It takes just a drop of hydrogen and a series of powerful laser blasts to light the spark for a tiny thermonuclear blast. If successful, this process could potentially solve the world’s energy needs. Multiple start-up companies are currently exploring this concept.
The Fusion Industry Association’s CEO, Andrew Holland, has noticed rapid growth in the industry. Previously, laser fusion was primarily researched in large and expensive government-run projects until the National Ignition Facility (NIF) finally achieved ignition. The NIF at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory was designed to help verify nuclear explosion simulations and explore the possibilities of clean energy sources.
Government-run research has been joined by numerous laser fusion programs, including those at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington and the Laboratory for Laser Energetics at the University of Rochester. These programs are currently testing various laser fusion concepts on a smaller scale.
Private companies are also investing in laser fusion research to tackle the technological challenges surrounding NIF’s achievements. These companies vary in their approach, with Longview Fusion Energy Systems opting to directly replicate NIF’s methods using updated components. However, the method used by NIF, known as indirect drive, may not be the future of laser fusion. Some are advocating for direct drive, a more efficient method that utilizes lasers to directly implode hydrogen pellets.
These recent innovations have convinced investors of the reality of laser fusion as a source of clean energy. The success of NIF has provided confidence in the development of laser fusion and may accelerate the process of bringing it to the market.