Updated: Nov 17, 2021
Nuclear fusion is the holy grail of energy production. If cracked, the technology could give us unlimited clean, cheap energy. But cracking it has been elusive. Many have proclaimed breakthroughs in this field. There is even a supposed race to crack nuclear fusion, yet there seems to be no significant progress in this area.
Now, Chinese scientists in Shanghai have been working on a project to replicate the sun's energy process using a comparatively low-cost approach. After a year of experimentation, the technique has shown promise, as reported by the South China Morning Post.
"Our goal is to achieve sustainable fusion," said project leader Zhang Zhe of the Institute of Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing in a telephone interview with South China Morning Post.
What does this new process consist of? Scientists fire powerful laser beam pulses at a tiny pair of narrow-ended gold cones, which face each other and eject a hydrogen plasma. The collision of these two hot gas streams at the right time, in the right place and in the right way could lead to nuclear fusion.
How can this project be used to generate electricity? Well, according to Zhe, "The cones can be mass-produced and loaded like bullets into a machine that rotates and fires like a Gatling gun."
So far, Zhe's team has conducted three relatively successful tests, with another scheduled for next month. And while the work has not been without its challenges, the early results show that the theory works.
"We are making progress step by step," Zhe concludes. Could his team be the one to win the race for the nuclear reaction? Only time will tell.
The team's findings so far have been published in the peer-reviewed journal Acta Physica Sinica.
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