There are two types of nuclear reaction, Fission, the splitting of atoms to release energy, the traditional kind of nuclear power generated in conventional nuclear power stations around the world, and Fusion, the fusing of atoms to release energy.
Up to now, the majority of research into the development of commercial nuclear fusion have revolved around trying to reproduce the conditions that allow fusion in stars, ie, intense heat pressure and gravity forcing atoms together to produce a self sustaining reaction. This has yielded some results and progress is slow but steady although it is still unclear if we will ever be able to make it a practical alternative to Fission power.
However, it seems like a team at the University of Florida are after making a break through on an alternative method of fusing atoms that they have been working on for more than 11 years. According to the extremely limited information in the news report, their process appears to be using a particle accelerator to ram streams of hydrogen atoms into boron 11 isotopes at massive speeds causing them to fuse into helium which can then be converted into energy.
According to this report, the only by product is helium and it can potentially be scaled up to industrial levels of production within a decade.
I know there have been a number of false dawns in the energy debate, but I think this project really looks like something to watch for the future. If it can be rolled out successfully, it could be the most important invention in the history of our species, unlimited, cheap, safe, energy which would allow our civilisation to take the next technological leap into our wildest dreams.
That said, This report contains hardly any specific information and there is feck all out there on the internet either. Hopefully it's not just another example of lazy hacks and even lasier editors trying to fill space on a slow news day with non stories.
Lets keep our feet on the ground and keep developing alternatives as there are never any guarantees and many others have promised the same thing
Fusion breakthrough a magic bullet for energy crisis? - Science, News - The Independent