Fusion in the News

Cody Good
Courtesy of Science.org

Canadians may have been soaking up the sun during their extended OOO this long weekend, but it was nuclear fusion that really heated up over the weekend, so here are the updates:

Anotha’ one: Researchers of the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California channeled their best DJ Khalid impression and achieved another fusion reaction that produced more energy than was used.

  • The Financial Times reports that the amount of energy generated was greater than 3.5 megajoules which would make it at least a 10% improvement on the first reaction—or enough to power a household iron for an hour.

Across the Rockies: Marvel Fusion—a German fusion start-up, unrelated to superheroes—just announced a $191 million partnership to fuse with Colorado State University and build a new laser facility for fusion energy research.

Having just three lasers, the Colorado system’s output will be more powerful and faster than NIF’s ageing 192 lasers.

  • Where the NIF lasers can fire up once a day, the Colorado system is expected to deliver 10 flashes per second to better sustain the fusion reaction.

The actual energy output of the recent fusion reaction at NIF is minimal but the Marvel Fusion announcement shines some optimism on the future of nuclear fusion.

  • While the NIF setup was first to simulate nuclear weapons reactions the Colorado facility will be the first dedicated to commercial fusion research.

Big picture: Marvel is an example of the growing money being invested into the industry, with more fusion startups likely to follow. It’s an exciting time where we’re likely to see several rise and fall in time, with potential for new breakthroughs in the space.

Maybe even Elon will get bored with “X” and turn his sights on fusion to create another unicorn tech company.

+ Additional reading: Nuclear Fusion: Are We There Yet?
++ Additional viewing: The Two Promising Technologies for Nuclear Fusion