March 29, 2023

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Scientists make plasma with laser: A step toward nuclear fusion?

Scientists make plasma with laser: A step toward nuclear fusion?

Scientists at Osaka University in Japan have used lasers to create magnetic conditions in the lab that are similar to those on the surface of the Sun. Technology can be used to nuclear fusion reactors One step.

During the day ExperienceConducted at the Institute of Laser Engineering, Department of Osaka University, the Gekko XII laser is made to irradiate a small piece of plastic placed over a magnet with a weak magnetic field. The laser beam was fired for 500 picoseconds, or two billionths of a second.

This created a high-energy plasma that distorts the existing weak magnetic field of the magnet. This creates a condition known as “pure electron flow,” a phenomenon very similar to what occurs in the Earth’s magnetosphere.

geomagnetic storms

This phenomenon plays an important role in other much larger astrophysical phenomena, such as geomagnetic storms on the surface of the Sun, according to scientists. On such a large scale, the phenomenon creates what is called magnetic reconnection. This means that the magnetic field lines “crack” and then join again, releasing huge amounts of energy.

Scientists have never been able to recreate the magnetic connection in the lab, but researchers in Osaka believe that a pure electron outflow is close. Close enough to study the phenomenon on Earth.

A technology originally devised for nuclear fusion

This technique can also be useful in studying more than just astronomical phenomena. After all, Gekko XII was originally designed to study nuclear fusion, more specifically the so-called Inertial confinement fusion (ICF).

This is a form of fusion where the reactions begin by compressing and heating the fuel until it is hot enough in the reactor core to fuse the atomic nuclei.

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By better controlling electron dynamics on a small scale, it will be easier to control the plasma used in fusion reactors. Verification could be. At ICF, modern experimental reactors typically use lasers to heat fuel.

Plasma screening remains a major challenge

Plasma control is one of the biggest challenges before commercial nuclear fusion can be achieved. After all, most experimental reactors work by heating atomic nuclei, usually isotopes of hydrogen, to temperatures that can rise to more than 100 million degrees Celsius. These temperatures are necessary for atomic nuclei to fuse, releasing vast amounts of energy, which can then be used to generate electricity.

Whether it’s ICF or other forms of nuclear fusion, such as tokamaks or stellarators, scientists have so far failed to extract more energy from such a machine than they put into it. Due to the discovery by scientists in Osaka, another (small) step may have been taken towards the so-called “The Holy Grail of Energy”.