As per the latest reports, scientists have said that they are close to developing a laser-driven technique to carry on nuclear fission which leaves no radioactive residue behind. Yes, as per the Australian researchers, they have nearly reached the final stages of perfecting a laser-driven technique that could achieve nuclear fusion and generate energy without leaving any toxic radioactive waste.
They say that, with the advancement of powerful and high-intensity lasers, it has now become possible to carry out hydrogen-boron reactions using high-intensity laser beam technology and create fusion energy. An Australian physicist has patented the design and has collaborated with many international scientists to carry on the remaining scientific challenges. For the fusion, the research team led by Heinrich Hora from the University of New South Wales used two powerful lasers in rapid bursts to carry on the hydrogen-boron fusion. These high-intensity lager bursts apply non-linear forces to compress the nuclei together.
Hora and his team claim that their approach of using hydrogen-boron reactions to create fusion energy is the most feasible one and outperforms the current deuterium-tritium fusion approach adopted by the U.S. National Ignition Facility (NIF) and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor under construction in France. “I think this puts our approach ahead of all other fusion energy technologies,” said Hora. In the 1970s, he had predicted that it might be possible to fuse hydrogen and boron without the need for Thermal equilibrium.
According to the study, when hydrogen fuses with boron in a laser-driven fusion reaction, no neutrons are generated, hence, there is no possibility of uncontrolled radioactivity in its primary reaction. Also, the hydrogen-boron fusion gets converted into electricity directly unlike most of the other processes of electricity generation like coal, gas and nuclear power, which depend on heating liquids like water to drive turbines. This indicates that it is one of the most direct forms of energy generation and also the cleanest one and might act as one of the most abundant sources of energy to power human civilization in future.
But the main problem with this laser-catalyzed fusion reaction is that a much higher temperature and density- almost 3 billion degrees Celsius, or 200 times hotter than the core of the Sun- is required for the fusion. Scientists are trying to achieve this through extremely high-power and intense laser beams. Warren McKenzie, managing director of HB11, a spin-off company from Australia with rights to Hora’s patent, informed that if the next few years of research are not able to uncover any major engineering hurdles, then they could have a prototype reactor within a decade. From an engineering perspective, our approach will be a much simpler project because the fuels and waste are safe, the reactor won’t need a heat exchanger and steam turbine generator, and the lasers we need, can be bought off the shelf,” he stated. The recent study was published in the journal Laser and Particle Beams.