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Very significant barriers to further progress on nuclear fusion

There are two approaches to nuclear fusion: call them doughnuts v lasers.
Magnetic confinement is the more common and longstanding method: picture,
if you can, a doughnut-shaped machine, with nuclear fuel inside it kept
afloat by magnetic fields and heated to incredible temperatures while the
reaction takes place.

The NIF is one of a smaller number of facilities
trying something different: inertial confinement. In the pithy summary of
White House science chief, Arati Prabhakar, yesterday:

“They shot a bunch of lasers at a pellet of fuel [hydrogen plasma] and more energy was
released from that fusion ignition than the energy of the lasers.” The
pellet, encased in diamond, sits in a tiny gold cylinder. By hitting it
with 192 giant lasers for less than 100 trillionths of a second at more
than 3 million celsius, scientists at NIF succeeded in producing 3
megajoules of energy from the 2.05 megajoules it took to make the reaction
happen.

But as good as that sounds, there are very significant barriers to
further progress. “It’s important to say that this is not trying to be
a fusion reactor, it’s simply trying to make fusion happen,” said
Bluck.

“But it lacks almost everything that you need to make a viable
reactor. “So, OK, the energy put in has resulted in a larger amount of
energy coming out – but the big caveat is that it depends where you draw
your perimeter: powering the lasers themselves required way more energy.
You have to draw a slightly artificial dotted line around the vessel to say
there’s been a gain.” The lasers may emit 2.05 megajoules, but they
took about 500 megajoules of energy to power, though defenders of the
experiment say that they are not optimally efficient and can be
significantly improved.

 Guardian 14th Dec 2022

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/dec/14/first-edition-nuclear-fusion

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December 14, 2022 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, technology

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