Controlled nuclear fusion just got a whole lot closer to reality. This week, researchers at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory fired up 192 gigantic lasers to a mind-boggling level of 1 megajoule for the first time, approaching the hellish situation needed to ignite a controlled nuclear fusion reaction for the first time.
Now that they've broken the megajoule barrier, when will they reach that illusive goal of creating the first human-controlled sun? Could be as early as this summer, when they start shooting this immense energy at targets consisting of pencil-eraser-sized gas-filled capsules.
Keeping things under control, the scientists hope to start the fusion reaction with these uber-lasers, taking out many times more energy than they put in. After that, they need to make this practical enough to place on the back of a Delorean, and voilà! Mr. Fusion!
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