Nuclear fusion, like flying cars, is one of those transparent, dangling carrots that’ve been stymying the scientific community and tickling our collective noses for decades. But recent research out of the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory might help us inch a few baby steps closer to that Jetsonian future. The experiment, conducted by a group of Oxford University scientists, utilized the DOE’s Linac Coherent Light Source — an X-ray laser capable of pulsing «more than a billion times brighter» than current synchrotron sources — to transmute a piece of aluminum foil heated to 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit (or 2 million degrees Celsius) into a cube of solid plasma. So, why go to such lengths to fry a tiny piece of metal at that extreme temperature? Simple: to replicate conditions found within stars and planets. Alright, so it’s not that easy and we’re still a ways off from actually duping celestial bodies, but the findings could help advance theories in the field and eventually unlock the powers of the Sun. Until that fateful day arrives, however, we’ll just have to let these pedigreed pyros continue to play with their high-tech toys.
X-ray laser bakes solid plasma from aluminum foil, brings us closer to nuclear fusion