A lot of rejigging may be needed (Image: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Giant laser needs a revamp to achieve nuclear fusion

17:19 22 February 2013 by Jeff Hecht

There’s more than one way to spark a star. Although the world’s biggest laser missed a key target date on the road to producing clean energy via nuclear fusion, an independent review panel says the technology holds enough promise to continue the quest – with a few modifications.

The US National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California is the latest in a series of lasers built to study nuclear fusion reactions. The goal is to one day replace uranium-based nuclear fission with cleaner, safer fusion reactions to drive power plants.

Inside a star, nuclear fusion squeezes hydrogen nuclei together to make helium nuclei, releasing huge amounts of energy. Stars are so massive they can sustain these fusion reactions due to high pressure. On Earth, a quick laser pulse aimed at a hydrogen target should be able to create similar heat and pressure. In the case of NIF, the goal was to reach what is called ignition – the point at which the nuclear reaction puts out more energy than was needed to start it off.

Read more: Giant laser needs a revamp to achieve nuclear fusion – physics-math – 22 February 2013 – New Scientist.

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