In the spring, a team will begin attempts to ignite a tiny man-made star inside a laboratory and trigger a thermonuclear reaction.
Its goal is to generate temperatures of more than 100 million degrees Celsius and pressures billions of times higher than those found anywhere else on earth, from a speck of fuel little bigger than a pinhead. If successful, the experiment will mark the first step towards building a practical nuclear fusion power station and a source of almost limitless energy.
At a time when fossil fuel supplies are dwindling and fears about global warming are forcing governments to seek clean energy sources, fusion could provide the answer. Hydrogen, the fuel needed for fusion reactions, is among the most abundant in the universe. Building work on the £1.2 billion nuclear fusion experiment is due to be completed in spring.
Scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore, nestled among the wine-producing vineyards of central California, will use a laser that concentrates 1,000 times the electric generating power of the United States into a billionth of a second.
The result should be an explosion in the 32ft-wide reaction chamber which will produce at least 10 times the amount of energy used to create it.
Although, of course, this is another American effort. Whilst they look to the future, here in the UK, we are still toying with windmills, the energy-generating efforts of the Middle Ages...