Scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California announced that they made it one step closer to developing hydrogen fusion (1). For the very first time in history hydrogen gave off more energy than it took in. This creates a net increase in energy by using something simple in the world. It is a potential start to something much bigger in clean energy.
The system is still complex and many more years of study are necessary. At it simplest explanation a number of lasers point at a small target and condense the hydrogen. This hydrogen is made up of deuterium and tritium that fuse together. When done well it produces helium, a spare neutron and lots of energy. In this case the scientists were able to create 1.7 times the amount of energy.
Still, the researchers have not been able to create ignition. This is a term which means that when comparing the total input of energy into the process there is a net gain of total energy. However, they did find extra energy left behind during the process that may make it easier to ignite other hydrogen atoms later to create a chain effect.
These systems are expensive to build and cost tens of billions of dollars. There are also some restrictions on nuclear type research which slows down the process. Fusion has been a dream of a number of scientists. It takes the processes of space and brings them to earth to create perpetual energy. If the fate of the future shines brightly it may someday be possible to power all of your consumption needs for a year off of a few buckets of water. Such development helps to provide alternative sources of energy and less foreign dependency.