A recent test by researchers at the Joint European Torus (JET) has advanced the possibilities for fusion energy. In their latest experiment, the scientists set a new record for the amount of energy released in a sustained fusion reaction.

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In the experiment, the scientists generated 59 megajoules of heat, the equivalent of 14kg of TNT, in a five-second burst of fusion. The heat generated in this experiment more than doubled the previously held record of 21.7 megajoules. The earlier record was set in 1997 by the same facility. Over the years, researchers have attempted to increase fusion output and make fusion energy a reality.

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The new record comes after two decades of tests and fusion technology refinement at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. Many view the results as a significant step toward producing fusion energy at a commercial level.

Fusion is the process through which the sun and other stars produce their energy. Through fusion, huge amounts of energy can be produced in a short time. This happens when atomic nuclei fuse at extremely high temperatures. The feat has been difficult to achieve on Earth due to the energy required to fuse atoms. In space, fusion happens at much lower temperatures due to gravity differences.

“These landmark results have taken us a huge step closer to conquering one of the biggest scientific and engineering challenges of them all,” said Professor Ian Chapman, chief executive of the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority. “It’s clear we must make significant changes to address the effects of climate change, and fusion offers so much potential.”

Scientists fuse atomic substances in the doughnut-shaped JET, built to sustain highly ionized gases heated up to 150 degrees Celcius. These temperatures are up to 10 times hotter than the center of the sun.

The latest results support Iter, a larger fusion facility being built in South France and scheduled to start burning fuel by 2035. Fusion energy is a promising avenue as the world turns away from high-carbon energy sources.

Via The Guardian

Lead image via UKAEA