Scientists in the United States have, for a second time in the past 12 months, made a breakthrough in nuclear fusion technology advancement that some believe could help shape the future of energy.
Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory said on Sunday that they were able to achieve “net energy gain” in a fusion reaction, following the first breakthrough in December 2022.
This latest breakthrough happened at the California-based lab on July 30, and the energy yield this time was higher than in December. Scientists are still analyzing the data, according to Reuters.
Net energy gain is the term for when the fusion reactor produced more energy than was used to ignite it, according to the Associated Press. This is a major breakthrough in efforts to creating clean power and other scientific advancements, though no one’s home or car will run on energy produced by fusion anytime soon.
The appeal of nuclear fusion as an energy source is that it can create carbon-free energy on a nearly limitless basis, helping move away from fossil fuel sources that can be bad for the environment and costly. It also doesn’t create radioactive waste like traditional nuclear reactions do.
In December last year, the US Department of Energy said the original nuclear fusion creation of net energy gain was a “major scientific breakthrough.” Nuclear fusion of this type was a plot point of 2004’s Spider-Man 2.
In Spider-Man 2, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock created a fusion reactor that had the lofty goal of creating safe and secure renewable energy. The reactor quickly became unstable and, well, things went badly. Here’s to hoping things go better in real life.
For nuclear fusion, the problem continues to be the ability to safely control it, celebrity scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson has said. Fusion without control creates a bomb, whereas controlled fusion can be throttled and directed where it is needed–in this case, to create energy that is not harmful.
If scientists and engineers can find a way to safely and efficiently create energy with nuclear fusion, it could be “transformative to civilization,” Tyson said. It could be akin to the transition from horses to automobiles, which came about after engineers made advancements to internal combustion and engines, Tyson said.