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This was to be the year the giant match would light a fire. The National Ignition Facility (NIF), the world's most powerful laser, would trigger ignition in a mixture of hydrogen isotopes by achieving a pressure of 100 billion times Earth's atmosphere and a temperature of 100 million °C. At that point, fusion reactions in the target would produce more energy than the laser consumes. But, an announcement earlier this month about the first full test of the laser — with its price tag in excess of US$3.5 billion — reveals how far off that goal still lies.

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