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Scientists from Australia have achieved thermonuclear fusion: what it means

Startup HB11 is working on an alternative approach to nuclear fusion. Instead of temperatures of a million degrees, laser pulses used to trigger the reaction. It appears that the team has succeeded.

The first tests of the technology exceeded expectations by ten times. According to HB11, the company is “the only commercial enterprise that has achieved thermonuclear fusion.”

Opening details

  • To push the atoms together so that they merge and form a new element, you need to overcome the repulsive force acting on two positively charged nuclei.
  • The sun copes with this task by heating a huge number of hydrogen atoms to tens of millions of degrees.
  • At this temperature, the atoms begin to move so fast that they collide with each other, combine to turn into helium, and release energy.
  • Most modern fusion reactors simulate this process by using magnetic fields that hold incandescent plasma together.
  • HB11 scientists are exploring a different approach that doesn’t require colossal temperatures or radioactive fuels like tritium.
  • Instead, laser pulses with linear frequency modulation used, capable of generating unprecedented power levels of more than 10 petawatts.

With the help of high-precision lasers, scientists are going to disperse hydrogen atoms so much that they will collide with boron atoms and merge in a synthesis reaction. In this case, there will be helium atoms, or alpha particles that do not have electrons. These charges will be collected to produce energy without any steam, turbines, or nuclear waste.

Experiments

After the researchers conducted the first experiments, they repeated them on new equipment in Japan. The company’s lead scientist Dimitri Batani reports that the team was able to prove the effectiveness of generating alpha particles using a petawatt laser. The indicators were one order of magnitude higher than the previous results.

Now the results are still far from commercializing the technology and using it fully. However, they prove the success of the approach and open up opportunities for further research and search for options for optimizing the technology.

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