Chinese scientists say they discovered a cheap new way to do nuclear fusion

A team of scientists in China says it is an inexpensive method to use to achieve nuclear fusion that could compete with much more expensive counterparts.

Researchers from the Physics Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences started their experiments on fusion energy at the Shenguang II laser system last summer. corresponding The South China Morning Mail. However, the government only gave the team $ 156 million to run their experiments over six years – a paltry sum compared to fusion reactors like the International Thermal Experimental Reactor (ITER) in France, which has an estimated budget of 45 to 65 billion Has dollars.

The researchers also wanted to do the research on National ignition system (NIF) over the summer, resulting in more fusion energy than ever in a lab. In this experiment, 100 very powerful lasers were aimed at a single target, which eventually deformed the mirrors used to make the lasers and reduced their accuracy.

In addition to the merger, the Chinese team also had to figure out how to do this with a limited budget and with less powerful lasers. Eventually they turned to a method originally developed in 1997 by Zhang Jie, a renowned Chinese physicist.

The method involved weaker laser beams aimed at two tiny gold cones radiating hydrogen plasma at each other. If it a fusion reaction happens with exactly the right parameters.

As the gold cones evaporate after the merger, the ultimate cost of operating a power plant in the future will be “extremely low – if not negligible,” said Zhang Zhe, lead researcher on the experiment SCMP. “One small grain of gold can make thousands of cones. “

Although the team encountered some problems in their experiments, Zhang says they made significant progress. He hopes the team will be able to scale their research in the future with more sophisticated tools and facilities that “take the game to a whole new level”.

If that happens, the team may have a fusion reactor that will compete the capabilities of ITER – at a fraction of the cost.

It’s another exciting update in the race for the fusion power it could offer limitless clean energy and help provide a reliable method away from fossil fuels. It is worth noting, however, that fusion energy is unlikely to be tapped by a single country – rather, it will be a collective effort by all.

“At this point it is difficult to predict which approach or which country will win the race. There are too many uncertainties ahead of us, ”an anonymous nuclear fusion scientist told the SCMP. “But in the end, different technologies and different nations may have to unite into one entity to bring the dream fusion to life.”

CONTINUE READING: Chinese scientists encounter gold early on in the race for nuclear fusion energy [The South China Morning Post]

More about fusion energy: Scientists excited about an important step towards practical nuclear fusion

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