Maastricht Economic and social Research and  training centre on Innovation and Technology

I&T Weekly holiday break
I&T Weekly is taking a holiday break. We will be back on Friday, January 12, 2018 with a fresh selection of innovation and technology news. On behalf of the entire UNU-MERIT team, we wish our readers an excellent 2018!

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All headlines
  • France announces landmark ban on fossil fuel production
  • Extreme laser bursts may lead to practical nuclear fusion
  • Gene editing staves off deafness in mice
  • Integrated circuits could make quantum computers scalable
  • 'Water cloak' uses electromagnetic waves to eliminate turbulence
  • Cold cigarette lighter will power satellite
  • Extreme laser bursts may lead to practical nuclear fusion
    Achieving nuclear fusion without needing radioactive fuel or producing radioactive waste is now within reach thanks to a new laser-driven technique, according to researchers.

    Hydrogen-boron fusion produces no neutrons and therefore no radioactivity in its primary reaction. The downside is that it needs temperatures 200 times hotter than the core of the Sun to work properly. Now an international team of scientists has come up with a method for using super-strength laser bursts to generate those kind of temperatures, compressing the hydrogen and boron nuclei together.

    Fusion reactions have long been promising to give us a clean, limitless source of energy by taking the opposite approach to the nuclear fission reactions. Instead of atoms being split, they're combined together, similar to the reactions that power the Sun, as lighter nuclei are fused to build heavier ones with the help of high temperatures and pressures. However, in practice it's proving very difficult to harness.

    But thanks to recent advances in laser technology the researchers think it might be possible to create an 'avalanche' fusion reaction from a laser beam packing a quadrillion watts of power in just a trillionth of a second. If future research doesn't reveal any major engineering hurdles to this approach, the scientists think that a prototype reactor could be built within a decade.

    The latest research also puts the hydrogen-boron approach ahead of other similar technologies, including deuterium-tritium fusion, which is being explored at the National Ignition Facility in the US and has the drawback of producing radioactive waste.

    Science Alert / Laser and Particle Beams    December 16, 2017