After American scientists achieved a new laser fusion record of 1.3 million joules in August, a team of Chinese researchers claim to have created a similar method that requires less energy. They also claim to have the key to using this type of fusion in the cheap and totally clean commercial electricity production.
After a year of experiments, scientists from the Institute of Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing told the South China Morning Post that their laser fusion method “It is low cost” compared to the American and that they believe it can be used to “achieve sustained fusion” for large-scale electricity production.
How does it work
Like the American National Ignition Facility (NIF), the Chinese system uses lasers to produce the fusion reaction. But instead of firing 100 ultra-high-power lasers that occupy the space of three football fields on the volume of a real soccer ball, the Chinese system is more compact and cheaper.
According to its developers, it is inspired by a process developed by the Chinese physicist Zhang Jie in 1997 that uses much less powerful lasers and therefore much cheaper to manufacture and operate. In theory, being less powerful, obtaining the net energy yield in fusion also it would be easier than in the NIF.
The rays from the system tested in a Shanghai laboratory are focused on two microscopic gold cones facing each other by their tips. From these tips a hydrogen plasma comes out that, when colliding at a point in space, causes the hydrogen atoms to fuse and produce energy.
Gold is vaporized by the high energy generated but Chinese scientists claim to have the solution that guarantees continuous energy production. Zhang Zhe – the project leader – assures that this will be possible using a mechanism that “Rotate and shoot [los conos de oro] like a repeating cannon “, what in English is denominated like a “Gatling gun”.
According to Zhe, gold cones can be mass produced”. The cost for large-scale electricity production is “extremely small […] thousands of these cones can be made from a small grain of gold ”.
To overthrow the electricity oligopoly and CO2
The results of his research work have only been published in the Chinese scientific journal Acta Phsyuica Sinica and it has not yet reached international newspapers.
Zhe and his team say that the experiment’s progress in the last year has been “considerable”, especially considering its limited budget: only 156 million dollars which are ridiculous compared to the 22,000 million euros that ITER will cost. Low. They still have a way to go but the results, they say, are encouraging and now they hope to expand operations and the size of the experiment to put into practice their idea of the repeater cannon and get to produce energy continuously.
Be that as it may, it is another horse in the race for end the energy oligopoly all over the world. An increasingly crowded and fast race that counts from private companies like Helion – which has just received more than 2,200 million from various investment funds with Peter Thiel – or the Canadian General Fusion with Jeff Bezos to large public projects like the pharaonic tokamak. ITER or the American National Ignition Facility.
For the sake of humanity, the planet and our pockets, let’s hope that we will soon receive the announcement of the first fusion reactor that produces electricity continuously, wherever it comes from.