Fusion result from National Ignition Facility: U-M experts available to comment

December 13, 2022

Media reports suggest that the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has achieved fusion ignition, with the energy produced by a fusion experiment exceeding the amount of energy in the laser light used to compress the fuel capsule. This finding is expected to be officially announced tomorrow, Dec. 13.

Fusion is the process that powers the sun. Two hydrogen atoms combine to form helium, releasing energy. Experiments at the National Ignition Facility typically use deuterium and tritium, “heavy” forms of hydrogen that can be harvested from seawater. These are placed in a capsule, which is crushed by the high-powered lasers.

If it can be made sustainable on Earth, fusion could provide abundant emissions-free energy without long term radioactive waste. University of Michigan experts are available to comment on the finding.

Carolyn Kuranz, associate professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, studies the high energy density plasmas produced in laser-induced fusion experiments and runs experiments at laser facilities like the National Ignition Facility.

“If the result matches preliminary reports in the media, the National Ignition Facility has made a major scientific breakthrough by demonstrating fusion ignition in the laboratory,” she said. “There still remain many scientific and technological challenges before we can create power via fusion energy, but this is a remarkable advancement in that pursuit.”

Contact: ckuranz@umich.edu, 734-615-6282

Ryan McBride, professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, studies mechanisms that can be used to compress nuclear fusion fuel.

“We will know more tomorrow, after the official announcement, but if the preliminary reports in the media are true, then this is a really big deal, because it would mean that the National Ignition Facility has now met all criteria for having achieved fusion ignition in the laboratory,” he said. “This would be a fantastic scientific achievement.”

Contact: mcbrider@umich.edu, 734-763-7504

Marcelle Soares-Santos is an assistant professor of physics whose research focuses on uncovering the nature of the accelerated expansion of the cosmos. She contributed to the construction of the Dark Energy Camera, one of the largest telescope cameras in the world, which she now employs to search for gravitational wave-emitting collisions of neutron stars and black holes. 

Contact: 734-717-9814, mssantos@umich.edu