Breakthrough in nuclear fusion energy announced
Science & Technology
16th Dec, 2022
Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the U.S. have announced a major advance in the long-running quest to harness energy from nuclear fusion.
- The researchers have for the first time produced more energy in a fusion reaction than was used to ignite it.
- They are referring to it as something called net energy gain.
- The researchers have used lasers to produce temperatures multiple times hotter than the center of the sun to create an extremely brief fusion reaction.
What is Nuclear Fusion?
- Nuclear fusion is the process whereby nuclei join together into one nucleus. The fusion of two atomic nuclei into one nucleus is not possible under standard temperature and pressure.
- It results in a subsequent release of huge amounts of energy.
- It is the opposite reaction of fission, where heavy isotopes are split apart.
- Harnessing fusion, the process that powers the Sun, could provide a limitless, clean energy source.
- In the sun, the extreme pressure produced by its immense gravity creates the conditions for fusion to happen.
- Fusion reactions take place in a state of matter called plasma. Plasma is a hot, charged gas made of positive ions and free-moving electrons that has unique properties distinct from solids, liquids, and gases.
- At high temperatures, electrons are ripped from an atom’s nuclei and become a plasma or an ionized state of matter. Plasma is also known as the fourth state of matter.
- The Plasma is then controlled by humongous magnets.
Significance of the development
Advantages of Nuclear Fusion
- Abundant energy
- No emission of CO?
- No long-lived radioactive waste
- Limited risk of proliferation
- No risk of meltdown
- In the future it may produce nearly limitless, carbon-free energy, displacing fossil fuels and other traditional energy sources.
- Fusion energy systems may help to tackle climate change and energy security.
- The net energy gain is of immense importance because fusion happens at such high temperatures and pressures that it is incredibly difficult to control.
- The fuel does not want to stay hot -- it wants to leak out and get cold.
- Containing it is an incredible challenge.
- International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Assembly: It aims to build the world's largest tokamak to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy. It is based in France.
- China’s Artificial Sun: The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) device designed by China replicates the nuclear fusion process carried out by the sun.
- ITER-India is a special project under Institute for Plasma Research. It is governed by the Empowered Board, which is chaired by the Secretary of, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).