It may be an American project, but it has the potential to greatly affect not only the EU, but the entire planet. Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory believe they have come up with a way to permanently cure the planet's energy woes - to create a star on Earth.
Now immediately, the entire plan sounds like 'science-fiction gone mad' and throws up some rather important questions - how can you create a star on Earth? Won't having a sun so close essentially toast the planet? And how is this possibly a good idea? However the scientists at the government lab in California are entirely serious.
Large scale nuclear fusion
Using the world's largest laser, which is the size of three football fields, the scientists propose to "set off a nuclear reaction so intense that it will make a star bloom on the surface of the Earth."
If that didn't sound terrifying enough, the group are hoping to go ahead with the plan late this summer with the aim of harnessing the energy generated by the mini-star to solve the global energy crisis.
While nuclear fusion has been pitched as a 'miracle power source' for almost half a century, scientists have yet to sufficiently harness it. To make things worse for the team, the US Government Accountability Office has stated in an audit that delays and mismanagement may delay the fusion reaction this year.
However the team at Livermore is confident that they'll get the go-ahead soon. Speaking to CNN, Bruno Van Wonterghem, a manager of the project said, "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."
But how does one actually build a star with a super laser?
Building a star
Using the super laser, the plan is to split the beam into 192 beams, and aim them all at a single point the size of a BB. This tiny target is coated with deuterium and tritium, two reactive isotopes of hydrogen that can be extracted from seawater, and then surrounded by a gold capsule that is "smaller than a thimble".
The laser is then fired and, if all goes to plan, the reaction will will be hotter than the center of the sun (more than 100 million degrees Celsius) and will exert more pressure than 100 billion atmospheres.
Then hydrogen isotopes are then smashed together with so much force and heat that their nuclei will fuse, thus creating a plentiful and abundant energy supply... in theory.
Video clip from the BBC's Horizon - "Can We Make A Star On Earth?"
Of course while it seems like a genius idea, there are certain safety questions, however Lynda Seaver, the spokeswoman for the project, is keen to stress there is no danger as the reaction is controlled and not explosive as you'd find in nuclear weapon.
"There's no danger to the public," Lynda Seaver said. "The worst possible mishap is, it doesn't work."
And radiation? Never fear! The reaction chamber is surrounded by concrete walls more than six and a half feet thick to prevent neutrons escaping.
Despite the fact that the reaction will "even exceed the conditions at the center of the sun," Van Wonterghem said, the controlled fusion is expected to be incredibly small and short-lived.
So, the power of the future or an idea plucked straight out of Star Trek?
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