In DepthFUSION ENERGY

Laser fusion reactor approaches ‘burning plasma’ milestone

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Science  27 Nov 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6520, pp. 1019-1020
DOI: 10.1126/science.370.6520.1019

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Summary

In October 2010, in a building the size of three U.S. football fields, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory powered up 192 laser beams, focused their energy into a pulse with the punch of a speeding truck, and fired it at a pellet of nuclear fuel the size of a peppercorn. So began a campaign by the National Ignition Facility (NIF) to achieve the goal it is named for: igniting a fusion reaction that produces more energy than the laser puts in. A decade and nearly 3000 shots later, NIF is still generating more fizz than bang. But with new target designs and laser pulse shapes, along with better tools to monitor the miniature explosions, NIF researchers believe they are close to an important intermediate milestone known as "burning plasma": a fusion burn sustained by the heat of the reaction itself rather than the input of laser energy.

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