Tammy Ma was just going to get to San Francisco by phone when the phone stopped him. She’s a plasma physicist at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), the world’s largest and powerful laser. By an experiment this week at the laboratory, the fusion discovery has been proved a breakthrough that scientists have been trying to achieve for decades.
I burst into tears and jumped into the waiting room, Ma told reporters on a technical briefing about the achievement in Washington.
For the first time, NIF produced 192 laser beams and absorbed the fuel by a small target. The nuclear force finally achieved a good energy output during the fusion of atoms.
This means that scientists can generate more energy than spent on lasers. By creating thermonuclear reactions in the laboratory, Ma and her colleagues recreate the energy generation process in the stars. In one day, if a long time runs, this can save life with clean energy and hardly in limit.
After achieving success in fusion, the Verge decided to discover further developments. That’s why she interviewed Tammy Ma, who leads the Institutional Initiative for Inertial Fusion at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
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What kind of work would you like to do at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory?
Let’s be honest. We have a set of data collected over the past decade, so we don’t take the new ideas out of light. How do we know how to improve the latest experiment? What are we expecting?
We are working with laser scientists to try and determine the best laser pulses we can use. We must work with materials scientists to produce materials for our purpose. We’re working together with experimenters who must tune all of our diagnostic instruments and accurately pick up the neutron flash. We have some of the fastest X-ray cameras in the world, so we can record what happened in real time. All in all, its a huge team that brings things together.
I’m actually doing a task right now to move on to the next phase of the fusion energy. We were planning on preparing for the fire, so how do we benefit from this great discovery? We’re here.
What was like to hear that your lab was successful?
It was amazing that NIF is open 24/7 and every day we run experiments. And its built on decades of work, right? You are so lucky to be here today. However, there were giants who came before us. And I still don’t know that we fully realized we have achieved that. Don’t worry, this is exciting.
And when can you try to achieve that again?
We will continue to try to repeat the thought, but also improve the future. We are constantly trying to improve the quality of our goals. We have plans to expand the laser power in the future. We have new experimentation every two weeks.
What difficulties must we overcome more?
We must create many basic technologies that will support the fusion power plant in the future. That means cheaper targets which we generate in large volumes of cost and therefore are very reliable and good quality. Lasers are used for high repetition. The NIF fires only once every four and eight hours. But it is assumed that a power plant might have to do fusion 10 times per second or more. So, as you imagine, we have to find a way of speeding things up. It’s a big challenge. Let’s work, but not only with huge team of lab workers, but also with universities and colleges. The private sector has, of course, been engaged. And so, all this experience needs to be brought together and we’ll do that.
USA announces Fusion Energy as one of the most impressive scientific achievements of the 21st Century.