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A team of scientists in Australia claims they've engineered a new radical form of nuclear fusion reactor technology, for which they've secured patents, reports New Atlas.
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A novel approach to nuclear fusion
Called Startup HB11, the project came out of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and has so far received patents in the U.S., China, and Japan.
The company uses advanced lasers to trigger nuclear fusion in hydrogen and boron, and ostensibly uses no radioactive fuel. The secret, they say, lies in the cutting-edge nature of their laser, and a fair amount of luck.
In a counter-intuitive way, the laser doesn't heat the materials. It instead increases the speed of hydrogen until it (by chance) collides with the boron, and begins a reaction.
"You could say we're using the hydrogen as a dart, and hoping to hit a boron, and if we hit one, we can start a fusion reaction," Warren McKenzie, managing director of the project, told New Atlas. He added that HB11's approach is "more precise" than previous designs, which use heat to approach a fusion reaction. In a heat-fueled reaction, materials are heated to increase their chances of colliding (via increased kinetic energy).
A new source of energy production
When a hydrogen particle chances upon fusion with a boron particle, the reaction flings helium atoms — without electrons — with a positive charge.
This charge is the source of electricity.
The general theory behind this idea was developed by UNSW emeritus professor Heinrich Hora, who said in a statement that he's investigated "a laser-boron fusion approach for over four decades at UNSW."
You could say, it's his life's work.
And if the practice of nuclear fusion matches Hora's theory, then these patents could one day serve as a prologue to a brave new world of energy production, one where — without the dangers of radiation or extreme levels of heat — even private households could one day have their very own nuclear fusion generator.