Nuclear energy as we know it is dangerous and dirty: it produces radioactive waste and accounts for nuclear power plant accidents that keep humanity in check. This energy is obtained by splitting atoms of heavy elements such as uranium and plutonium. the so-called process division Nuclear (word division is from the same family as a crack). Now researchers in the US have achieved the “holy grail” of energy using the opposite method that science has dreamed of for decades: obtaining clean, inexhaustible energy through fusion – and not. division– atomic nuclei, in this case light elements such as hydrogen and its isotopes, deuterium and tritium (as occurs in the Sun).
The breakthrough is the work of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), a publicly funded center. The news spread This weekend for that Financial Times and confirmed by The Washington PostHowever, the official announcement will not be made until this Tuesday, December 13th. The preliminary has not yet been published in any scientific journal, so there is no independent confirmation of it.
The date will be written in the history of science, but there is still a long way to go before the standardization of the production and distribution of this clean, inexhaustible energy, which should also be cheap in the future.
The big milestone is that for the first time, scientists spent less energy to achieve nuclear fusion than they spent to produce this reaction. Specifically, it happened on December 5. The LLNL researchers spent 2.1 megajoules to trigger nuclear fusion and would have received 2.5 megajoules: a net gain of 0.4 megajoules.
It is a huge leap to believe that this could indeed be the massive and concentrated high-density source of energy that humanity needs.
Jose Manuel Perlado Martin
– Emeritus Professor of Nuclear Physics and President of the Guillermo Velarde Institute (UPM).
The method used is known as “inertial fusion”. In order to achieve fusion of nuclei, it is necessary that they approach at a very short distance, so that the force of attraction between them is greater than the forces of electrostatic repulsion. Only with large amounts of energy can the nuclei be brought this close: either by means of particle accelerators, or by heating the atoms until they become a dense enough plasma that, moreover, must be confined in a fusion reactor. .
In the United States, LLNL used its National Ignition Facility (NIF), where they chose to heat atoms using one of the largest lasers in the world. The laser beam hits the hydrogen isotope particles, causing them to explode and become denser, thereby causing the nuclei to fuse. Until now, creating the conditions to achieve this fusion involved a greater expenditure of energy than the reaction itself produced.
“This means that for the first time in the history of physics and energy, a nuclear fusion device, using a laser using an inertial confinement method, has achieved ignition and energy increase in the laboratory,” Jose noted. Manuel Perlado Martin, Emeritus. Professor of Nuclear Physics and President of the Guillermo Velarde Institute of the Polytechnic University of Madrid. SMC Spain. “This is a huge step forward in believing that this really could be the massive, concentrated high-density source of energy that humanity needs.”
In the same sense, it was also expressed in declarations SMC Spain, Carlos Hidalgo, Head of the Experimental Division of the National Fusion Laboratory, Center for Energy, Environmental and Technological Research (CIEMAT): “The practical achievement of nuclear fusion energy is one of the greatest challenges of humanity in the 21st century. The experimental results obtained at NIF are of great scientific importance, as they for the first time achieve a nuclear fusion energy enhancement greater than unity. This is a great scientific milestone.”
Experts were consulted The Washington Post However, they warn that the dream of clean, cheap and inexhaustible energy will take years to achieve. For several reasons: The materials to create the infrastructure necessary to achieve large-scale fusion are very difficult to manufacture. In addition, this reaction produces neutrons that add “immense pressure to the equipment, to the extent that it can destroy it in the process.”
Source: El Diario