Could we be getting close to nuclear fusion power? We'll find out in a couple of months, when scientists at the U.S. National Ignition Facility fire up their 192 lasers for a nanosecond or two, blasting 1.8 megajoules of ultraviolet energy at a deuterium and tritium target.
As they re-create the conditions at the center of the sun, we could be on our way to a future where today's nagging energy problems are solved. The researchers say the system they've been building for the past twelve years is capable of generating 500 trillion watts, more than the peak capacity of all U.S. power plants combined.
The hitch? They need to make this mind-boggling reaction sustainable beyond just a few nanoseconds. This experimentation might bear fruit in the near future, with the scientists expecting to see "significant results" between 2010 and 2012. Now if they could just fit that power plant into a cell phone.