Laser-driven technique for creating fusion could be possible within a decade say experts

A laser-driven technique for creating fusion that obviates the need for radioactive fuel elements and leaves no toxic radioactive waste is now within reach, according to researchers.

Dramatic advances in powerful, high-intensity lasers now make it possible for scientists to pursue what was once thought impossible: creating fusion energy based on hydrogen-boron reactions.

The effort is being led by an Australian physicist, who has patented the design and is working with international collaborators on the remaining scientific challenges.

According to a paper by lead author Heinrich Hora from the University of New South Wales in Sydney and international colleagues, the path to hydrogen-boron fusion is now viable, and may be closer to realisation than other approaches, such as the deuterium-tritium fusion approach being pursued by US National Ignition Facility (NIF) and the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor under construction in France.

"I think this puts our approach ahead of all other fusion energy technologies," said Hora, www.phys.org reported. Hora had predicted in the 1970s that fusion of hydrogen and boron might be possible without the need for thermal equilibrium. In hydrogen-boron fusion, two powerful lasers are used in rapid bursts, which apply precise non-linear forces to compress the nucleii together as against heat fuel to the temperature of the Sun using massive, high-strength magnets to control superhot plasmas inside a doughnut-shaped toroidal chamber (as in ITER).

According to the team of scientists, the process could make for an 'absolutely clean power reactor' that produces energy at low costs.

Experts at the Australian firm HB11, who hold the patent for Hora's approach, say a reactor could come to life in a matter of years.

"If the next few years of research don't uncover any major engineering hurdles, we could have a prototype reactor within a decade," the Daily Mail quoted Warren McKenzie, managing director of HB11, .co.uk, as saying.