US officials announce nuclear fusion breakthrough

US Department of Energy officials announced a history-making accomplishment in nuclear fusion on Tuesday: For the first time, US scientists produced more energy from fusion than the laser energy used to power the experiment, media reports said.

A so-called “net energy gain” is a major milestone in a decades-long attempt to source clean, limitless energy from nuclear fusion – the reaction that happens when two or more atoms are fused together. The experiment put in 2.05 megajoules of energy to the target and resulted in 3.15 MJ of fusion energy output – generating more than 50 per cent more energy than was put in. It’s the first time an experiment resulted in a meaningful gain of energy.

“This monumental scientific breakthrough is a milestone for the future of clean energy,” said Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of California, CNN reported.

The breakthrough was made by a team of scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility in California on December 5 – a facility the size of a sports stadium and equipped with 192 lasers.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm called the breakthrough a “landmark achievement”, CNN reported.

In the statement, Granholm said scientists at Livermore and other national labs do work that will help the US “solve humanity’s most complex and pressing problems, like providing clean power to combat climate change and maintaining a nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing”.

The director of Livermore, Dr. Kim Budil, called scientists’ attempts to realise fusion ignition in the lab “one of the most significant scientific challenges ever tackled by humanity” and cheered the work of her lab’s scientists.

“Achieving it is a triumph of science, engineering, and most of all, people,” Budil said in a statement, CNN reported. “Crossing this threshold is the vision that has driven 60 years of dedicated pursuit. These are the problems that the US national laboratories were created to solve.”




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