Are scientists trying to build another sun?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

sun lab
NIF experiments are controlled by this computer system, which is attached to 60,000 control points like mirrors, lenses, motors, sensors, and cameras.

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) announced earlier this month that their mega-powerful laser system combined the fury of 192 laser beams into one incredible burst of energy. Even though it lasted less than a second, the laser made 350 trillion watts of power! That’s more than the entire US uses at any moment! “We’re working in a place where no human has ever gone before,” said Ed Moses, the principle associate director for NIF and Photon Science. “We’re working on the bleeding edge of [nuclear] fusion.”

Nuclear whaaaa? Allow me to explain. Matter – anything that has mass and takes up space – is made of tiny microscopic elements called “atoms.” Helium is an element, and you can often find it inside balloons.

If you breathe it in, your voice gets all squeaky, but don’t breathe too much in! What your lungs really need is the elemental elixir of life called oxygen. Okay, so back to nuclear fusion. It’s basically the chemical process of welding, or fusing, atoms together! The reaction creates a ton of energy! In fact, it’s how the Sun get’s all it’s glorious power.

Since nuclear fusion produces more energy than it creates, it’s the “perfect power.” The researchers claim this laser test brings them one step closer to harnessing that source of energy. Hopefully, they don’t blow up the Earth in the process!

Featured image courtesy of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.