Kenneth Hill and Manfred Bitter are scientific pioneers who have collaborated seamlessly for more than 35 years. Together they have revolutionized a key instrument in the quest to harness fusion energy — a device called an X-ray crystal spectrometer that is used around the world to reveal strikingly detailed information about the hot, charged plasma gas that fuels fusion reactions.
Inertial confinement fusion
An experimental process that uses lasers to compress plasma to sufficiently high temperatures and densities for fusion to occur. Such experiments are carried out in places such as the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California.
The Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) Program is conducting experiments at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory with the goal of igniting a propagating thermonuclear burn wave in DT fuel leading to energy gain (defined as fusion yield/input laser energy >1). To do this the NIF laser delivers up to ~ 2 MJ of energy to a hohlraum (cylindrical cavity) which generates x-rays that implode a ~2 mm diameter spherical capsule filled with a solid layer of cryogenic deuterium-tritium (DT) fuel.
Author Daniel Clery recently published “A Piece of the Sun,” a 320-page narrative of the history of fusion research and the personalities who have devoted their careers to it. Clery is a United Kingdom-based reporter for Science magazine who holds a bachelor’s degree in theoretical physics from York University and has covered fusion for more than a decade. While hardly an uncritical flag-waver for fusion, he recognizes its vast potential. He discussed his new book and the future of fusion with PPPL Science Writer John Greenwald.
Research to develop fusion energy has shown “significant progress” in many areas, according to a new report from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a think tank whose members represent some 90 percent of the electricity produced in the United States. At the same time, the report said that a commercial fusion power plant is at least 30 years away, and called for more research on the engineering challenges.
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