A major and first-of-its kind breakthrough has been made by researchers at the US National Ignition Facility, with the team achieving a phenomenon that is known as ignition. This is a reaction that produces more energy than it consumes.
As part of the research, the scientists used a set of 192 lasers to deliver 2.05 megajoules of energy onto a pea-sized gold cylinder. The cylinder contained a frozen pellet of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium. When the laser was fired, the energy blast caused the capsule to collapse, triggering the hydrogen isotopes to fuse into helium. This released additional energy and a consequential 'cascade of fusion reactions'.
The results showed that the reaction released 3.15 MJ of energy, which is around 54% more than the amount of energy that went into the reaction. The figure is also double the previous record of 1.3 MJ that was set by scientists.
U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell stated: "This breakthrough will ensure the safety and reliability of our nuclear stockpile, open new frontiers in science, and enable progress toward new ways to power our homes and offices in future decades."
The incredible breakthrough (which has been decades in the making) has sparked excitement for the future of clean energy.
Using laser fusion energy would be particularly advantageous as it would not produce large amounts of high-level nuclear waste, which would need long-term disposal. It could also potentially provide a limitless supply of clean energy, thus dampening demand for fossil fuels.
Countries around the world are also hoping to trade clean energy with one another in the future, meaning that millions across the globe could benefit from such a development. Testing has already begun between the UK and Norway.