• Question: what type of fusion technology will work lazer or will we have to start the reaction with fission power.

    Asked by stanners69 to Jack, Akram, Gill, laurenceharwood on 16 Mar 2012. This question was also asked by sasha26.
    • Photo: Jack Snape

      Jack Snape answered on 16 Mar 2012:

      Good question… I don’t think we need fission power. We can either do it using lots of big lasers or using magnetic fields. I’ll go through both ways:

      – I study magnetic fusion (there’s more info about this on my profile). The next big step for magnetic fusion is ITER, a massive tokamak that will be switched on in 2019. If ITER works as predicted and produces 10 times more energy than it uses, then we should be building test fusion power stations in the 2030s and putting electricity onto the national grid by the 2040s. The exact timing depends on how much money is spent. At the moment, nearly all fusion research is funded by governments because private companies don’t want to gamble on fusion working. If ITER works then we think private companies will start spending more money on fusion research and we should have a power station much more quickly.

      – Laser fusion works by imploding tiny pellets of fuel with loads of huge lasers. The big laser fusion experiment at the moment is called NIF (the National Ignition Facility) in America. NIF should be producing more energy than it uses at some point in the next year or so. This will be a really big step for fusion in general (for both magnet people and laser people !). One problem with laser fusion is that to make a power station viable you have to implode 10 fuel pellets a second. If they can work out how to do that then it’s sorted!

      Overall, it’s a bit uncertain, but we’ve made lots of advances over the last 30 years and we’re definitely headed in the right direction. Hope that answers the question

    • Photo: Gill Menzies

      Gill Menzies answered on 21 Mar 2012:

      Definately Jack’s question – I’ll focus on some of the other ones 🙂

    • Photo: Akram Alomainy

      Akram Alomainy answered on 21 Mar 2012:

      Great answer Jack 😀

    • Photo: Laurence Harwood

      Laurence Harwood answered on 21 Mar 2012:

      Now this one we really do hand over to the expert…….