Ignition is a key process that amplifies the energy output from nuclear fusion and could provide clean energy and answer some huge physics questions.
A new experiment appears to have triggered ignition for the first time, at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US, recreating the extreme temperatures and pressures found at the heart of the Sun.
This has produced more energy than any previous inertial confinement fusion experiment, and proves ignition is possible, paving the way for reactions that produce more energy than they need to get started.
Imperial College London physicists are already helping to analyse the data from the successful experiment, which was conducted on 8 August 2021. Imperial has also produced more than 30 PhD students that have gone on to work at the NIF. The College retains strong links with the facility, and others throughout the world, through the Centre for Inertial Fusion Studies (CIFS).
Co-director of the Centre for Inertial Fusion Studies at Imperial, Professor Jeremy Chittenden, said: “Demonstration of ignition has been a major scientific grand challenge since the idea was first published almost 50 years ago. It was the principal reason for the construction of NIF and has been its primary objective for over a decade.