Scientific problems can rarely be solved by the Tim Taylor method of “MORE POWER!”, but when you’re trying to create nuclear fusion, there’s no such thing as big enough. That’s why the National Ignition Facility, which sounds like a special effects house but isn’t, has a laser the length of three football fields, ready to blast the hell out of anything and achieve nuclear fusion.
The beam goes back and forth for a mile before being run through a splitter, turned into 192 individual beams, and fired straight at a big bunch of deuterium and tritium atoms. The resulting reaction will be like a tiny sun, which is to say 100 million degrees Celsius and 100 billion atmospheres of pressure. This is also a small scale experiment, by the way.
The idea is to reduce the scattering of the laser when it hits a big wad of plasma, so that we can have limitless free energy with nuclear fusion, i.e. keeping tiny suns in very well-shielded cans. The tiny suns are also useful for throwing at anybody who makes “Spider Man 2” references, or even starts to say “I’ma firin my lazor!”
[ via GizMag ]