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Scientists creating star to end earth's energy woes

Scientists at a government lab in Livermore, California are trying to use the world's largest laser -- the size of three football fields -- to set off a nuclear reaction so intense that it will make a star bloom on the surface of the earth, according to a CNN report.

world Updated: Apr 29, 2010 22:41 IST

Scientists at a government lab in Livermore, California are trying to use the world's largest laser -- the size of three football fields -- to set off a nuclear reaction so intense that it will make a star bloom on the surface of the earth, according to a CNN report.

The ambitious experiment will be tried for real, and for the first time, late this summer.

The scientists hope to solve the global energy crisis by harnessing the energy generated by the mini-star.

The fusion reaction at the heart of this recipe is the same one that fuels the sun in our solar system and other stars.

Workers at the Livermore Lab insist that the reaction isn't dangerous. Their version of fusion is controlled, rather than explosive, like in America's current arsenal of nuclear weapons, which include a fusion reaction.

The fusion reaction does emit radioactive neutrons. But to stop those neutrons from escaping, the Livermore lab surrounds the reaction chamber with concrete walls that are more than 6½ feet thick.

The star being cooked up in Livermore this summer is expected to die 200 trillionths of a second after it's ignited, said Van Wonterghem, a manager of the project, which is called the National Ignition Facility.

And it will measure only 5 microns across, which is several times smaller than the width of a human hair.

Meanwhile, the project is behind schedule and over budget, according to government reports.

Since 2005, when the laser-fusion experiment was isolated in a government program called the National Ignition Campaign, the project has spent more than $2 billion, or 25 per cent more than its budget of $1.6 billion, according to the April Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

And, in those recent years, the project has fallen a year off schedule, the GAO said, with the expected completion date for the research now at the end of 2012.

The author of this article is John D Sutter, CNN