Scientists at a federal nuclear weapons facility in California have made a potentially significant advance in fusion research that could lead to a source of bountiful energy in the future, according to a government official. The advance is expected to be announced today by the Department of Energy, NYT learnt.
The government official, who spoke anonymously, said that the fusion experiment at the National Ignition Facility had achieved what is known as ignition, where the fusion energy generated equals the laser energy that started the reaction. Ignition is also called energy gain of one.
Such a development would improve the ability of the U.S. to maintain its nuclear weapons without nuclear testing and could set the stage for future progress that could one day lead to the use of laser fusion as a source of carbon-free energy.
What meant by fusion? Fusion is the thermonuclear reaction that powers the sun and other stars — the fusing of hydrogen atoms into helium. The mass of helium is slightly less than the original hydrogen atoms; thus, that difference in mass is converted into a burst of energy.
Fusion that could be produced in a controlled fashion could mean an energy source that does not produce greenhouse gases or radioactive waste.