It's easy to forget that the warm and peaceful Sun is actually a boiling pot of hydrogen and other fusion-prone elements. The energy of the Sun makes life possible on Earth. Although scientists have long sought to master the fusion technology, humans still use much less efficient energy sources. But it looks like the situation may change soon. Researchers at the US National Laser Thermonuclear Reaction Complex (NIF) have succeeded in making the fusion reactor produce more energy than it consumes.
The new NIF reactor uses an array of 192 powerful laser cannons aimed at a small container. Inside it are placed granules of supercooled isotopes of hydrogen in a solid state. Laser beams hitting the container walls generate X-rays that strike the sample. This process removes hydrogen atoms from the granules, simultaneously heating them to millions of degrees. As a result of the evaporation of a small amount of mass, a large amount of energy is released. A similar process takes place on the Sun.
All previous nuclear fusion reactions carried out on Earth required more energy than they ended up producing. Their inefficiency consisted in a significant consumption of resources by lasers and other ignition sources, which was not even covered by the reproducible energy. Now scientists have reached the milestone where the fusion reaction can become self-sustaining. In any case, until the fuel source runs out.