Nuclear Fusion





Nuclear Fusion
Nuclear fusion is the process of combining two atomic nuclei to form a heavier nucleus. The process releases a tremendous amount of energy, which is why it is the same type of reaction that powers the sun. It is a very efficient and clean energy source with the potential to provide an almost limitless supply of energy. Nuclear fusion works by combining two atoms of light elements, such as hydrogen, to form a heavier element, such as helium. This process releases enormous amounts of energy that is greater than the energy released by fission reactions, which splits an atom apart. To achieve nuclear fusion, atoms must be heated to extremely high temperatures, up to millions of degrees Celsius. This high temperature creates a plasma, which is a gas of charged particles, in which the nuclei can move freely and collide with each other. In order for a sustained reaction to take place, the fuel must be confined by a strong magnetic field, as in a tokamak reactor. In tokamak reactors, a vacuum chamber is filled with a mixture of deuterium and tritium fuel, heated to temperatures of tens of millions of degrees Celsius, and confined by powerful magnets. When the nuclei collide and fuse, they release energy in the form of neutrons and heat. This energy can then be used to run turbines, generate electricity, and power many other applications. Nuclear fusion is considered a safe and emissions-free energy source, since it does not produce any greenhouse gases. It also does not produce any long-term radioactive waste, since any radioactive by-products quickly decay. One fun fact about nuclear fusion is that it is the same type of reaction that powers the stars, including our own sun!