RICHLAND, Wash. — On Tuesday, the US Department of Energy announced the incredible discovery made at a Livermore, California lab.
“Fusion is when you take two atoms and you converge them into one atom – that’s different than forming a molecule which is a much lower energy process, forming a new atom out of two separate atoms releases a tremendous amount of energy,” Lewis Terminello with the Pacific National Laboratory in Richland, Washington said.
Terminello is an Associate Lab Director at PNNL; he called the latest discovery a milestone.
“Achieving this milestone where they got more energy out from the laser energy that they put into fusing these atoms into single atoms is actually, has the potential of a way of producing cleaner energy in the future,” he said.
US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm made the official announcement this afternoon.
Granholm said it’s an effort that’s 60 years in the making.
Terminello worked at the Livermore Lab in California for 18 years and said it’s exciting to know his former colleagues are on the frontier of this discovery.
“This has been in the works for a very long time, and they have been dedicated for decades in trying to achieve the conditions necessary for fusing atoms into single atoms,” he said.
The lab in California used one method to get this energy net gain, instead of breaking even.
Terminello says many labs and private entities have been attempting to get the same result with a different approach.
While the discovery was made thousands of miles away, it does have an effect on other labs like PNNL.
“We’re focused on the new materials that you’d have to create to sustain the apparatus for being able to create the conditions for achieving fusion,” Terminello said.
And, on the topic of clean energy, the scientist said it could be decades before fusion is used or replaces fossil fuels.
“We’re a long way away from being able to achieve a power plant that relies on fusion energy. The technology needed for developing a power plant of the future is going to rely on other technologies that probably still have to be invented.”
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