On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Energy plans to announce significant progress in the search for clean, renewable energy.
Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California bombarded hydrogen plasma particles with the world’s largest laser, triggering a nuclear fusion reaction that yields a net energy gain, according to a report Financial Times.
This will be the first time scientists will be able to create a fusion reaction that produces more energy than it consumes.
Get excited…press conference from @vitality Fusion Results at National Ignition Facility @lasers_llnl Tuesday has a potentially huge #nuclear fusion Announcement: FT reports that NIF has achieved a scientific net energy gain! #TheStarBuilders
— Arthur Turrell (@arthurturrell) December 11, 2022
For decades, the United States, Russia and various European countries have spent billions of dollars trying to capture net energy gains. Now net energy technology is finally here.
The researchers generated 2.5 megajoules of energy, 120 percent of the 2.1 megajoules used to power the experiment.
Related: Here’s Why the World Needs to Invest in Renewable Energy Now
What is net energy? It puts 1 unit of energy into a fusion machine and outputs *over* 1 unit of energy. Energy breakeven = same as entered. Scientists mean percentages: 100% means breakeven, >100% means net energy gain.Harvest is like a match lighting a fire pic.twitter.com/tkOH7RHaO2
— Arthur Turrell (@arthurturrell) August 13, 2021
Long road ahead
But don’t expect new discoveries to change the world overnight.
“The resources required to rebuild the reaction on the scale needed to make fusion usable for energy production are enormous,” according to Washington post.
On the one hand, we still need to build machines that can convert nuclear reactions into electricity that can be used on the grid.
Second, “building devices large enough to generate fusion energy on a large scale will require materials that are very difficult to produce,” the scientists said. At the same time, the neutrons produced by the reaction put enormous stress on the equipment that produced it, so that it can be destroyed in the process,” WaPo reported.
Still, the announcement is a huge breakthrough in the search for clean, cheap, renewable energy that will be taken seriously by governments looking to invest in alternatives to fossil fuels.