US achieves fusion breakthrough, making clean zero-carbon energy - report

The US has reportedly managed to achieve a net energy gain in a fusion energy experiment, which would allow for a limitless supply of energy with no carbon emissions or radioactive waste.

 Will clean fusion energy change the world forever? (Illustrative) (photo credit: PIXABAY)
Will clean fusion energy change the world forever? (Illustrative)
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

The US government may have made a major scientific breakthrough in fusion energy, paving the way for creating a limitless supply of energy with zero carbon emissions or radioactive waste, The Financial Times reported, citing people with knowledge of a recent experiment's results.

The fusion process is a landmark step of progress in the quest to achieve a limitless supply of environmentally-friendly energy.

According to The Financial Times, the US Energy Department will have US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Undersecretary for Nuclear Security Jill Hruby announce a "major scientific breakthrough" sometime on Tuesday.

What is fusion energy and how did the US do it?

Fusion energy has widely been touted as the "holy grail" of clean energy, and scientists have been trying to figure it out since the 1950s.

This would be done in a way that essentially replicates the fusion reactions that power stars

 The preamplifiers of the National Ignition Facility are the first step in increasing the energy of laser beams as they make their way toward the target chamber. This facility is being used to test fusion energy. (credit: Wikimedia Commons) The preamplifiers of the National Ignition Facility are the first step in increasing the energy of laser beams as they make their way toward the target chamber. This facility is being used to test fusion energy. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

While there have been many attempts at this over the years, one big problem has always stood in the way of success: Net energy gain.

Essentially, the process to produce fusion energy requires energy itself. As such, in order for fusion energy to be viable, it would need to produce more energy than it takes to make it. So far, that has been impossible.

This is the main hurdle keeping fusion energy from becoming used worldwide, with more limited and/or polluting and dirty forms of energy like fossil fuels and nuclear power being used instead.

And it is due to these factors – such as an ongoing energy crisis; climate change worsened by the use of fossil fuels; and fears of nuclear disasters in the wake of Russian and Ukrainian forces fighting around nuclear power plants – that a limitless supply of energy that produces no carbon emissions or radioactive waste is so appealing.

As for how the US managed to do it, it's currently unclear if it even succeeded. What is known at the moment is that this breakthrough occurred at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. 

This laboratory is a very large federal research facility and is also home to the National Ignition Facility, which in turn is designed to achieve fusion ignition and is one of the largest and most powerful devices of its kind, featuring the single most powerful laser anywhere on Earth.

This is used in experiments to attempt net energy gain with fusion energy.

According to the Financial Times, a recent experiment was an absolute success, though it isn't clear how much energy they managed to get out. 

But if it is successful, it may completely change the world of energy as we know it.