U.S. Scientists Achieve Nuclear Fusion Energy Breakthrough

Kenneth Chang, reporting for The New York Times:

Within the sun and stars, fusion continually combines hydrogen atoms into helium, producing sunlight and warmth that bathes the planets. In experimental reactors and laser labs on Earth, fusion lives up to its reputation as a very clean energy source. There was always a nagging caveat, however. In all of the efforts by scientists to control the unruly power of fusion, their experiments consumed more energy than the fusion reactions generated.

That changed at 1:03 a.m. on Dec. 5 when 192 giant lasers at the laboratory’s National Ignition Facility blasted a small cylinder about the size of a pencil eraser that contained a frozen nubbin of hydrogen encased in diamond. [...]

In a brief moment lasting less than 100 trillionths of a second, 2.05 megajoules of energy — roughly the equivalent of a pound of TNT — bombarded the hydrogen pellet. Out flowed a flood of neutron particles — the product of fusion — which carried about 3 megajoules of energy, a factor of 1.5 in energy gain.

How tempting it must have been to include the adjective frigging in the phrase “192 giant lasers”.

Tuesday, 13 December 2022