Laser fusion is one of the two possible ways of generating fusion power being currently researched. It involves firing a synchronised array of high-powered lasers from all sides at a frozen pellet of deuterium and tritium, the materials for fusion. The heat generated by the lasers causes the outer layers of the fuel pellet to expand, spherically compressing the inside of the pellet untill it should be able to reach the temperatures and pressures required for fusion.

The current laser fusion experiments are being carried out by the NIF (National Ignition Facility) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. It uses 192 of the most powerful lasers in the world (each is about 100 terawatts) and is a $3bn project.

Similar methods using high-energy ions instead of laser beams are also being considered.

A working fusion power plant would burn between 1 and 5 fuel pellets per second, and produce about 1 gigawatt of power continously.

Unfortunately, is is becoming unlikely to be a future source of power, as the gas produced by the impact of the laser on the surface of the pellet will interfere with the laser, preventing as much energy being delivered after the first pulse and the inefficiency of the high-powered lasers required It is also less efficient than tokomak fusion reactors, such as ITER, a potential power generating tokamak reactor.

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