On Tuesday, the US Department of Energy announced a massive breakthrough in nuclear energy fusion research. Scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California achieved a “net energy gain” while experimenting with lasers and a BB-sized pellet to achieve the breakthrough.
More specifically, they used about 192 laser beams to hit the inner wall of a cylinder to deposit energy. The whole thing took less time than light takes to move 10 feet. This experiment has been done hundreds of times before, but ultimately failed to produce the desired results. This time, the laser charge stayed hot enough and dense enough to cause the pellet to ignite. While we’re still decades away from this breakthrough being usable in our everyday lives, this is still a tremendous step towards securing better, cleaner energy in the future.
If this all sounds like something straight out of a science fiction movie, it’s partially because it is. Most notably, this is essentially the same premise that was used to create the Arc Reactor used for Tony Starks initial Iron Man suits. This type of fusion is at its core, harnessing the power of the sun, and could provide near-limitless energy alternatives for generations to come. In fact, once scientists are able to reliably implement this new fusion tech, we could start to completely ween ourselves off the dependence on fossil fuels entirely.
Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes to see this out in the wild. I’m excited at the prospect of building my first flight suit.