At 1:00 a.m. on Dec. 5, 2022, a team of scientists, engineers and technicians at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory demonstrated, for the first time, the scientific principle of fusion gain. The team generated 3 million joules of fusion energy from a peppercorn-sized capsule filled with special hydrogen. Compressed by 2 million joules of laser energy, the fuel reached temperature and density conditions far exceeding those at the center of our sun.
This breakthrough, after decades-long efforts, moves a step closer to development of fusion energy — a carbon-free process that powers the stars and our sun. However, making fusion energy practical will require further advances, such as more efficient lasers, ways to design and rapidly field capsules, and efficient methods to capture and convert the energy itself into electrical energy. President Biden’s stated goal to bring fusion energy to the electrical grid within 10 years is possible but not likely without significant investment.
This milestone has been featured in the worldwide press, such as on “60 Minutes.” On Jan. 24, 2023, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm will honor the team, which includes three MIT physicists, one of whom is long-time Lexington resident, Richard D. Petrasso.