Nuclear fusion is the holy grail of energy production. If cracked, the tech could provide us with unlimited clean and cheap energy. But cracking it has been hard to do so far. Many have announced breakthroughs in the field, there's even a supposed race to crack nuclear fusion, and yet the field never seems to advance in a substantial way.
Now, Chinese scientists in Shanghai have been working on a project to replicate the sun’s energy process with a comparatively low-cost approach and, after a year of experiments, the technique has shown promise, according to the South China Morning Post.
“Our goal is to achieve sustainable fusion,” project lead Zhang Zhe from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Physics in Beijing said in a phone interview to SCMP.
What does this new process consist of? The scientists are firing powerful laser beam pulses at a tiny pair of gold cones with narrow ends which face each other and emit a plasma of hydrogen. The collision of these two hot gas streams achieved at precisely the right time and place, and in the right manner, could result in nuclear fusion.
How will this project be adapted for power generation? Well, according to Zhe “the cones can be mass-produced and loaded as bullets in a machine that will rotate and fire like a Gatling gun."
Three relatively successful tests have been conducted thus far by Zhe's team and another is scheduled for next month. And although the work has not been without its fair share of challenges, initial results indicate the theory works.
“We are making progress one step at a time," Zhe concluded. Could his team actually be the one who wins the nuclear reaction race? Only time will tell.
The team's results thus far have been published in the domestic peer-reviewed journal Acta Physica Sinica.