According to scientists at a government lab in Livermore, CA, all we need to do in order to save our planet from its energy woes is create a star right here on Earth. It’s that simple! All joking aside, researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are 100% serious and believe they’ve come up with a way to use the world’s largest laser (it’s about 3 football fields long) to trigger a nuclear reaction so powerful that it will make a star form right on the surface of the Earth. We’ve written about the laser itself before, but read on to learn more about how they intend create the mini-star and solve our power issues with near limitless energy.
What the scientists are proposing is a form of nuclear fusion – a miracle power solution that has been attempted many times in the past. All that have tried, however, have failed, so many in the scientific community have reason to believe that this new attempt won’t be any different. The team at Livermore is optimistic though. Bruno Van Wonterghem, a manager of the project told CNN, “We have a very high confidence that we will be able to ignite the target within the next two years,” [thus proving that controlled fusion is possible. That would put the lab a step closer to] “our big dream, which is to solve the energy problems of the world.”
All that seems fine and dandy, but how does one go about building a star? First, build the largest laser in the world, and then split this humongous laser into 192 beams. Then, aim all of them at a single point that’s about the size of a BB pellet coated with deuterium and tritium (two reactive isotopes of hydrogen that can be extracted from seawater). Make sure to surround those atoms with a gold capsule that’s smaller than a thimble. Lastly, the fun part – fire the laser! If the whole Earth doesn’t implode (we’re just kidding, according to Lynda Seaver, a spokesperson for the project, there is no danger to the public), the resulting reaction will be more than 100 million degrees Celsius (hotter than the center of the sun) and will exert more pressure than 100 billion atmospheres. Then hydrogen isotopes will band together with so much force and heat that their nuclei will fuse, creating energy which, as you can imagine, will be plentiful enough to supply abundant power.
How soon will this mini-star be a reality? The Livermore team claims that it will be possible as early as this summer but the U.S. Government Accountability Office released an audit of the lab this month citing hold-ups and mismanagement and basically saying that it is unlikely the scientists will create a fusion reaction this year. While we’re still skeptical that this extremely ambitious plan will work, we think the amount of money and time being poured into the project does add credibility to the fact that we can’t play around about our energy problems anymore. We need to bring out the big guns – uh, lasers, now.
+ Lawrence Livermore Laboratory