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Plasma fusion becomes a reality?

Published time: April 02, 2012 21:51
Edited time: April 03, 2012 01:51
Reuters / Alexander Demianchuk

Reuters / Alexander Demianchuk

Scientists in a New Jersey laboratory say they are close to a major breakthrough in the field of fusion that they predict will soon allow for an unlimited source of the cheapest, cleanest and safest energy ever.

Researchers at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics in Middlesex, NJ have published the results of their recent work in the Physics of Plasmas journal last week, and expect one of their next rounds of testing to finally tackle an issue of energy procurement that would rival anything already available. In their latest breakthrough, fusion researchers at the lab say that they’ve successfully heated and confined an ionized gas at record temperatures which would be high enough to allow for the nuclear fusion of certain elements, including hydrogen and boron. Those elements double as aneutronic fuels — that is, they produce no neutrons during the fusion process — and could thus be quickly converted to electricity without using the expensive and dangerous conversion measures currently available. Scientists say they believe they are close to a breakthrough that will allow them to harness energy from the elements and thus work with an energy source more marketable than anything now available.

According to the scientists, they have identified and emulated two of the three conditions necessary to show energy production with aneutronic fuels. Eric Lerner, a chief scientist for Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, says that figuring out the temperature and confinement necessary for the fusion have been established in their research, and that once the team can determine the necessary conditions for the third variable — density — they will be able to harness energy from plasma.

“We are still far from having sufficient density in the tiny hot regions to get net energy, but that is our next goal,” Lerner says in a press release on the research.

To RT, fellow Lawrenceville researcher Derek Shannon adds, “We are working on the third criterion, density, now, with the goal of demonstrating full scientific feasibility this year.” Shannon also predicts that the research coming out of the New Jersey lab could put the groups as far as decade ahead of competing projects that aim to introduce manageable fusion fuels.

Shannon also believes that by successfully harnessing aneutronic fuels into energy, dangerous and dirty nuclear energy could soon be a thing of the past. Lawrenceville is also in the midst of a Fusion for Peace campaign, and claim that “aneutronic nuclear energy itself could be the path to nuclear disarmament.”