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Star Power: The Promise of Nuclear Fusion

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Not getting enough rays these days? Never fear: engineers may be on the brink of creating our own miniature star.

While solar power is a key part of the global clean energy strategy, scientists are pursuing other, perhaps more promising, methods to produce fuel sources. One such possibility is the recreation of fusion, a powerful nuclear reaction that only occurs naturally on the blazing surfaces of stars.

When under extreme heat and pressure, the nuclei of two atoms can be forced to fuse together. Here’s a brief visualization of the different types of nuclear fusion that can occur:

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Fusion reactions produce a tremendous amount of energy. Just how much? The sun produces enough energy in one second to power our planet for a million years, and scientists claim that harnessing fusion power could give humans an essentially unlimited clean energy source.  So what’s the hold-up? Recreating the conditions of the sun is no easy task – no one has achieved it thus far.

But now, the National Ignition Facility (NIF), home to the world’s largest laser, is seeking to achieve fusion (or “ignition”) by heating 192 laser beams to temperatures of over 200 million degrees Fahrenheit and aiming them at tiny hydrogen isotopes. Preliminary tests look promising, according to NIF researchers; they’re predicting full success by the end of this year.

Watch the following video to see how researchers are engineering this extraordinary feat:

Extra: If you’d like to get a closer look at the surface of the sun, be sure to check out this stunning footage from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, released just last week:

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2 Responses to “Star Power: The Promise of Nuclear Fusion”

  1. What are the different colors of the sun represent? If we are able to create a fusion reaction, are we capable of controling it?

  2. The aneutronic nuclear fusion reactor can attain outstanding temperatures much higher than the Sun, it was designed to reach 7 billion °C without disturbing its confinement system.

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