TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — A local professor is sharing his thoughts on the significance of a major breakthrough announced earlier this week by the US Department of Energy.
The breakthrough was made by scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. They achieved a nuclear fusion event that produced more energy than what went into it.
Today we spoke with Galen Duree, a department head and professor of physics and optical engineering at Rose-Hulman who shared his thoughts on the exciting announcement.
“This is what I’d classify as a technological breakthrough. This has been the first reported case where a fusion event could actually produce more energy than actually went into arranging the collisions that result in the fusion process there. So being able to get more energy out than you put in, that’s a significant milestone”
Duree added that this breakthrough is a significant advancement in modeling.
“It’s probably of great scientific interest, because now we have a nice, controlled way, to be able to model fusion reactions. We’ve not had those kinds of tools before, especially when we’re looking at, like, nuclear arsenal maintenance, that’s probably one of the big providers for this one. So as far as having a nice, controlled, safe, modeling tool, this will be a big difference there. And it will also allow us to maybe engineer reactions so that we can develop energy-producing things out of fusion.”
Duree said this technology has the potential to affect everyone in the future.
“Aside from anti-matter reactions, this is probably the most powerful energy reaction that we know of so far and so if we could harness this process to make energy then, wow, that could really make energy concerns of the future go away,” Duree said. “It’s pretty much unlimited, because of the elements that are used, taking like, hydrogen or water, and being able to generate very large amounts of energy for it,” Duree added. “So there is a lot of exciting potential that this kind of opens the door for.”
He called this a major technological breakthrough that was decades in the making.
“The technical hurdles that had to be overcome, I would put them almost on par as the moon landing, the apollo mission. There were so many problems where we didn’t know the solutions for, and so for this to show, ‘hey, if we put in a lot of hard work and don’t get discouraged by all the roadblocks and the things that don’t work’. This just shows you, stick with it and the solution we’ll come up with it.”
Duree says projects like this one require teams of scientists and engineers from a wide spectrum of specialties.
“This whole project is not just one area … all the engineering disciplines are involved, mechanical, electrical, civil engineering, even software, computer engineering, the whole works. Even the mathematicians, projects of this scope need everybody’s expertise in there in order for it to work,” Duree said.
While the news of potential energy production is exciting, Duree stressed that this is just one of many steps that have been taken and will need to yet be taken in order for the energy benefits to be realized.
“This may ultimately lead to a process where we can actually generate energy, but it’ll take a lot more work, and a lot more technology to develop to figure out how do we get this process so that it’s sustainable,” Duree said.
As an educator, Duree thinks this kind of breakthrough has the potential to also help with recruiting students to engineering fields.
“Hopefully this will get attention from students who want to pursue this technology that has the potential (to have) a huge impact,” Duree said.