue, and will not reach break-even until the late 2030s at the earliest.” So we’ll be waiting for our space-age power source for a while.

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