A series of key experiments over the past few weeks have brought scientists closer to the holy grail of energy production—a working fusion reactor, or, in layman’s terms “a miniature star on Earth.” The National Ignition Facility in Livermore, Calif., thinks it can deliver on that lofty promise as soon as 2012, the Daily Mail reports. In one test this month, they fired up 192 laser beams into the center of their reactor, producing 1.3 million mega joules of energy.
The test broke world records; at its peak, the temperature at the reactor’s core was roughly 6 million degrees Fahrenheit, a little less than a quarter the temperature of the center of the sun. The experiment fell short of producing a “live,” self-sustaining reaction, but “they give us great confidence,” says the facility’s director. If all goes according to plan, the research could produce massive amounts of cheap, safe power, all without any radioactive by-products. (Read more nuclear fusion stories.)