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Scientists Say Their Giant Laser Has Produced Nuclear Fusion
National Public Radio ^ | February 12, 2014 | Geoff Brumfiel

Posted on 02/13/2014 1:12:49 AM PST by 2ndDivisionVet

Researchers at a laboratory in California say they've had a breakthrough in producing fusion reactions with a giant laser. The success comes after years of struggling to get the laser to work and is another step in the decades-long quest for fusion energy.

Omar Hurricane, a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, says that for the first time, they've produced significant amounts of fusion by zapping a target with their laser. "We've gotten more energy out of the fusion fuel than we put into the fusion fuel," he says.

Strictly speaking, while more energy came from fusion than went into the hydrogen fuel, only about 1 percent of the laser's energy ever reached the fuel. Useful levels of fusion are still a long way off. "They didn't get more fusion power out than they put in with the laser," says Steve Cowley, the head of a huge fusion experiment in the U.K. called the Joint European Torus, or JET.

The laser is known as the National Ignition Facility, or NIF. Constructed at a cost of more than $3 billion, it consists of 192 beams that take up the length of three football fields. For a brief moment, the beams can focus 500 trillion watts of power — more power than is being used in that same time across the entire United States — onto a target about the width of a No. 2 pencil.

The goal is fusion: a process where hydrogen atoms are squeezed together to make helium atoms. When that happens, a lot of energy comes out. It could mean the answer to the world's energy problems, but fusion is really, really hard to do. Hurricane says that each time they try, it feels like they're taking a test.

"Of course you want to score real well, you think you've learned the material, but you just have to see how you do," he says.

Over the past few years, NIF has been getting a fat "F." For all its power, it just couldn't get the hydrogen to fuse, and researchers didn't know why. The failures have led NIF's critics to label the facility an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars. In 2012, the government shifted NIF away from its fusion goals to focus on its other mission: simulating the conditions inside nuclear weapons.

But the fusion experiments continued, and Hurricane says researchers now understand why their original strategy wasn't working. In the journal Nature, he and his colleagues report that they've finally figured out how to squeeze the fuel with the lasers. By doing a lot of squeezing right at the start, they were able to keep the fuel from churning and squirting out. The lasers squeezed evenly and the hydrogen turned into helium.

The new technique can't reach "ignition," which is the point at which the hydrogen fusion feeds on itself to make more. Even so, JET's Cowley says, this is still a big moment for NIF.

"I think it's still a very important step forward, they reached fusion conditions, they made some fusion happen, and that's not been done before [with a laser]," he says.

Hurricane says no one knows for sure whether NIF can really reach the point of ignition. "It's not up to me; it's up to Mother Nature," he says. "But we're certainly going to try."


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Government
KEYWORDS: energy; fusion; nuclearfusion; nuclearpower

1 posted on 02/13/2014 1:12:49 AM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
The goal is fusion: a process where hydrogen atoms are squeezed together to make helium atoms.

But ponder the planet Jupiter whose core is metallic hydrogen.

2 posted on 02/13/2014 1:23:42 AM PST by Rudder
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
The new technique can't reach "ignition," which is the point at which the hydrogen fusion feeds on itself to make more. Even so, JET's Cowley says, this is still a big moment for NIF.

Wow... and we owe it all to Darwin and the evolutionary scientists. Oh wait...

3 posted on 02/13/2014 1:50:10 AM PST by Ethan Clive Osgoode (<<== Click here to learn about Evolution!)
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Now if we can strap 4 wheels on it, we’ll have something less efficient the than Volt...

I joke... cool news.


4 posted on 02/13/2014 1:58:18 AM PST by Gene Eric (Don't be a statist!)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Only took 60 years to reach this “milestone.”

World wide, I’ll guess that commercial fusion R&D has passed $100 billion, adjusted for inflation.

Perhaps the laser research and magnetic confinement technology will pay off at some point.

But in terms of energy output, I think we might have been in much better shape if we had invested that money in photo voltaic and hydrogen technology instead.


5 posted on 02/13/2014 2:54:54 AM PST by zeestephen
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To: zeestephen
Even if it were commercially available tomorrow, I'm sure the environmentalist would find some reason to oppose it.
6 posted on 02/13/2014 3:13:20 AM PST by Falcon4.0
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

“Omar Hurricane “?? Are Buck Rogers and Dr Zarkoff working there too? And where is Ming the Merciless?


7 posted on 02/13/2014 3:20:25 AM PST by Jimmy Valentine (DemocRATS - when they speak, they lie; when they are silent, they are stealing the American Dream)
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To: Jimmy Valentine

Don’t be silly. Those three are working at Sandia National Laboratory. Omar works with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner.


8 posted on 02/13/2014 3:33:16 AM PST by EEGator
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To: Jimmy Valentine
Dr. Hurricane definitely looks like an evil genius.


9 posted on 02/13/2014 3:51:59 AM PST by billorites (nichtarbeit macht frei)
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To: zeestephen

“But in terms of energy output, I think we might have been in much better shape if we had invested that money in photo voltaic and hydrogen technology instead.”

Not at all in the long run. Economically practical fusion reactors, whether hot or cold fusion, have the capability of making a greater difference in human technologies and adaptation for survival than the discovery of fire. The economic and practical application of fusion energy production makes possible the desalination and purification of water, virtually perpetual electrical power in abundance, the recycling of garbage by breaking it down to the fundamental elements, revolutionizing the chemical industries, and so much more. No hydrogen powered battery can remotely compare in its beneficial applications. It is just going to require extraordinary innovation, time, nad money to discover how to achieve what is certainly available to the people persistent and innovative enough to discover it.


10 posted on 02/13/2014 3:52:33 AM PST by WhiskeyX ( provides a system for registering complaints about unfair broadcasters and the ability to request a)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

If its on National Public Radio they must be hoping for a way to heavily regulate it.


11 posted on 02/13/2014 4:14:20 AM PST by daniel1212 (Come to the Lord Jesus as a contrite damned+destitute sinner, trust Him to save you, then live 4 Him)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

I am not impressed.
I you heat something hot enough you get fusion, but it took more energy than it produced.


12 posted on 02/13/2014 4:21:28 AM PST by BuffaloJack (Freedom isn't free; nor is it easy.)
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To: zeestephen

-——World wide——

Back in the days of Fusion Magazine, the Russians were in a leadership role in fusion research. I wonder if they have any current resources engaged in the fusion effort. I would guess all the old researchers are dead and gone


13 posted on 02/13/2014 4:27:10 AM PST by bert ((K.E. N.P. N.C. +12 ..... History is a process, not an event)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Actually they didn’t but they took a step in the right direction.


14 posted on 02/13/2014 4:30:46 AM PST by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: BuffaloJack
Oh look! I got more NRG out of the firecracker than I put into the black powder inside.

All I had to do was hit it with this flamethrower and...

15 posted on 02/13/2014 4:32:15 AM PST by Aevery_Freeman (Politics are just the rules - Power is the game!)
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To: Jimmy Valentine

His brother, Rock You Like A Hurricane, has had more success in the field of weather control at DARPA


16 posted on 02/13/2014 4:33:45 AM PST by 12th_Monkey (One man one vote is a big fail, when the "one" man is an idiot.)
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To: Rudder

Yup, that’s my concern. I’m just not sure we can achieve fusion without the hundreds of billions or trillions of tons of raw materials that stars use.

Fusion, so easy a red dwarf can do it.


17 posted on 02/13/2014 4:35:15 AM PST by cripplecreek (REMEMBER THE RIVER RAISIN!)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Perhaps it’s “look, we NEED to show some results or the money train is over”

But, if true, Cool.

FYI, a much larger facility for fusion research is being built in France, which the US is also contributing to.


18 posted on 02/13/2014 4:36:18 AM PST by 12th_Monkey (One man one vote is a big fail, when the "one" man is an idiot.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

One of these days I think we are all of us going to see a huge wall of combustion stretching across the entire horizon heading towards towards us. Just before I’m consumed I hope I have the time to think “Hey, somebody got something to work really well this time...”


19 posted on 02/13/2014 4:59:48 AM PST by Abathar (Proudly posting without reading the article carefully since 2004)
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To: zeestephen

No, Breeder reactors would be the preferred transition to await fusion power.


20 posted on 02/13/2014 5:18:56 AM PST by G Larry
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Unfortunately, NIF did not reach ignition


21 posted on 02/13/2014 5:40:29 AM PST by Nifster
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To: Ethan Clive Osgoode

“The new technique can’t reach “ignition,” which is the point at which the hydrogen fusion feeds on itself to make more. Even so, JET’s Cowley says, this is still a big moment for NIF.

Wow... and we owe it all to Darwin and the evolutionary scientists. Oh wait...”

How ‘bout: we owe it all to Big Gubment, centralized funding by Big Gubment, and scientists at Bug Aademia who depend on those grants.”

This sh*t evolved long after Darwin.

Unless you are postulating retroactive evolution.....


22 posted on 02/13/2014 5:53:53 AM PST by GladesGuru (Islam Delenda Est - because of what Islam is and because of what Muslims do.)
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To: Gene Eric

Maybe, but wouldn’t everyone else driving behind it sound like chipmunks?


23 posted on 02/13/2014 7:43:13 AM PST by gnarledmaw (Obama: Evincing a Design since 2009)
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To: GladesGuru

How ‘bout: we owe it all to Big Gubment, centralized funding by Big Gubment, and scientists at Bug Aademia who depend on those grants.”
***Yup. They’re a bunch of con artists. They take 50 years and hundreds of $Billions to reach breakeven point for 1 BILLIONTH of a second. In the meantime, Cold Fusioneers had breakeven AND ignition 23 years ago, it took only a few tens of $Millions, it was private money, and cold fusion experiments tend to last several DAYS.


24 posted on 02/13/2014 11:08:47 AM PST by Kevmo ("A person's a person, no matter how small" ~Horton Hears a Who)
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To: BuffaloJack

“We’ve gotten more energy out of the fusion fuel than we put into the fusion fuel,” he says.


25 posted on 02/13/2014 2:15:48 PM PST by 2ndDivisionVet (Jealousy is when you count someone else's blessings instead of your own.)
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