21 Mar 2012

Bring out the laser, Mini Me, well, at least the ultraviolet one.  A team at the National Ignition Facility in Livermore, California has fired the world's first two megajoule ultraviolet laser.  Earlier this week, a 1.875-megajoule shot was sent into the target chamber and after it passed the final lens it hit the 2.03 megajoule mark.  It was accomplished using a combination of 192 lasers.  This step is important for science, as scientists have been trying to get past the ignition phase to get fusion energy from tiny frozen (hydrogen) fuel pellets. 

Ultimately the goal is to have the laser fire 15 shots per second, but for now at least, we know one can be done without a major explosion.  Once they get the rate increased, it might be possible to start a fusion reaction by imploding the hydrogen isotope pellets where the energy output would be higher than the energy required to boot.

Scientists feel that things are advancing in such a way that a fusion reaction that just breaks even may occur within six months.  The US Department of Energy has focused most of its efforts on magnet-based fusion, so for laser fusion to achieve ignition by years end, would be great because funding for laser fusion is due to run out by years end.

The Tech-Stew Take Home

This laser test firing is huge for the purpose of starting a fusion reaction.  Fusion has many advantages as far as energy production goes.  The fuel for fusion reactions are readily available and nearly inexhaustible.  Unlike burning fossil fuels, fusion doesn't emit harmful toxins into the atmosphere.  Fusion produces only helium which doesn't contribute to global warming.  Fusion also doesn't have the nuclear waste that fission power contains.

Source:  Geekosystem.com

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