Early in the morning 9 days ago experimental physicist Alex Zylstra noticed that a target yielded more energy from a fusion reaction ignition than the lasers poured into it at the Lawrence Livermore National Ignition Facility (NIF).

Backing up a bit – the prelude seems to have happened in August of 2021 when the facility achieved a true fusion ignition. Better positioned, that’s saying the facility functioned such that the forces cooling the plasma down aren’t strong enough to swamp the forces heating it up and the NIF was set up to measure it.

The event 9 days back is also an ignition and was noticed as outputting energy in excess of that going in.

To create fusion ignition, the National Ignition Facility’s laser energy is converted into X-rays inside the hohlraum, which then compress a fuel capsule until it implodes, creating a high temperature, high pressure plasma. Image Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory National Ignition Facility. Click the press release link for more and larger images and more information.

There is a catch in this. The experiment used 300 megajoules of energy. The facility’s 192 lasers dumped 2.05 megajoules into the target fuel. The target fuel ignited and poured out what the facility measured as 3.15 megajoules.

So far the 297.95 megajoules are unaccounted for. This is a problem. Its also politics. The media hasn’t called the facility on it. The missing megajoules might be quite a problem to explain, or not. Leaving it out casts a very dark shadow. One hopes the Due Diligence will be coming.

Perhaps the details were covered in the technical session that was run after the press conference. The video and transcript viewings will have to wait for their publication and may likely need some true expertise commentary before your humble writer could produce a credible post.

Meanwhile, lets not understate the fact that a breakeven fusion event occurred at the hands of humanity. The parameters are drawn really close, but we’re here on a planet, not in the middle of a star. However one calls it, an ignition or breakeven it is a very big deal, indeed.

There is a very long way to go. A 100 fold increase in power input efficiency, repeatability, the materials and methods to capture the net energy, and the experiments, insights and innovation to get to a power plant that is affordable.

Fusion energy research is way farther along than we were just 18 months ago. Fusion energy production can be done, here on earth by human beings. Amazing.


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