Dramatic advances in laser technology are close to making the two-laser approach feasible, and a spate of recent experiments around the world indicate that an 'avalanche' fusion reaction could be triggered in the trillionth-of-a-second blast from a petawatt-scale laser pulse, whose fleeting bursts pack a quadrillion watts of power. If scientists could exploit this avalanche, Hora said, a breakthrough in proton-boron fusion was imminent.
"It is a most exciting thing to see these reactions confirmed in recent experiments and simulations," said Hora, an Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics at UNSW. "Not just because it proves some of my earlier theoretical work, but they have also measured the laser-initiated chain reaction to create one billion-fold higher energy output than predicted under thermal equilibrium conditions."
An Australian spin-off company, HB11 Energy, holds the patents for Hora's process. "If the next few years of research don't uncover any major engineering hurdles, we could have a prototype reactor within a decade," said Warren McKenzie, managing director of HB11.