Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lasers to Create 'Miniature Sun' in Hunt for Clean Energy

Scientists have forever wondered about the power of the sun, and how we can harness its power.  It seems as though we may be closer than ever to achieving this feat.  At the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore, California, scientists have developed a laser that concentrates 1000 times the electric generating power of the entire United States into one billionth of a second.  The scientists that are in charge of the experiment are planning on firing 192 separate lasers at a tiny pellet of hydrogen only slightly larger than the head of a pin.  The goal is an explosion in the 32-foot wide chamber that will hopefully produce at least 10 times the amount of energy used to create it.  

The ultimate goal of this project is to harness the power of the sun and recreate the conditions that exist indie of it.  However, in order to accomplish this goal, the laser must be sent through almost a mile of lenses, mirrors, and amplifiers in so that it can amplify the beam to 10 billion times more powerful than a household lightbulb.  The hope behind this endeavor is that the ability to create this massive amount of energy will create a cleaner source of energy that will alleviate many social, economic, and global problems.  The attempts to get the power of nuclear fusion goes back all the way to 1905 to Albert Einstein's E=mc squared equation.  The only places that have been able to create nuclear fusion-esque environments are nuclear weapons and in highly unstable plasmas in strong magnetic fields.  The scientists at NIF are impatient to get this project completed as fast they possibly can.  

I think that the implications of this are extremely important for the future of the world as a whole.  The creation of fusion power would essentially produce a way for there to be a self-sustaining energy form that can power so many other things as well.  I think that this could potentially be a really important revelation for our world.  The notion that man could achieve the power of the sun is something that I never would have dreamed possible.  It is, however, something that must be approached with a great deal of caution.  This sort of "amplified laser" sounds like something straight out of a James Bond movie to be used as a weapon against the world.  I just think that this power must be used responsibly.  In addition to this, I could potentially see this as a potential target for a future terrorist attack.  The explosive power of these facilities is something that would probably take out a fairly large radius.  In the end I think that this, if successful, will usher in a new age of energy management.



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