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A MAN-MADE STAR TO POWER THE WORLD

December 28, 2008

Scientists plan to ignite tiny man-made star

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The capsule containing the 'fuel' on which laser beams will be concentrated. The aim is to generate temperatures of more than 1,000 million degrees Celsius. Photo: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

It is science’s star experiment: an attempt to create an artificial sun on earth — and provide an answer to the world’s impending energy shortage.

While it has seemed an impossible goal for nearly 100 years, scientists now believe that they are on brink of cracking one of the biggest problems in physics by harnessing the power of nuclear fusion, the reaction that burns at the heart of the sun.

In the spring, a team will begin attempts to ignite a tiny man-made star inside a laboratory and trigger a thermonuclear reaction.

Its goal is to generate temperatures of more than 100 million degrees Celsius and pressures billions of times higher than those found anywhere else on earth, from a speck of fuel little bigger than a pinhead. If successful, the experiment will mark the first step towards building a practical nuclear fusion power station and a source of almost limitless energy.

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