Maker Faire 2010: Is Fusion Our Energy Future?

Death Star Solar Panel Photo
Photo by Stéfan

While some researchers continue to push the limits of harvesting the Sun's power, the scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), located at Lawrence Livermore National Labs, are just building a whole freaking sun.

Home to the world's largest laser, NIF is pretty close to demonstrating ignition, or nuclear fusion with an energy gain. It uses 192 laser beams to both compress and heat a fuel capsule the size of a corn kernel. The capsule contains deuterium and tritium--two hydrogen isotopes--that fuse together and release a big burst of energy when shot with a big laser.

Fusion Reaction Image

Image via NIF

Dr. Edward Moses is the Director for the National Ignition Facility. Hear what he has to say about Fusion, Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger and powering the world using water.

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Here's that pea-sized target:

NIF Laser Target for Fusion Photo

Photo via Wikimedia

So, how do you build a star? According to NIF, do the following:

  • Take a small plastic capsule about the size of a pea
  • Fill it with a few drops of deuterium and tritium (hydrogen isotopes)
  • Shoot it with a really big ass laser
  • Wait ten billionths of a second and BAM! You've got a miniature star.
  • Rinse and repeat

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