TU Physics Professor Sheds Light On Nuclear Fusion Breakthrough

A breakthrough in the science of nuclear fusion could change how we produce electricity and fuel. A professor at TU explains how it's an important but small step.

Tuesday, December 13th 2022, 6:25 pm



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Scientists are one step closer to harnessing the energy source of the sun and stars to power our world. A breakthrough in the science of nuclear fusion could change how we produce electricity and fuel.

Scientists said it will probably be decades before we might use this energy in everyday life. The chair of the University of Tulsa’s physics department said while this is an important step, it is still a small one.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced Tuesday that for the first time in world history, scientists working in a lab created more energy from fusion reactions than the energy used to start the process.

It is a moment in science that took decades to reach.

"Simply put, this is one of the most impressive scientific feats of the 21st Century,” Granholm said.

But University of Tulsa professor and physics department chair Dr. Scott Holmstrom said it is important to note that does not include all of the energy that was used to run the lasers to make the moment possible.

"They're just comparing it to the amount of laser light,” he said. “So it took many hundreds of time more energy to power those lasers and to get everything set up. So that's why it's sort of -- it is a step. Ok, but it's not this amazing, unbelievable, 'We're there' kind of step. It is a necessary and important step in this journey."

Dr. Holmstrom compares this breakthrough to the discovery of the lithium-ion battery.

"And that was in '85, now, fast forward many, many, several decades later and now we can buy electric cars as a result,” he said.

The federal government said if fusion energy is advanced, it could eventually be used to produce clean electricity and fuel. Dr. Holmstrom said that could relieve some pressure on one of Oklahoma's key industries.

"There's a lot of pressure on the petroleum industry to transition, so I think having multiple routes toward relieving ourselves from being dependent on fossil fuels is an important one,” Dr. Holmstrom said.

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