Nuclear fusion: Fuel capsules may be cheaper and easier to produce
| Astronomy/Physics

Nuclear fusion may become an inexhaustible source of cheap, safe and environmentally friendly energy. We are decades away from implementing it, but scientists are slowly making small steps towards implementing it. Last year, the National Ignition Facility extracted more energy than was put into the fuel pod. Scientists have now reported a successful test of the dynamic formation of fuel capsules used for inertial plasma confinement. The new capsules are cheaper and easier to produce.

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) inertial plasma capture uses powerful lasers to illuminate a small capsule containing the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium. As a result of the laser beams, the capsule is compressed under tremendous pressure and heated to high temperatures. Eventually, its casing collapses, the fuel ignites and nuclear fusion begins. A hypothetical power plant operating in this way would use about 1 million capsules of fuel per day. And the current methods of forming them, which use a cryogenic and freeze bed, are very expensive and complex.

Two years ago, Valery Goncharov of the Laboratory of Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester described a new method for shaping fuel capsules. Now, together with Igor Igumenshev and other scientists, he conducted an experiment, during which he proved that the described method really works.

In the dynamic capsule forming process, deuterium and tritium droplets are injected into the foam shell. When such a capsule is exposed to laser radiation, a spherical shell is first formed, which then collapses, collapses and ignites. This production method is easier and cheaper than previously used. Details of the experiment are described on pages Physical review letters.

Using the new capsules to start fusion will require working lasers with longer and more powerful pulses, but experience suggests this may be the right solution on the way to practical fusion power plants.

Deuterium-tritium nuclear fusion capsule

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