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Volume 601 Issue 7894, 27 January 2022

The heat is on

A key requirement for self-sustaining energy generation using nuclear fusion is for the plasma in which the fusion occurs to be heated by the fusion reactions themselves. In this week’s issue, Alex Zylstra and his colleagues demonstrate a ‘burning plasma’ regime in which fusion reactions are the primary source of heat that sustains the plasma. Working at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, the researchers used 192 lasers to create a plasma of deuterium and tritium. By optimizing the experimental set-up the team was able to create conditions under which the plasma became self-heating — a key step towards making nuclear fusion a viable power source. The cover shows one of the ‘targets’ used by the team to create a burning plasma. The deuterium–tritium fuel capsule is visible in circular window at the centre. When irradiated by the laser beams, the target capsule melts and implodes, starting the fusion reaction.

Cover image: Jason Laurea

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