Reproducing the power of the sun on Earth is no easy task, but an international team of physicists based in Europe is now preparing to give it a go.
If their attempt to develop nuclear fusion works, it could provide a limitless and clean source of energy that promises to end reliance on the fossil fuels that are causing global warming.
The consortium, led by Mike Dunne of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxford, UK, hopes to develop commercial nuclear fusion using lasers to crush together isotopes of hydrogen – deuterium and tritium – to create helium. This releases neutrons and huge amounts of energy.
The European Commission gave approval in July for the High Power Laser Energy Research (HiPER) facility. Last week, negotiations began to establish where the facility will be located, how the £500-million project will be funded and what technical options to pursue.
“This project is now going ahead,” says Dunne. “It’s just a matter of working out the detail.” Dunne leads a consortium of scientists from 15 nations, which hopes to begin construction of the facility in 2011.