Since the beginning of time, mankind has yearned to create the sun. And for over 70 years, scientists have known how to create an artificial nuclear fusion reaction, forcing positively-charged particles to slam together and fuse, generating an enormous amount of heat. It’s something that the sun has been doing for roughly 4.6 billion years.
But whenever humans have tried it in the past, it’s taken enormous amounts of energy to heat up the protons and get them moving fast enough to overcome their natural repulsion to one another — far more than has been generated by the reactions themselves. Containing the reaction — that is, keeping it from turning into a bomb — has also proved dicey. Achieving those two goals has been a holy grail, a dream that holds enormous promise for clean energy, long-distance space flight and other sci-fi advances. It’s also been “20 years away” for as long as the concept has been around.