Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Fusion is (in my humble opinion) the optimum power source for large-scale electrical generation - clean, running on unlimited fuel (hydrogen), and extremely powerful. With nature, though, there is always a "but," and the but in this case is that it's a huge task (and expensive as hell) to create that star-interior conditions needed to initiate a controlled fusion reaction (uncontrolled fusion is used to destroy entire continents, so we'd like to avoid it). The National Ignition Facility has taken a step forward with its first firing at nearly full power. It uses 192 lasers fired into a spherical chamber 9m across that reminds me in this photo of the old Irwin Allen TV series, The Time Tunnel. We are still years away from the first productive fusion reaction and decades away from the "hydrogen future," but every step matters.