Achieving unlimited power

What happens in nuclear fusion???

One key concept in nuclear fusion is nuclear binding energy.

  • the energy required to break the nucleus up into protons and neutrons
  • Δm” would be the mass difference between the newly formed nucleus and the masses of the two original nuclei (Mass of reactants - Mass of products)
  • ” represents the the speed of light squared
  • E” would then represent the energy released

How do we produce nuclear fusion???

Since nuclei are positively charge, they repulse each other. They must overcome this barrier so that they can be close enough for the fusion to occur. This can be done if the nuclei have sufficient kinetic energy to overcome the electrostatic repulsions.

Popular fusion processes

Now that you know what we need for fusion, we can move on to how we are currently performing fusion. There are 2 common processes, magnetic confinement & inertial confinement.

Tokamak
  • One set of coils wrap around the tokamak vertically. This creates a toroidal field (runs horizontally in the tokamak, the latitude).
  • Another set wraps around the tokamak horizontally. This creates a poloidal field (runs vertically, the longitude) and this helps to shape the plasma and keep it away from the walls.
  • The last main magnet is the central solenoid and this is responsible for driving the plasma current. It basically helps the plasma to spin around the tokamak.
Construction of ITER
NIF Chamber

General Fusion

The Canadian company, General Fusion, has taken a slightly different approach to the other 2 methods. In their method, a circular chamber is filled with liquid metal and is then spun to create a cavity in the center. Preheated hydrogen fuel is then inserted into the cavity, while the pistons on the outside compress the metal into a sphere. The metal will compress the plasma, causing a fusion reaction and releasing energy. The released energy then heats the metal. The heat is used to make steam, which will then drive a turbine, producing electricity.

Where is fusion???

Now this process seems pretty simple, so you must be wondering “how come we don’t have fusion right now?”

Key points:

  • Fusion doesn’t produce emissions or long lasting radioactive waste, while produces more energy that other energy sources
  • Fusion is the combination of lighter atoms into a heavier atom
  • Energy is produced as there’s a mass defect between the heavier atom and the lighter atoms. E = mc²
  • High temperature and pressure is needed for atoms to overcome their electrostatic repulsion. This environment causes electrons to disassociate from the nuclei forming plasma.
  • ITER, NIF and General Fusion are all working on different types of fusion reactors.

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