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Nuclear Fusion Research

The dream of virtually endless clean energy comes closer, as researchers claim nuclear fusion self heating was achieved under laboratory conditions.   The main goal of nuclear fusion is that it will create more energy than it takes to produce. Currently huge amounts of energy are required to start and subsequently sustain fusion reactions, making them commercially unviable.

Researchers working at the US National Ignition Facility, part of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, focused 192 high powered lasers on an area the size of a coin and pulsed 500,000 Billion watts of peak power for a very brief period.  This simulated the extreme conditions found in astrophysical objects such as our sun.   These peaks of temperature and pressure create a plasma, in which fusion can occur.

Containing and controlling fusion is extremely difficult and many approaches and experiments have taken place over the last decades.

National Ignition Facility

In 2021, the team ran a series of four experiments, with increasingly promising results. Burning plasma was predominately self heating. Overall of course, the huge amounts of energy needed to start the burning process, means more energy was used than created. However, this is a very important step forward towards the goal of harnessing fusion power in an energy sustainable way.

Further avenues for improvements have been indentified and the team will conduct more research over the coming months and years.


Zylstra, A.B., Hurricane, O.A., Callahan, D.A. et al.

Burning plasma achieved in inertial fusion.

Nature 601, 542–548 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-04281-w

Published 27th January 2022


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