Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Seeing where energy goes may bring scientists closer to realizing nuclear fusion

18.01.2016

An international team of researchers has taken a step toward achieving controlled nuclear fusion--a process that powers the Sun and other stars, and has the potential to supply the world with limitless, clean energy.

The team, led by scientists and engineers at the University of California, San Diego and General Atomics, developed a new technique to "see" where energy is delivered during a process called fast ignition, which is an approach to initiate nuclear fusion reactions using a high-intensity laser.


Visualization of energy flow in fast ignition experiments is made possible by the use of copper tracers and a high-tech X-ray imaging system.

Credit: High Energy Density Physics Group, UC San Diego

Visualizing the energy flow enabled researchers to test different ways to improve energy delivery to the fuel target in their experiments. The researchers published their findings online in the Jan. 11 issue of the journal Nature Physics.

Fast ignition involves two stages to start nuclear fusion. First, hundreds of lasers compress the fusion fuel (typically a mix of deuterium and tritium contained in a spherical plastic fuel capsule) to high density. Then, a high-intensity laser delivers energy to rapidly heat (ignite) the compressed fuel. Scientists consider fast ignition a promising approach toward controlled nuclear fusion because it requires less energy than other approaches.

But in order for fast ignition to succeed, scientists need to overcome a big hurdle: how to direct energy from the high-intensity laser into the densest region of the fuel. "This has been a major research challenge since the idea of fast ignition was proposed," said Farhat Beg, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of the Center for Energy Research at UC San Diego.

To tackle this problem, the team devised a way to see, for the first time, where energy travels when the high-intensity laser hits the fuel target. The technique relies on the use of copper tracers inside the fuel capsule. When the high-intensity laser beam is directed at the compressed fuel target, it generates high-energy electrons that hit the copper tracers and cause them to emit X-rays that scientists can image.

"Before we developed this technique, it was as if we were looking in the dark. Now, we can better understand where energy is being deposited so we can investigate new experimental designs to improve delivery of energy to the fuel," said Christopher McGuffey, assistant project scientist in Beg's High Energy Density Physics Group at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and co-author on the paper.

And that's what the team did. After experimenting with different fuel target designs and laser configurations, researchers eventually achieved a record high (up to 7 percent) efficiency of energy delivery from the high-intensity laser to the fuel. This result demonstrates an improvement on efficiency by about a factor of four compared to previous fast ignition experiments, researchers said.

Computer simulations also predicted an energy delivery efficiency as high as 15 percent if the experimental design was scaled up. But this prediction still needs to be tested experimentally, said Beg. "We hope this work opens the door to future attempts to improve fast ignition."

###

The study was a collaborative effort involving researchers from UC San Diego, General Atomics, the University of Rochester, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Japan's Osaka University, France's University of Bordeaux and the University of Nevada, Reno. Charlie Jarrott, the first author on the paper, conducted this research as a Ph.D. student in Beg's High Energy Density Physics Group at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. He is now a postdoctoral research staff member at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Full paper: "Visualizing fast electron energy transport into laser-compressed high-density fast-ignition targets" published Jan. 11 in Nature Physics.

The work was supported by the US Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Agency under the National Laser User Facility programme (award # DE-NA0000854, DE-NA0002033), the OFES Fusion Science Center (grant # DE-FC02-04ER54789), an OFES ACE Fast Ignition grant (DE-FG02-95ER54839), and NNSA cooperative agreement (DE-NA0001944).

Media Contact

Liezel Labios
llabios@ucsd.edu
858-246-1124

 @UCSanDiego

http://www.ucsd.edu 

Liezel Labios | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Atomics Nature Physics high-intensity laser nuclear fusion

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Robot on demand: Mobile machining of aircraft components with high precision
06.12.2016 | Fraunhofer IFAM

nachricht IHP presents the fastest silicon-based transistor in the world
05.12.2016 | IHP - Leibniz-Institut für innovative Mikroelektronik

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling

07.12.2016 | Life Sciences

How to turn white fat brown

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>