Ignition is a key process that amplifies the energy output from nuclear fusion and could provide clean energy and answer some huge physics questions. A new experiment appears to have triggered ignition for the first time, at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US, recreating the extreme temperatures and pressures found at the heart of the Sun. This has produced more energy than any previous inertial confinement fusion experiment, and proves ignition is possible, paving the way for reactions that produce more energy than they need to get started. “After ten years of steady progress towards demonstrating ignition, the results of experiments over the last year have been more spectacular, as small improvements in the fusion energy output are strongly amplified by the ignition process. The pace of improvement in energy output has been rapid, suggesting we may soon reach more energy milestones, such as exceeding the energy input from the lasers used to kick-start the process.” “This is crucial for opening up the promise of fusion energy and allowing physicists to probe the conditions in some of the most extreme states in the Universe, including those just minutes after the Big Bang. Controlled fusion in the laboratory is one of the defining scientific grand challenges of this era and this is a momentous step forward.”
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