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Surprising Science

Nuclear Fusion One Step Closer Thanks to Super Powerful Lasers

America’s National Ignition Facility has set a new record for the amount of energy generated by lasers. The experiment will be used to work toward creating laboratory-controlled fusion. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Scientists at America’s National Ignition Facility, in hopes of causing a fusion reaction, have set a new record for the amount of power generated by lasers. “The NIF delivered more than 500 trillion watts (terawatts or TW) of power during its historic test shot on July 5—about 1,000 times more power than the entire United States uses at any given time. That power came from 1.85 megajoules of energy that represent about 100 times as much as what any other laser can sustain.” Previously, such energy levels have only been found in the center of stars.

What’s the Big Idea?

All 192 lasers used in the experiment were fired within trillionths of a second of each other and were focused on a single point. That point is where a capsule of deuterium and tritium fuel would be placed in order to fuse atoms together using the NIF’s powerful lasers. “All that laser power is needed for the NIF’s plans to try an approach known as inertial confinement fusion. The combined laser power would make the fuel capsule’s outer layer explode outward and create an opposite reaction—according to Newton’s third law—that would compress the remaining fuel enough to trigger a fusion reaction.” Scientists have long dreamed of creating a fusion reaction as it could provide limitless clean supplies of energy. 

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