A giant laser reactor, which was once thought impossible, has been unveiled in California, US, which scientists hope will accomplish nuclear fusion, the Holy Grail of energy sources.
According to a report in Fox News, the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will focus 192 laser beams on a hydrogen pellet the size of a bead, heating it to incredible temperatures in an attempt to recreate the power of the sun.
AdvertisementNuclear fusion would create huge amounts of energy from tiny amounts of fuel. It would produce far less radioactive waste than conventional nuclear reactors.
But, it takes huge amounts of energy to trigger, and so far humans have managed to do so only by detonating atomic bombs.
"We have this big ball, right?" Ed Moses, program director of the National Ignition Facility, explained to Fox News. "And we hold our little targets inside of there, and the light focuses on there, and that's where all the action happens," he added.
The "action" aims to trigger a tiny thermonuclear explosion inside the huge target chamber, a blast sparked by the lasers, which bounce off a series of lenses and mirrors, intensifying and multiplying with each pass.
"Pretty soon, you have a lot of 'em, and we have enough energy to drive our targets, to a point where they get to over 100 million degrees and it's a pretty warm day," said Moses.
Eventually turning ultraviolet, the beams push a million miles an hour toward the tiny hydrogen-fuel pellet in the center.
The resulting burst of energy should be so powerful, it could light up the entire country, but for only a split second.
"The facility is designed to do experiments that are confined within in the target chamber," said project director Brian MacGowen.
"There has been a very thorough analysis of the potential impact of those experiments on the rest of the building and the community. They have all been reviewed extensively and the experiments are perfectly safe," he added.
But, researchers here are confident their efforts will pay off, and be the game changer for meeting the world's energy needs.
"It would change how we look at global warming. It would change pollution," said Moses. "It would change all of those things. This is a small investment for that great payback," he added.
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