For quite some time, nuclear fusion has been widely regarded as the “holy grail” of clean energy production.
Nuclear fusion, a process that the sun has used for billions of years to fuse atoms of hydrogen into atoms of helium, may just be the solution to green energy that we have been waiting for.
If able to engineer nuclear fusion, reactors would virtually be able to provide unlimited clean energy – and the technology to achieve this seems to be just around the corner.
Google and nuclear fusion company Tri Alpha Energy, have recently developed a new computer algorithm which has significantly speeded up experiments on plasmas, the ultra-hot balls of gas at the heart of the energy technology.
The significance behind this promising technology is to create more energy from the fusion of hydrogen and helium atoms than was needed to create the reaction in the first place.
Achieving this “breakeven” point would be a “technological breakthrough, and could provide an abundant source of zero-carbon energy.”
As early as the 1950s, various companies have been trying to achieve this, but now Google and Tri Alpha Energy are taking on a different approach.
Tri Alpha Energy uses a unique scheme for plasma confinement called a field-reversed configuration that’s predicted to get more stable as the energy goes up, unlike other methods where plasmas get harder to control as you heat them.
Google regards Tri Alpha’s ionized plasma machine to be a “high-stakes optimisation problem” which the Mountain View’s Accelerated Science Team can aid in.
The hurdle is dealing with both equipment constraints and plasma performance, where conventional simulations do not apply and where “the whole thing is beyond what we know how to do even with Google-scale compute resources.”
As a result, Google Research has built what it calls an “Optometrist” algorithm that provides scientists with “machine settings and the associated outcomes.” In relation, human input can be used to measure the more promising candidates for further testing.
This algorithm will allow the plasma machine to function faster, from a month to just a couple hours according to the Guardian. The result is a 50% reduction in energy loss and an increase in total plasma energy.
Advances in efficiency from data scouring processes such as Google and Tri Alpha’s “Optometrist Algorithms,” means there is a possibility we could actually see an energy-positive fusion reactor constructed in the near future.
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Image source: Popular mechanics