Malthus may have just been blasted by the focused power of 192 laser beams.Scientists at the California-based Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory made a huge breakthrough in nuclear fusion technology late last month. For the first time, a fusion reaction reportedly produced more energy than it consumed.Nuclear fusion has long been seen as energy’s holy grail; it’s the process that powers the Sun, and harnessing it could give humanity unlimited amounts of clean energy. But to paraphrase the quip about Brazil, fusion has seemed like the “energy source of the future” for a long time now. The BBC reports:
The BBC understands that during an experiment in late September, the amount of energy released through the fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel—the first time this had been achieved at any fusion facility in the world. […][This] latest achievement has been described as the single most meaningful step for fusion in recent years, and demonstrates NIF is well on its way towards the coveted target of ignition and self-sustaining fusion.
There’s still a long way to go. The fusion reaction will need to release many times more energy than it consumes to be viable on a commercial scale. But this is still worth getting excited about. Figuring out fusion would be a game-changer, and breakthroughs like this one remind us of the dangers of predicting the future based on current technology. The rate of technological change is accelerating, and the only ones who stand to lose are the prophets of doom. More news like this, please.[National Ignition Facility preamplifier image courtesy of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory]