NASA scientists have discovered another possible way to make nuclear fusion happen.
Not to be confused with nuclear fission (which would be bad) – nuclear fusion is a chemical reaction in which two atomic nuclei fuse and become one. Researchers have discovered that small-scale nuclear fusion happens during a process called lattice confinement. During this process, the nuclear fuel in a solid metal finds its way to the empty atomic area.
When that happens, the atoms start to short characteristics needed for fusion to begin.
What makes NASA’s discovery of lattice confinement fusion so unique is that it suggests that nuclear fusion could be expanded to a larger, commercial-scale. Unlike previously known methods of nuclear fusion, lattice confinement fusion does not need atoms to undergo extreme heat or cold in order to work. This makes it both safer and more viable than magnetic fusion, which requires sun-level temperatures to work.
Because the metal lattice used actually helps condense the atoms so tightly, it naturally creates the conditions needed for fusion. Here’s the rundown from the researchers themselves:
“In the new method, conditions sufficient for fusion are created in the confines of the metal lattice that is held at ambient temperature.
While the metal lattice, loaded with deuterium fuel, may initially appear to be at room temperature, the new method creates an energetic environment inside the lattice where individual atoms achieve equivalent fusion-level kinetic energies.”
Here’s more from NASA”
Lattice confinement fusion could be a game changer in the energy industry. However, there are a few missing steps before NASA can investigate the process on a bigger scale.
There’s a huge difference between having the conditions of fusion and actual fusion itself.
NASA’s LCF team at Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio needs to bridge that gap before coming to any conclusions.
As it stands, there isn’t a concrete solution to our 21st-century energy problems. All we have are a handful of ideas, but some ideas are better than none at all.
It’s possible that lattice confinement could be the Hail Mary of nuclear fusion ideas. Until we have more data, though, that all remains to be seen.
Luckily, we have the genius-level folks at NASA to do all that heavy-lifting for us.
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