The creation of a miniature sun

This is the first self-sustaining nuclear fusion in history. It was achieved by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. They actually achieved the creation of a miniature sun. It generates enough energy to function without relying on external sources. No attempt had ever before succeeded in producing more energy than the total energy used for the process. It is the first demonstration of self-sustaining nuclear fusion.

Here was the creation of a miniature sun, in a gold cylinder.
Here occurred the creation of a miniature sun, in a gold cylinder.

Imitating the Sun

The main reference for this process is the Sun. At its core, the enormous pressure and temperature causes hydrogen atoms to bond together and form helium, releasing a large amount of energy. How did the experiment work? 192 powerful lasers were pointed at a gold cylinder less than two centimeters wide. At its center is a spherical capsule containing hydrogen gas.

When lasers heat the cylinder to more than 3 million degrees Celsius, it emits X-rays. They bombard the capsule to the point of imploding it, compressing and heating the gas to extreme levels. This causes the hydrogen atoms to fuse together. They form helium, producing energy just as our star does.

“This is a historic achievement for researchers. Fusion ignition became a reality,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.

A huge reactor will be built in France to test this new energy.
A huge reactor is to be built in France to test this new energy.

Commercial energy

This fusion generates virtually no radioactive waste or pollutants. Nor does it run the risk of producing a chain reaction leading to an explosion. That was the case that happened at the Chernobyl and Fukushima plants. “It can be the source of massive and concentrated high energy density that humanity needs,” José Perlado told Science Media Centre. He is president of the Guillermo Velarde Institute of Nuclear Physics at the Polytechnic University of Madrid.

There is still a long way to go before this method can be mass-produced. But there is a method to generate fusion energy on a large scale. It is magnetic confinement, which is carried out in tokamak reactors, known as ‘artificial suns’. These experimental systems are in operation in countries such as China, South Korea and the UK.

A giant reactor is to be built in France to test the feasibility of commercial fusion plants. The creation of a miniature sun may change the world as we know it.

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