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Physicists Create Star-Level Nuclear Fusion

Credit: NASA/SDO

Fossil fuel’s got nothing on the heart of the Sun.

Humanity needs a lot of energy, and that need only grows as time goes on. Fossil fuels are hurting us, and we haven’t quite figured out renewable stuff yet, so where are we supposed to get our juice from? Well, have you considered plasma? Plasma is created during nuclear fusion, and has the possibility to power our entire planet endlessly. It also has the power to blow us all up, which is why nuclear fusion experiments aren’t run that often. However, a group of Princeton physicists may have discovered a way to harness the energy of a star without cooking humanity alive.

The nuclear fusion process needs to be able to keep its plasma ten times hotter than the surface of the sun, all while being constantly monitored for impurities that could reduce the amount of energy produced. The physicists discovered that by injecting a layer of boron powder into their fusion facility, the process becomes easier to control and manage. The walls of a fusion facility are made of tungsten, which resists heat, but if plasma interacts directly with tungsten, it cools off and loses power. The boron powder creates an extra layer between the plasma and the tungsten; the tungsten retains its heat-resistant properties, while the plasma can bounce around all it wants without losing heat. As an extra bonus, boron powder is easier and cheaper to produce than the diborane gas that was previously injected, not to mention safer.

It’ll still take a while before we have miniature stars powering the planet, but in lieu of a completely clean source of power, this could be a promising alternative.