Aggie physicist & engineer among many to contribute to nuclear fusion breakthrough

“I’m not surprised that Aggies played a significant part in a breakthrough like this,” said Interim Vice Chancellor and Dean of Texas A&M Engineering John E. Hurtado
KBTX News 3 at Ten(Recurring)
Published: Dec. 19, 2022 at 8:50 PM CST
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) -Scientists in California recently made what some are calling one of the most impressive scientific feats of the 21st century.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced they achieved a net energy gain after successfully using 192 giant lasers to ignite a nuclear fusion reaction.

The nuclear fusion industry is rapidly growing. According to the Fusion Industry Association’s annual report investors have poured nearly five billion dollars into fusion energy startups, more than half of it in the last year.

Experts say the increasing number of private companies investing in fusion energy is focused on contributing to the world’s low-carbon energy supply.

”It strengthens our national security because it opens a new realm for maintaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent, deterrent in an age where we do not have nuclear testing,” Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Energy Secretary, said at a press conference.

The laser experiments took place at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and resulted in the world’s first controlled experiment to produce more energy from fusion than the laser energy used to drive it.

Kelli Humbird and Michael Zika are just two Texas A&M graduates among several Aggies contributing to history while helping create safe, clean energy.

“This is really the culmination of over 60 years of research to try to achieve fusion ignition in a laboratory setting,’ said Humbird.

‘It’s a bit surreal,” said Zika. “It’s a strange feeling to really have the sense that we’re living in a moment in history that is going to be written about this accomplishment.”

While Texas A&M can’t take credit for the major breakthrough there’s no doubting the university’s contribution to the laboratory and profession over the years.

“Lawrence Livermore National Lab has many interactions with Texas A&M,” said Zika. “And we benefit from them across engineering, physics disciplines as well as policy and deterrence theory and other training opportunities.”

Humbird says achieving nuclear fusion is an accomplishment born from decades of hard work and collaboration not only at Lawrence Livermore but labs, universities, and industries across the world.

“This is a really great and inspiring demonstration of the things that can be achieved when people are very determined, very dedicated, and willing to collaborate over such a very multi-disciplinary problem,” said Humbird.