This illustration from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory shows lasers heating hydrogen enough to convert it to plasma. (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory via AP)

This illustration from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory shows lasers heating hydrogen enough to convert it to plasma. (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory via AP)

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory uses 192 laser beams to turn hydrogen into plasma. (Damien Jemison)

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory uses 192 laser beams to turn hydrogen into plasma. (Damien Jemison)

The Sun is a big ball of burning plasma. (The black circle in the upper left hand corner is Venus passing across the Sun’s face.) (NASA)

The Sun is a big ball of burning plasma. (The black circle in the upper left hand corner is Venus passing across the Sun’s face.) (NASA)

Nuclear fission creates energy by splitting a large atom into smaller atoms.

Nuclear fission creates energy by splitting a large atom into smaller atoms.

Nuclear fusion creates energy by fusing smaller atoms into a large one.

Nuclear fusion creates energy by fusing smaller atoms into a large one.

BAM! PLASMA!

Posted: March 1, 2022

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California created something that could change the world. They blasted some hydrogen with mega-powerful lasers and . . . BAM! Plasma was born!

Wait, what was born?

You’re probably familiar with three states of matter: solids, liquids, and gases. But some elements can become so hot they turn from gas to plasma. You see a burning plasma every day: the Sun! The Sun is a giant, burning ball of plasma powerful enough to make life possible on Earth. God invented this self-sustaining energy source at the beginning of time. Scientists are only beginning to understand how it works. They’re asking: Can plasma solve our energy problem?

Wait . . . What Energy Problem?

Using a stove? Flicking on a light switch? That power has a cost. The energy in your house might come from a power plant—one of those industrial complexes where white clouds pour from smoke stacks. Some power plants use nuclear fission. Nuclear fission creates energy by splitting atoms. (You know atoms. You are made of atoms! These tiniest building blocks of matter are chock full of energy.) But nuclear fission requires expensive fuel. Plus it leaves behind dangerous radioactive waste.

Around the world, cities are growing. The world needs more energy to power them. More energy means more fuel. Which means more money and more waste.

Scientists say a new source of energy is coming: nuclear fusion. In nuclear fusion, atoms don’t split apart. They fuse together. If power plants could control fusion, they could produce less pollution and waste. Fusion doesn’t require hard-to-find fuels. Instead, it uses hydrogen, one of the most common elements on Earth. And it gets better: Fusion can produce four times more energy than fission.

To create nuclear fusion, you need plasma that heats itself through more nuclear fusion. Finally, people have that. The California scientists’ plasma was hot. It burned on its own. It was full of energy.

How soon will nuclear fusion arrive in a power outlet near you? It could take decades for scientists to turn this process into practical energy. But they’re on their way.

Why? The more we study nuclear energy, the more we marvel at God’s brilliant creation. Can we use what we learn to provide more efficient energy?