Scientists in the U.S. announced a milestone on Wednesday in the costly, decades-old quest to develop fusion energy, which — if harnessed successfully — promises a nearly inexhaustible, environmentally friendly energy source for future generations.
For the first time, experiments have produced more energy from fusion reactions than the amount of energy put into the fusion fuel, scientists at the federally funded Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California said.
Unlike fossil fuels or the fission process in nuclear power plants, fusion offers the prospect of abundant energy without pollution, radioactive waste or greenhouse gases.
The scientists, led by physicist Omar Hurricane, described the achievement as important but said much more work is needed before fusion can become a viable energy source. The researchers also noted that their experiment did not produce self-heating nuclear fusion, known as ignition, which would be needed for any fusion power plant.
Researchers have faced daunting scientific and engineering challenges in trying to develop nuclear fusion — the process that powers stars, including our sun —for use by humankind. Nevertheless, Hurricane said “people are jazzed” by the prospects.
“Really for the first time anywhere, we’ve gotten more energy out of this fuel than was put into the fuel,” Hurricane told reporters earlier this week. “And that’s quite unique. And that’s kind of a major turning point, in a lot of our minds.”
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