Researchers at the National Ignition Facility in California said they have passed a milestone in the longstanding quest to create a controllable, self-sustained fusion reaction to generate electric power.
According to reports, the laboratory, which is located at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, conducted a test in September in which the power output was stronger than the power used by the lasers.
To be useful as a potential source of electric power, the reaction would have to generate more electricity from a fusion reaction than the lasers that hold it in place consume. This is called the “ignition.”
The reactor works by compressing a ball bearing-sized piece of hydrogen fuel with beams emitted by a battery of 192 ultra-powerful lasers.
Researchers have worked on the problem of nuclear fusion for more than half a decade without successfully sparking an ignition that leads to a self-sustaining fusion reaction.
The National Ignition Facility has been trying to achieve self-sustaining fusion with net power generation since 2009.
The laboratory’s massive system of lasers was used as a set in the movie “Star Trek: Into Darkness” for scenes involving the Starship Enterprise’s warp core.