Scientists are to use the world's most powerful laser system to replicate the fiery core of the sun in experiments that may ultimately offer humanity a clean source of energy.
After more than 50 years of experimentation, physicists are hoping to develop the first form of nuclear fusion technology that produces more energy than it consumes.
Within the next two weeks, researchers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Lab in Livermore, Calif., will fire 192 separate laser beams capable of generating 500 trillion watts — 1,000 times the power of the U.S. national grid — for a fraction of a second.
The energy pulse will be concentrated on a tiny pellet of hydrogen in an attempt to mimic the reactions that take place inside the sun.
The scientists hope to refine the process over the next year until they trigger a nuclear reaction capable of producing large amounts of energy.
"We hope the ignition experiments will show that we can generate more power than we put in and that fusion can be the source of a supply of carbon-free energy," said Ed Moses, director of the NIF.