Scientists Create New Method of Fusion Energy, Without the Old Complications
A once-impossible new technique creates fusion energy with powerful lasers and without radioactive fuel.
Australian physicists have devised a technique for creating fusion with lasers that doesn't need radioactive fuel elements and leaves no radioactive waste. A new paper from scientists at UNSW Sydney and their international colleagues shows that advances in high-intensity lasers makes what was once impossible a reality - generating fusion energy from hydrogen-boron reactions.
Lead author Heinrich Hora from UNSW Sydney has been doing this work this since the 1970s. He contends that their approach is closer to realizing fusion than other attempts like the deuterium-tritium fusion pursued by science facilities in the U.S. and France.
"I think this puts our approach ahead of all other fusion energy technologies," said Hora.
Hydrogen-boron fusion is produced by two powerful lasers in rapid bursts, which generate precise non-linear forces that compress the nuclei together. The process does not create any neutrons and as such - no radioactivity. What also sets this energy source apart - unlike coal, gas or nuclear that utilize heated liquids like water to drive turbines - hydrogen-boron fusion can be converted directly into electricity.
The problem with hydrogen-boron fusion has been that it required temperatures 200 times hotter than the core of the Sun. That is until dramatic advancements in laser technology that allow for an “avalanche" fusion reaction to be triggered by super-fast blasts taking no more than a trillionth-of-a-second from a petawatt-scale laser pulse. The bursts of this pulse would pack a quadrillion watts of power, according to Hora, leading to a breakthrough in proton-boron fusion.
"It is a most exciting thing to see these reactions confirmed in recent experiments and simulations," said Hora. “Not just because it proves some of my earlier theoretical work, but they have also measured the laser-initiated chain reaction to create one billion-fold higher energy output than predicted under thermal equilibrium conditions."
Hora's paper, created together with 10 colleagues in six nations, outlines the roadmap the development of this technology can follow. HB11 Energy, an Australian spin-off company, holds the patents for Hora's process and looks to build a prototype reactor within a decade.
You can read the new paper here, in the journal Laser and Particle Beams.
For more on fusion technologies, check out this video from Michio Kaku:
E-cigarettes may be safer than traditional cigarettes, but they come with their own risks.
- A new study used an MRI machine to examine how vaping e-cigarettes affects users' cardiovascular systems immediately after inhalation.
- The results showed that vaping causes impaired circulation, stiffer arteries and less oxygen in their blood.
- The new study adds to a growing body of research showing that e-cigarettes – while likely safer than traditional cigarettes – are far from harmless.
French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.
- The French government initially invested in a rural solar roadway in 2016.
- French newspapers report that the trial hasn't lived up to expectations.
- Solar panel "paved" roadways are proving to be inefficient and too expensive.
The Lumina Foundation lays out steps for increasing access to quality post-secondary education credentials.
- America's post-high school education landscape was not created with the modern student in mind. Today, clear and flexible pathways are necessary to help individuals access education that can help them lead a better life.
- Elizabeth Garlow explains the Lumina Foundation's strategy to create a post-secondary education system that works for all students. This includes credential recognition, affordability, a more competency-based system, and quality assurance.
- Systemic historic factors have contributed to inequality in the education system. Lumina aims to close those gaps in educational attainment.
- In 2019, Lumina Foundation and Big Think teamed up to create the Lumina Prize, a search to find the most innovative and scalable ideas in post-secondary education. You can see the winners of the Lumina Prize here – congratulations to PeerForward and Greater Commons!