Ever since the first atomic bomb was detonated at Los Alamos in the United States, humans have sought to control the energy present at the level of the atomic nucleus. The disintegrating atoms release part of the binding energy between protons and neutrons. But coupling the nuclei of atoms releases a lot of energy per unit mass. The simplest thing to do is to do this with protons, which are hydrogen atoms that have had electrons removed. It’s about bringing together protons that are already fused with neutrons to form helium nuclei.
Now the protons repel each other with enormous force. Even greater forces are needed to bring them together. One of these forces is gravity. Inside the Sun, the force of gravity manages to bring protons on top of each other to produce helium and release energy.
Here on Earth we don’t have enough gravity. So we need to focus the little energy we have on bringing the combination of a proton and one or two neutrons close enough to each other to form helium (two protons and two neutrons). Various methods have been tried to do this, and the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California has been trying to do this for about 50 years by using lasers to focus these particles into a very small area.
Hitting the top of the nail with a hammer concentrates the force on the tip. In the case of these lasers the effect is the same: pressure is force divided by area, so if the area is made very small, the pressure becomes very high.
If we focus 180 lasers on two very small surfaces we generate enormous pressure that can stick together protons within those surfaces even through shock waves. If more energy is released from the union than is needed to generate the excess, the reaction can continue. But it would be necessary for him to control this energy again to generate a new union and thus in a chain, and always maintain strict control.
Lawrence Livermore Laboratory has announced that on December 5, 2022, it has for the first time managed to generate energy greater than that used to bring protons (along with their neutrons) closer to each other.
Now, this was achieved for a hundred billionth (Spanish) of a second, which is not used to generate electrical energy. It would be a matter of doing the same now but for a constant amount of time, keeping the response going for years. And do the same, but not with pellets the size of a millimeter, but with a sufficient amount of hydrogen.
To do this, a very sophisticated control scheme is needed for all the pellets, as the energy released by one must be re-concentrated into another or the other. The general system is a complex system, and we do not know how to control complex systems. It is quite possible that perhaps more than 50 years will be needed to solve this second problem, which is much more difficult than the first.
due to investment
Now, why spend huge amounts of money, hundreds of billions of dollars, or in Europe Euros, on another fusion system, magnetic confinement, when we already have a fully functioning fusion reactor, and what’s more it’s free. Is?
That reactor is called the Sun, and the energy that is generated inside it by the fusion of protons with their neutrons, continuously, over billions of years, takes 8 minutes to reach Earth in amounts so large that a human fusion reactor, if They may be manufactured, will never come close.
There is a possible explanation. A human fusion reactor implies a monopoly, or near-monopoly, of the concentrated power produced. Solar energy, captured by photovoltaic panels, wind turbines or solar thermal power plants, is a distributed energy that monopoly systems do not allow. This is probably why states have spent billions of dollars or euros to master nuclear fusion.
Antonio Ruiz de Elvira Serra, Professor of Applied Physics, University of Alcala
This article was originally published on The Conversation. read the original.