Researchers in California are a step closer to creating net energy gain, but there is still a long road ahead.
The historic announcement was made at a press conference on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Energy. At a news conference, Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Energy Secretary said that the discovery “strengthens our national security, and ignition allows us to replicate certain conditions only found in the stars and the sun.”
According to a report in the Financial Times, this would be the first time scientists have been able to create a fusion reaction that produces more energy than it consumes, a process known as net energy gain. The team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory had made some progress previously in achieving fusion reaction. Since fusion occurs at very high temperatures and pressures, it is extremely difficult to control.
For decades, the United States, Russia, France and several European countries are researching methods of harnessing fusion technology.
Researchers in California produced 2.5 megajoules of energy, 120 percent of the 2.1 megajoules used to power the experiment. Despite the historic milestone, there is still a long ways to go before fusion can be viable enough to produce limitless, carbon-free energy that can power houses and businesses.
In order to do that, scientists need to design machinery that can affordably turn the nuclear reaction into sustainable electricity that can be used on the power grid. Also “building devices that are large enough to create fusion power at scale would require materials that are extraordinarily difficult to produce,” scientists say.
While advancing fusion research requires enormous resources and efforts, proponents of fusion see it as an alternative to fossil fuels and the answer to having clean, cheap, renewable energy.