UK makes 'stunning' nuclear fusion breakthrough in 'world first' step to limitless energy
A BRITISH start-up has made a major breakthrough in nuclear fusion by using its own unique method to create the process which could one day harness limitless clean energy.
Oxford-based company First Light Fusion (FLF) achieved the stunning reaction using a unique method at its laboratory in Kidlington. The projectile method is reportedly an easier and more efficient technique than other existing approaches to develop what has been referred to develop a fusion reaction. Usually, complex and expensive lasers or magnets are used to generate or maintain the conditions for fusion.
Fusion power can generate electricity by using heat from nuclear fusion reactions, the same process used by stars, leading it to be dubbed a Holy Grail energy source.
FLF’s technique compresses fuel inside a target using what is known as a projectile travelling at rapid speeds.
This managed to create a fusion reaction at a record rate of progress.
The company announced on Twitter: “We are delighted to announce that we have achieved fusion – a world-first with our unique new target technology.”
FLF co-founder and chief executive Dr Nick Hawker said the firm is on an “incredible journey of discovery”.
He even claimed that the company managed to make improvements to the process while results were getting validated by regulators.
The UK Atomic Energy Authority has in fact now independently validated the result.
Dr Hawker said: “It’s a fundamentally new way to go about fusion and it validates our simulations.
“If we can make this core process work, the majority of the rest of the power plant can be built with existing technology.
“So potentially it’s a much more rapid trajectory towards commercial fusion.”
Science Minister George Freeman praised the “trailblazing” company’s triumph on Twitter.
He wrote: “Congratulations to First Light for a stunning achievement: the world’s first fusion validated by the UK Atomic Energy Authority.
Business & Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng also hailed the achievement.
He said: “First Light Fusion’s British-born technology could potentially revolutionise power production in the coming decades.
“That is why this government is investing in UK science and innovation, ensuring that we remain at the forefront of the global scientific endeavour to make safe, clean, limitless fusion energy a reality.
The company is now aiming to develop more nuclear fusion experiments.
This includes getting to the bottom of the currently unresolved challenge of nuclear fusion, which is how to produce more energy than it uses to create the reaction.
A key ambition is to build 150-megawatt pilot power plant in the 2030s.
It is partnering up with Swiss bank UBS to help develop the plant.
Professor Yiannis Ventikos, co-founder of First Light Fusion and head of UCL’s mechanical engineering department, said: “This pursuit of practical and affordable fusion will give us the clean and abundant baseload power that we so desperately need in our effort to address - and hopefully reverse - global warming.”
This comes after scientists at the UK’s Joint European Torus (JET) laboratory broke their own record by smashing together two forms of hydrogen.
The experiments produced 59 megajoules of energy over five seconds – double what was previously achieved in 1997.
It was also hailed as a major breakthrough in the quest to develop nuclear fusion.