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Hohlraum geometry with a capsule inside through the cut-away of the hohlraum wall.

An H-bomb fuel capsule (orange orb) contained in a gold-plated, hollow pill called a hohlraum (silver cylinder) is hit with laser beams to create fusion energy.

PHOTOGRAPH BY DR. EDDIE DEWALD, LAWRENCE LIVERMORE NATIONAL LABORATORY

Dan Vergano

National Geographic

Published February 12, 2014

Energy researchers report a tenfold increase in power from laser fusion experiments in a study released Wednesday, a step closer to someday bottling the power of the sun.

The report from the U.S. Department of Energy's $3.5 billion National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore (California) National Laboratory comes after a decade of disappointments. (See: "Fusion Energy Quest Faces Boundaries of Budget, Science.")

The report offers encouragement to long-frustrated efforts to harness fusion, which provides the punch in hydrogen bombs, as a plentiful source of pollution-free nuclear energy.

In the new experiments reported in the journal Nature by a team led by LLNL physicist Omar Hurricane, 192 high-powered lasers were fired at a gold-plated, hollow pill called a hohlraum. The hohlraum was coated on its inside wall with a tiny bit of frozen H-bomb fuel—a mix of heavy hydrogen isotopes isolated from seawater. The laser beams crushed the fuel, triggering a fusion reaction.

Overall, the experiments produced about 17 kilojoules of energy, "about the same as a skier going downhill at 36 miles [58 kilometers] per hour," Hurricane said. "We're talking about fusion energy coming out, more energy than was put into the fuel."

However, though the output exceeded the energy actually delivered to the fuel by the lasers, it was only about one percent of the total energy used to fire the lasers and in the rest of the experiment. "We're going to keep pushing," Hurricane said.

More heartening than the energy output were the signs of radioactive alpha particles seen emerging from the laser "shots" in the experiments. Energetic alpha particles colliding with fuel atoms and each other are the key to a self-sustaining fusion chain reaction—the "ignition" that is the goal of the National Ignition Facility.

But it will take a lot more of them. "This is a first step along the way to ignition, and the scientists are justly excited about it," said Charles Seife, author of Sun in a Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking. "While this is an advance, it's still far short of what was expected of the NIF machine, and leagues away from anything that might be useful for generating energy."

Military Origins

Efforts to spark fusion reactions by rapidly compressing H-bomb fuel capsules with lasers were declassified in 1972. Laser fusion is not the only approach to fusion power; magnetically confined fusion, its main rival, has an even longer history and is the approach being taken at the ITER experimental power plant that is now under construction in southern France.

In laser fusion, the laser beams strike the interior walls of a hohlraum, releasing x-rays that crush the fuel atoms together to a density 100 times that of lead. That sparks a fusion explosion. The laser shots last only about 150 trillionths of a second.

By design, these shots mimic the reactions inside hydrogen bombs (which use small A-bombs powered by nuclear fission to generate the x-rays needed to create fusion). The NIF is part of the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration's nuclear weapons complex. Its military role is to gauge the integrity of the U.S. nuclear weapons "stockpile" without conducting weapons tests, which ended in 1992.

In 2012, after a three-year effort to trigger ignition ended in failure, the NIF drew Congressional scrutiny and criticism from the Government Accountability Office. Those earlier attempts relied on laser shots that ramped up their power over the brief duration of the fusion reaction. (See related blog post: "Fusion: Maybe Less Than 30 Years Away, but This Year Unlikely.")

In the new experiments, the NIF team followed the opposite strategy, cranking up the laser power at the beginning and then ramping down. The idea was to spark the fusion reaction and then provide just enough energy to maintain it, Hurricane said.

The result was a more stable fusion reaction that produced the roughly tenfold increase in energy over past shots, as well as signs of the coveted alpha particles, Hurricane said.

The experiments "have cleared a hurdle on the road to nuclear fusion in the laboratory," said physicist Mark Herrmann of the Energy Department's Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "To be clear, much work remains to be done," he added in a commentary accompanying the report.

No Predictions

Fusion power promises at least two advantages over other energy sources, according to the U.S. National Research Council: zero pollution and virtually unlimited energy. But over the last half century, fusion power has acquired a reputation as a technology forever two decades away.

Seife remains skeptical. "The entire history of laser fusion at Livermore is one machine after another failing to live up to expectations set by simulations and overoptimistic scientists," he said.

Whether the new approach at the NIF will ever produce ignition is an "open question," Herrmann said. The NIF team says it has to double the pressure on the hydrogen fuel in their experiments to trigger such an event. (Take the quiz: "What You Don't Know About Space-Age Energy.")

"I wish we could put a date on it," Hurricane said. "It really is research. We'd be lying to you if we told you a definite date."

Follow Dan Vergano on Twitter.

This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.

17 comments
Muell Halde
Muell Halde

Not much detail about the radioactive byproducts or other hazards of this technique.Or where they'll find enough deuterium or tritium to scale it up.But suppose someone does find a fuel source for this...and they set up the reactor somewhere in outer space, close enough to Earth that they can beam the energy home and far enough away leave all the dangerous stuff "out there"*1!Of course, they'll have to scheme up a way to collect all that beamed energy and turn it into electricity so we can use it.*2

Imagine.  Remote Nuclear Fusion.  An idea whose time has come...about 5 billion years ago.

*1.  The sun.  *2.  Photovoltaics.  Stop wasting money on NIF. 

Muell Halde
Muell Halde

Not much detail about the radioactive byproducts or other hazards of this technique.Or where they'll find enough deuterium or tritium to scale it up.But suppose someone does find a fuel source for this...and they set up the reactor somewhere in outer space, close enough to Earth that they can beam the energy home and far enough away leave all the dangerous stuff "out there"*1!Of course, they'll have to scheme up a way to collect all that beamed energy and turn it into electricity so we can use it.*2

Imagine.  Remote Nuclear Fusion.  An idea whose time has come...about 5 billion years ago.

*1.  The sun.  *2.  Photovoltaics.  

Stop wasting money on NIF. 

Truth BeTolld
Truth BeTolld

Mark Goldes' "Aesop Institute" is simply an elaborate fraud.

Mark Goldes, starting in the mid-seventies, engaged for several years in the pretense that his company SunWind Ltd was developing a nearly production-ready, road-worthy, wind-powered "windmobile," based on the windmobile invented by James Amick; and that therefore SunWind would be a wonderful investment opportunity.

After SunWind "dried up" in 1983, Goldes embarked on the long-running pretense that his company Room Temperature Superconductors Inc was developing room-temperature superconductors; and that therefore Room Temperature Superconductors Inc would be a wonderful investment opportunity. He continues the pretense that the company developed something useful, even to this day.

And then Goldes embarked on the pretense that his company Magnetic Power Inc was developing "NO FUEL ENGINES" based on "Virtual Photon Flux;" and then, on the pretense that MPI was developing horn-powered "NO FUEL ENGINES" based on the resonance of magnetized tuning-rods; and then, on the pretense that his company Chava LLC (aka "Chava Energy") was developing water-fueled engines based on "collapsing hydrogen orbits" (which are ruled out by quantum physics); and then, on the pretense that he was developing strictly-ambient-heat-powered "NO FUEL ENGINES" (which are ruled out by the Second Law of Thermodynamics).

But of course, the laws of physics always make an exception for the make-believe pretenses of Mark Goldes.

Goldes' forty-year career of "revolutionary breakthrough" pretense has nothing to do with science, but only with pseudoscience, pseudophysics, and relentless flimflam, in pursuit of loans and donations from gullible people who never mastered physics very well.

intlphysicsreviewboard.wordpress.com

Truth BeTolld
Truth BeTolld

Mark Goldes' "Aesop Institute" has engaged for many years in the very dishonest and unscrupulous practice of soliciting loans and donations under an endless series of false pretenses, that it is developing and even "prototyping" various "revolutionary breakthroughs," such as "NO FUEL ENGINES" that run on ambient heat alone - or run on "Virtual Photon Flux" - or on "Collapsing Hydrogen Orbits" - or even on the acoustic energy of sound from a horn.

Aesop Institute's make-believe strictly ambient heat engine is ruled out by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This has been understood by physicists for at least 180 years. There is no "new science" that has ever determined such an engine to be possible.

Aesop Institute's make-believe "Virtual Photon Flux" engine is based on the idea that accessible electric power "is everywhere present in unlimited quantities" - which we know to be false.

Aesop Institute's make-believe "Collapsing Hydrogen Orbits" engine is based on Randell Mills' theory of "hydrino" hydrogen, which every scientist knows to be false.

Aesop Institute's make-believe horn-powered engine is based on the pretense that a magnetized tuning rod could somehow "multiply energy" - a ludicrous notion, which is obviously ruled out by the law of conservation of energy.

Aesop Institute's very latest make-believe engine is a perpetual motion machine in the form of a self-powered air compressor, which proposes to use a turbine to compress air to spin the turbine to compress air to spin the turbine.

Aesop Institute has never offered the slightest shadow of evidence that it is actually developing or "prototyping" any of these make-believe physics-defying "revolutionary breakthroughs." All it has ever offered are mere declarations that it is doing so - unsupported by any proof whatever, of any kind whatever.

There are no "revolutionary breakthroughs" to be found on Goldes' fraudulent "Aesop Institute" website. There is only pseudoscience, relentless flimflam, and empty claims of engines that are ruled out by the laws of physics.

Truth BeTolld
Truth BeTolld

Let's look at another example of Mark Goldes' wonderful offerings in "revolutionary new technology:"

The amazing "POWERGENIE!"

One of the most laughable of Mark Goldes' many pseudotypes is his "POWERGENIE" horn-powered generator. The brilliant idea of this revolutionary breakthrough is to blow a horn at a magnetized tuning rod, designed to resonate at the frequency of the horn, and then collect the electromotive energy produced by the vibrations of the rod.

We're not making this up.

POWERGENIE tuning rod engine explained - from the patent:

[The device incorporates] "an energy transfer and multiplier element being constructed of a ferromagnetic substance... having a natural resonance, due to a physical structure whose dimensions are directly proportional to the wavelength of the resonance frequency...

"In this resonant condition, the rod material functions as a tuned waveguide, or longitudinal resonator, for acoustic energy...

"Ferrite rod 800 is driven to acoustic resonance at the second harmonic of its fundamental resonant frequency by acoustic horn 811..."

- But the patent doesn't tell us who will volunteer to blow the horn at the rod all day. Perhaps it will come with an elephant.

Mark Goldes claimed in 2008 that this wonderful triumph of human genius would bring his company, Magnetic Power Inc, one billion dollars in annual revenue by 2012. Magnetic Power is now defunct, having never produced any "Magnetic Power Modules" - just as Goldes' company called "Room Temperature Superconductors Inc" is also now defunct, having never produced any "room temperature superconductors."

Truth BeTolld
Truth BeTolld

In Mark Goldes' patent application for his ludicrous "POWERGENIE" horn-powered tuning-rod engine, he described the tuning-rod as "an energy transfer and multiplier element."

But of course, for the tuning-rod to "multiply" energy, it would need to disprove the law of conservation of energy.

Goldes' use of the term "energy multiplier element" reflected his pretense that the "revolutionary breakthrough" of the amazing "POWERGENIE" could disprove the law of conservation of energy, by presenting the world with a working "energy multiplier."

Goldes even claimed in 2008 that the POWERGENIE had been demonstrated already in an electric car, driven 4800 miles by his energy-multiplying horn-powered tuning-rod.

But it seems that most people, for some reason, had difficulty accepting the notion that the law of conservation of energy could be proven false.

And Goldes no doubt noticed that the Second Law of Thermodynamics - that "the entropy of an isolated system tends to increase with time and can never decrease" - is much less clear to most people than the conservation of energy.

So now, after leaving aside the pretense that he could somehow "multiply energy" with a magnetized tuning-rod, Goldes has chosen to focus, instead, on the pretense that he can disprove the Second Law with an engine powered only by ambient heat.

There is no "new science" in any of Goldes' "revolutionary breakthroughs." There is only pseudoscience and pretense - and nothing new, at all.

Truth BeTolld
Truth BeTolld

Mark Goldes' proofless claims regarding his make-believe strictly ambient heat engine do not represent any new technology, or even a new pretense - they merely represent a rather old pretense.

"Before the establishment of the Second Law, many people who were interested in inventing a perpetual motion machine had tried to circumvent the restrictions of First Law of Thermodynamics by extracting the massive internal energy of the environment as the power of the machine. Such a machine is called a "perpetual motion machine of the second kind". The second law declared the impossibility of such machines."

"A perpetual motion machine of the second kind is a machine which spontaneously converts thermal energy into mechanical work. When the thermal energy is equivalent to the work done, this does not violate the law of conservation of energy. However it does violate the more subtle second law of thermodynamics (see also entropy). The signature of a perpetual motion machine of the second kind is that there is only one heat reservoir involved... This conversion of heat into useful work, without any side effect, is impossible, according to the second law of thermodynamics."

Goldes' make-believe strictly ambient heat engine would be a perpetual motion machine of the second kind, as defined above. Goldes is not developing any such engine; he is merely developing a pretense - as usual.

Truth BeTolld
Truth BeTolld

The Kelvin-Planck formulation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics may be stated as follows:

"No cyclic process driven simply by heat can accomplish the absorption of the heat from a reservoir and the conversion of such heat into work - without any other result (such as a transfer of heat to a cooler reservoir)."

Now, as you will see, the Clausius formulation of the Second Law may be stated with fewer words:

"No process is possible whose sole result is the transfer of heat from a cooler to a hotter body."

In fact, we can show that the Kelvin-Planck formulation may be deduced from that of Clausius. In the words of Enrico Fermi:

"Suppose that Kelvin's postulate were not valid. Then we could perform a transformation whose only final result would be to transform completely into work a definite amount of heat taken from a single source at the temperature t1. By means of friction we could then transform this work into heat again and with this heat raise the temperature of a given body, regardless of what its initial temperature, t2, may have been. In particular, we could take t2 to be higher than t1. Thus, the only final result of this process would be the transfer of heat from one body (the source at temperature t1) to another body at a higher temperature, t2. This would be a violation of the Clausius postulate."

Can anyone make a teapot that boils water by absorbing heat from blocks of ice?

Truth BeTolld
Truth BeTolld

Mark Goldes' latest adventure in flimflam is to declare that a "FUEL-FREE TURBINE invented by a Russian scientist runs on atmospheric pressure."

But when we read the patent application, we find that actually the turbine does NOT run on atmospheric pressure - it requires compressed air. This is clearly indicated even in the article by Kondrashov posted by Goldes on his flimflam website. Kondrashov says:

"To create a sample of such an engine, you can use ready-made devices, such as a load-bearing element - a low-power turbine module turboshaft turbine engine, and to compress the air... any type of compressor..."

Kondrashov filed his patent application in 2003. No patent was awarded.

Mark Goldes assures us in his note prefacing Kondrashov's article that "We understand the science behind this jet engine." But since he incorrectly describes it as an engine powered by "atmospheric pressure" - which it certainly is not - in fact he shows that he doesn't even understand that the engine requires a supply of compressed air in order to spin at all.

Although Kondrashov does pretend in some of his statements that the turbine will be powered by "atmospheric pressure," in fact it is evident from his application that the proposed turbine is made to spin only by the use of compressed air.

In his patent application, Kondrashov states:

"To set the above engine in operation, it is necessary to create pressure of working medium (e.g. air) in pneumatic accumulator 18. The compressed air is fed through check valve 19 and/or 20."

Thus, Kondrashov indicates that an external compressor must be used to fill the turbine's compressed air tank before the turbine can be started. But he tries to pretend that once the turbine starts to spin, there will be no further reliance on the external compressor - the spinning turbine itself will compress the air that is making the turbine spin. So despite his own false description of the turbine as making use of "low-grade atmospheric energy," what Kondrashov actually presents in his patent application is a perpetual motion machine in the form of a self-powered air compressor. This is probably the reason why no patent was awarded. It is exactly analogous to trying to use a generator to power a motor to spin the generator to power the motor to spin the generator. It doesn't work.

Truth BeTolld
Truth BeTolld

Mark Goldes' latest adventure in flimflam is to declare that a "FUEL-FREE TURBINE invented by a Russian scientist runs on atmospheric pressure."

But when we read the patent application, we find that actually the turbine does NOT run on atmospheric pressure - it requires compressed air. This is clearly indicated even in the article by Kondrashov posted by Goldes on his flimflam website. Kondrashov says:

"To create a sample of such an engine, you can use ready-made devices, such as a load-bearing element - a low-power turbine module turboshaft turbine engine, and to compress the air... any type of compressor..."

Kondrashov filed his patent application in 2003. No patent was awarded.

Mark Goldes assures us in his note prefacing Kondrashov's article that "We understand the science behind this jet engine." But since he incorrectly describes it as an engine powered by "atmospheric pressure" - which it certainly is not - in fact he shows that he doesn't even understand that the engine requires a supply of compressed air in order to spin at all.

Although Kondrashov does pretend in some of his statements that the turbine will be powered by "atmospheric pressure," in fact it is evident from his application that the proposed turbine is made to spin only by the use of compressed air.

In his patent application, Kondrashov states:

"To set the above engine in operation, it is necessary to create pressure of working medium (e.g. air) in pneumatic accumulator 18. The compressed air is fed through check valve 19 and/or 20."

Thus, Kondrashov indicates that an external compressor must be used to fill the turbine's compressed air tank before the turbine can be started. But he tries to pretend that once the turbine starts to spin, there will be no further reliance on the external compressor - the spinning turbine itself will compress the air that is making the turbine spin. So despite his own false description of the turbine as making use of "low-grade atmospheric energy," what Kondrashov actually presents in his patent application is a perpetual motion machine in the form of a self-powered air compressor. This is probably the reason why no patent was awarded. It is exactly analogous to trying to use a generator to power a motor to spin the generator to power the motor to spin the generator. It doesn't work.

http://intlphysicsreviewboard.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/mark-goldes-fraudulent-aesop-institute/

Charles Bourgeois
Charles Bourgeois

" By design, these shots mimic the reactions inside hydrogen bombs (which use small A-bombs powered by nuclear fission to generate the x-rays needed to create fusion). "

So why not use the same approach by starting with a fission reaction to generate alpha particles and x-rays, followed by the laser to "jumpstart" the fusion reaction? Just a thought.

Mark Goldes
Mark Goldes

Hot fusion is a never ending money sink and ironically it is probably no longer needed.


Engines are being prototyped that are designed to run 24/7 on atmospheric heat, an untapped solar source of energy thousands of times as abundant as fossil fuels.

Fuel-free desktop piston engines will demonstrate that fuel can be cost-effectively superseded. See www.aesopinstitute.org


Most scientists doubt such engines are possible, since they believe the Second Law of Thermodynamics cannot be circumvented. However, a practical path toward such engines was opened in numerous papers by Jacob Wainwright more than 100 years ago. He was ignored until now. 


Piston engines needing no fuel by an inventor who earlier patented an engine that circumvented The Second law, but was commercially impractical, will prove Wainwright was correct. See SECOND LAW SURPRISES on the same website.


Once prototypes are completed and validated by independent labs, desktop engines that need no fuel can be scaled to provide emergency generators, power homes and propel every type of vehicle. They will open a fast path to rapid replacement of fossil fuels.


The average American family of four might save $8,000 per year - it that proves correct, a groundswell of public support will be unstoppable.

William Croft
William Croft

LENR (Low Energy Nuclear Reaction) prototype devices are making great strides this year.  Several companies are very close to commercialization.  See http://www.e-catworld.com

J Ashfield
J Ashfield

@Muell Halde  I'm a Physics A - Level student. We learnt where the deuterium and tritium come from. The deuterium comes from sea water (about 1 per 5000 water molecules) and tritium comes from firing a neutron into lithium to produce helium and other products along with tritium. So there is plenty of the fuel. There is very little waste compare to nuclear fission, the only waste is particles which have lost neutrons

Bill Collins
Bill Collins

Mark, although your unstoppable enthusiasm is admirable, we will believe it when we see it.

Bill Collins
Bill Collins

Just like hot fusion has been a few decades away from reality for a very long time, LENR has been close to commercialization for many years as well. I have been wrong enough to know better than to say never, but LENR is not likely to be our answer.

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