The decades-old dream of many scientists and science fiction writers may come true at some point over the next decade. Researchers at MIT and a startup spun out of MIT are working on a nuclear fusion experiment, which they are fairly certain will achieve its goal of creating a hot burning plasma to produce for the first time ever fusion energy more than the energy consumed to generate that fusion energy.
Nuclear fusion has long been considered the answer to zero-emission by-product-free energy generation. However, no one has cracked the nuclear fusion code yet because of the challenges associated with the environment in which the process could take place.
Fusion is the natural process that heats the Sun and all other stars, in which a huge amount of energy is produced by the fusion of light atoms, such as those in hydrogen, into heavier elements like helium.
Although this type of energy production has been long recognized as totally carbon- and by-product-free and the source atoms in hydrogen are abundant on Earth, replicating fusion energy generation on Earth has been a challenge. That's because this fusion needs to take place at extremely high temperatures that create hot plasma, and because researchers have struggled to obtain more energy from those plasmas than the energy input to run them.