Scientists make a star in the laboratory: how science is looking for the infinite energy of nuclear fusion

Is thermonuclear fusion a terrible uncontrolled state or a promising source of energy? Scientists

believe that the latter is true.

Scientists in the US and Europe have made progress towardscreation of self-renewable energy of nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion is what happens in the Sun and other stars. During this process, two atomic nuclei combine and form one large nucleus.

Fusion power could provide an almost inexhaustible source of energy for future generations, but there is still a lot of work ahead.

What did the authors of the new study do?

The researchers said that in February 2022they received 59 megajoules of sustainable fusion energy - they reproduced the same process that powers the stars, in particular the Sun. The previous record was just under 22 megajoules. It was installed in 1997.

Ian Chapman, head of the Atomic Energy AuthorityGreat Britain, called it a landmark event that brings researchers closer to solving one of the biggest questions in science: how to get infinite energy using nuclear fusion.

“We accumulate knowledge and develop newthe technologies needed to create a low-carbon, sustainable base energy source that will help us use less of the earth's resources,” Chapman said, “our world needs fusion power.”

How was the experiment?

At the end of January 2022, US researchersused the world's largest laser and forced fusion fuel to heat up to a state of burning plasma. It was an attempt to create self-sustaining nuclear fusion energy.

Plasma is the heated gases where fusion reactions take place. They contain charged particles that hold powerful magnetic fields in place.

Scientists have warned that in this directionyears of work are needed, and the level of energy achieved so far is low. For comparison, 59 megajoules is enough to boil about 60 kettles of water.

How does nuclear fusion work?

Nuclear power plants today use nuclearfission is, in fact, the splitting of the nucleus of an atom, and nuclear fusion is the process of combining two atomic nuclei. Both reactions release a lot of energy, but nuclear fusion produces more energy and generates little nuclear waste.

Fusion occurs when two light atomsfuse together or merge to form a heavier one. The total mass of the new atom is less than that of the two that formed it. The missing mass is released as energy, as confirmed by Albert Einstein's famous equation: E = mc².

There are several ways to playnuclear fusion: they are all based on different atomic combinations. The most popular is the fusion of a deuterium atom with a tritium atom. This process requires a temperature of approximately 39 million °C. As a result, 17.6 million electron volts of energy are produced.

Deuterium is a promising component as it is an isotope of hydrogen. Hydrogen is a component of water, and 3.8 liters of water can produce as much energy as 1,136 liters of gasoline.

What is the problem with nuclear fusion?

Nuclear fusion power may become almostan inexhaustible source of energy for future generations, but also creates many scientific and engineering challenges. The Sun has the necessary conditions for nuclear fusion, they are formed due to powerful gravitational forces. But it is much more difficult to repeat this on Earth.

Fusion fuel - for example, varioushydrogen isotopes - must be heated to extreme temperatures: approximately 50 million ° C. And such a state must be maintained under strong pressure long enough for the nuclei to merge.

In the latest nuclear fusion experimentscientists received 59 megajoules of energy in 5 seconds. Expressing this in terms of power, it comes out to just over 11 MW in five seconds, on average. The previous record of 22 megajoules is 4.4 MW in 5 seconds.

Tony Donn, program manager for the EUROfusion group responsible for the study, said the scientists are on the right track.

“If we can sustain nuclear fusion for five seconds, we can do it for five minutes and then five hours. All as we expand our capabilities,” Donn said.

Professor Donne said that nuclear fusion couldbecome a key clean and sustainable source of energy in the future. It has key advantages, such as no radioactive waste, and reactor materials can be recycled or reused within 100–300 years.

Read more:

A black hole in the galaxy proved Einstein right. The main thing

Space destroys bones and changes their structure: scientists do not know how people will fly to Mars

Astronomers have found planets that are different from Earth, but suitable for life