A nuclear fusion laser experiment yielded positive results last month, with U.S. researchers passing a milestone in achieving self-sustaining nuclear fusion. However, due to the government shutdown, the fusion last experiment was not revealed until this week.
The BBC reported that the researchers are harnessing fusion by using lasers, adding that until recently, the process has not been viable because fusion power plants consume more power than they produce.
The National Ignition Facility (NIF) used 192 beams from a powerful laser to compress and heat a small pellet of hydrogen fuel, causing a fusion reaction.
LiveScience.com reported that the experiment allowed a boron atom to fuse with a hydrogen nucleus, producing alpha particles, which can be converted to energy plants can use.
“This is really the Holy Grail,” said study co-author Christine Labaune of the experiment, according to CBS.
Scientists hope to try and use fusion power as a source of clean and sustainable energy.
The Telegraph reported that the news of the experiment was discovered when an internal e-mail was circulated among researchers two days before the government shutdown began.
“The self-generated energy of this target exceeded the input energy of the imploding fuel,” reads the email.
Dr. Chris Edwards, the project director of the European High Power laser Energy Research Facility, told the Telegraph that the discovery is significant.
“This is a very significant milestone on the road to achieving laser fusion. While much remains to be done, the world desperately needs a new clean safe energy source, and this step takes us closer to that goal,” he said.