There is already plenty of talk about just how technologically advanced we’ve become in this early part of the 21st century, but much of this conversation has revolved around convenience and not necessity.
You see, we continue to push the boundaries in areas such as cell phones and home entertainment, but we haven’t yet solved any number of crises that currently threaten us.
All that seems to be changing this week, however, with one of the most incredible scientific announcements of all time.
The U.S. Department of Energy announced a breakthrough in nuclear fusion on Tuesday that puts the world one step closer to harnessing an abundant energy source free from carbon emissions and long-lived radioactive waste.
U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm confirmed that scientists achieved a reaction that created more energy than was used — known as a net energy gain — at the federally-funded Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
“Last week at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, scientists at the National Ignition Facility achieved fusion ignition,” Sec. Granholm said. “It’s the first time it’s ever been done. … Simply put, this is one of the most impressive scientific feats of the 21st century.”
Such a development carries broad implications for renewable energy and long-term solutions to replace fossil fuels, though the benefits are still decades away.
Just how important could this be?
Experts say that nuclear fusion releases 4 million times more energy than burning oil or coal. Put another way, a pickup truck filled with nuclear fusion fuel has the equivalent energy of 2 million metric tons of coal or 10 million barrels of oil. And it produces that energy without the drawbacks of other sources, namely climate change causing carbon emissions and lasting hazardous waste.
While the advancement is one of the most profound of our lifetimes, patience will be of the utmost importance: Fusion-power in the home or vehicle will likely come to fruition for our grandchildren and not us.