Scientists announced last week that they have for the first time produced more energy in a fusion reaction than was used to ignite it, reports The Associated Press. It is considered a major breakthrough in the decades-long quest to harness the process that powers the sun.
Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California achieved the result, which is called net energy gain, the Energy Department said. Net energy gain has been an elusive goal because fusion happens at such high temperatures and pressures that it is incredibly difficult to control.
The breakthrough will pave the way for advancements in national defense and the future of clean power, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and other officials said.
“Ignition allows us to replicate for the first time certain conditions that are found only in the stars and the sun,” Granholm told a news conference in Washington. “This milestone moves us one significant step closer to the possibility of zero-carbon abundant fusion energy powering our society.”
Fusion ignition is “one of the most impressive scientific feats of the 21st century,″ Granholm said, adding that the breakthrough “will go down in the history books.″
Appearing with Granholm, White House science adviser Arati Prabhakar called the fusion ignition “a tremendous example of what perseverance really can achieve” and “an engineering marvel beyond belief.”
Proponents of fusion hope that it could one day offer nearly limitless, carbon-free energy and displace fossil fuels and other traditional energy sources. Producing energy that powers homes and businesses from fusion is still decades away. But researchers say the announcement marks a significant advance nonetheless. Read more.