A new study published Monday in the journal Nature Physics may help explain why fusion is such a tough puzzle to solve: despite more advanced computer modeling than ever, researchers recently found that particles in fusion reactions at the US National Ignition Facility (NIF) behave very differently than models said they should. Energy seems to be seeping out of the reaction in a fashion scientists currently cannot explain, hinting that a more fundamental understanding of high energy nuclear physics may be necessary before fusion power becomes a reality.
The NIF located at the National Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California uses lasers to create the intense pressures and temperatures necessary to trigger a fusion reaction. Unlike the nuclear fission reactors currently in operation around the world that split atoms of uranium in order to release energy, fusion reactions squeeze together two isotopes of hydrogen, deuterium and tritium, to form a helium atom, the same energy release process that powers the Sun.
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