An international team of researchers working from the University of South Wales in Sydney, Australia is developing a technique using a new generation of lasers to create fusion without the need for fuel elements that leave radioactive waste. This bold idea of laser fusion will produce “absolutely clean energy” and can be achieved within the next decade.
Led by theoretical physics emeritus professor Heinrich Hora, his international team of physicists is working on these high-intensity lasers producing more power than ever before—that it will make it viable to create fusion energy with hydrogen-boron reactions.
Laser Fusion and the Australian Team Working on the Project
Hora and his international team believe that the path to fusion via hydrogen-boron is closer to reality and appears to be more promising than the other approaches, including the deuterium-tritium fueled fusion being pursued by the French International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor and the U.S. National Ignition Facility. The Australian approach would require extreme temperatures of about 200 times the temperature of the core of the sun—which has been difficult to achieve until now. The team believes that advances in laser technology would make it possible.
Hora’s team is convinced that their approach in laser fusion is ahead of all the current technologies pursuing fusion energy. It was Hora who made the prediction in the 1970s that it is possible to fuse hydrogen and boron without thermal equilibrium. In his theory, instead of heating the fuel to the sun’s temperature through the use of high-strength magnets that will control the superhot plasma in the toroidal chamber, using hydrogen-boron could be achieved with two powerful bursts of laser in rapid succession. The laser bursts will apply precision non-linear forces that compress the nuclei together.
The difference between hydrogen-boron fusion from other laser fusion approaches is that it does not produce neutrons—which means that radioactivity does not escape in this reaction. This approach generates energy that converts directly into electricity, unlike the other energy production sources, including nuclear fission, coal and gas that rely on heated liquids to drive the turbines. The main problem with hydrogen-boron fusion approach is the need for high temperatures that may reach about 3 billion degrees celsius.
New developments in laser technology have made it closer to the development of a dual laser approach. A series of experiments from around the globe have demonstrated that an “avalanche” fusion may be triggered in a trillionth/second blast by a petawatt level laser pulse, with fleeting bursts that pack quadrillion watts of energy. The ensuing fusion is achievable once scientists are able to utilize this avalanche. This type of reaction has been confirmed by simulations, parallel tests, and experiments that Hora and his colleagues from six nations conducted.
HB11, an Australian company holding Hora’s patents, believes that if the forthcoming research will not run into any unforeseen major engineering problems, they could build a prototype reaction within the next 10 years.
What makes the approach simpler is the fact that the fuel used and resulting waste products are safe, and there is no need for a turbine generator and heat exchanger, with the lasers readily available.
This bold idea of laser fusion could result in a safer and more viable energy source for decades to come. The race for clean energy is truly on.