Fusion energy research has become a global effort. Countries are pouring money into producing the first sustainable fusion reactor. If our world is successful, It will eliminate the need for other types of energy production, and will usher in a new age of limitless clean energy.
The idea for fusion reactors began in the 1920s. Physicists were beginning to understand the potential uses of the weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force. They theorized that if they heated a gas to hundred million celsius, it would induce a fusion reaction. If they succeeded, it would revolutionize our access to energy, and finally free us from our ever increasing energy consumption.
Fusion / Quantum Physics Research
A fusion reaction is when two lighter elements bind together to form a heavier element. When two isotopes of hydrogen atoms fuse together it releases 27 million electron volts (MeV). Fission interactions release about two hundred million electron volts (200 MeV) of energy. (Skorucak)
If fission produces more energy, why would we use fusion? Fusion produces more energy per nucleon than fission. Fusion releases 7 MeV for each collision, while fission reactors release 1 MeV for each atom decay. Fission produces energy using heavy radioactive elements. Uranium-235 is hot because of radioactivity produced by the weak nuclear force. The heat produced from fission reactions is used to produce steam, which moves a turbine.
Fission can be dangerous because it is utilizing the natural process of the weak nuclear force. The weak nuclear force causes heavy unstable elements to emit radiation. Radiation is powerful but unpredictable. If a fission reactor fails, you can't turn it off. Chernobyl is a great example. In short, fission is using unstable rocks to heat water, but when something goes wrong, you can't turn the rocks off. Fusion is safer than fission, because fusion stops functioning when fuel is removed.
Fusion allows stars to twinkle. Our sun is a ball of fusion. Stars are generally filled with hydrogen. The mass produced from the culmination of gas increases gravity, forcing the gas to collapse in on itself. The immense weight and heat produced in stars is what allows fusion to start.
Fusion is the process of two hydrogen atoms winning the battle against magnetism; hydrogen fuses with another hydrogen and produces deuterium (isotope of hydrogen). Deuterium fuses with hydrogen and produces Helium-3. After millions of years of fusion, the star will deplete its hydrogen and die. A star dies because it fuses all its fuel into heavy elements like beryllium, carbon, and iron. Boom! A supernova is a common end for stars. This stellar end spews elemental dust across the universe, thus seeding planets with the necessary components to make everything, including life.
The Tokamak reactor is currently the most effective device for producing fusion. Scientists around the world are creating many different models of the Tokamak. There are three main issues inhibiting a functional fusion reactor: reaching and sustaining 100,000,000 celsius, maximizing particle collision, and creating materials that can withstand the enormous temperature and pressure.
Wendelstein 7-X is an interesting fusion reactor that changed the design of the Tokamak. The goal of Wendelstein 7-X is maximizing particle collision. The solution was to create a twisted doughnut shape , instead of a regular doughnut shape. They discovered this method by using supercomputers to model which Tokamak shapes maximize particle collisions. Click the link to see it turn on! Currently the team is installing a new cooling system that will allow the reactor to function longer.
The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (I.T.E.R), is a global effort to produce the first net positive energy production. They are producing the largest Tokamak on earth. The reactor is theorized to produce ten times the energy that is needed to kickstart the reaction. I.T.E.R. plans to have the reactor operational by 2030s.
Fiction: Space the Final Frontier
The show “Star Trek” takes place on the U.S.S. Enterprise. This fictional spaceship travels extremely fast. It uses a pulse drive to travel shorter distances. The pulse drive is able to reach 1/4th the speed of light. It reaches these speeds by fusing deuterium and causing a powerful fusion reaction. This type of technology would make commercialization of space possible.
Currently NASA is working on a fusion drive. This device would pull deuterium and hydrogen from empty space and fuse the elements together to produce a burst of fusion energy that blasts out the back of the spacecraft. If all goes well, this spacecraft could get to Mars in 30 days, instead of 9 months! This could be the start of a real Star Trek era!
The spreading of information shifted away from managerialism, for example, TV, radio, and newspaper. Now media is dominated by decentralized social networks, e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit. This means that information struggles to spread evenly across a population, because society can now communicate with itself and come up with its own conclusions. People can choose exactly what content they receive and what they investigate. People have become aware of the damage pollution has on Earth. The response has been to transition to reusable, biodegradable, clean, products and energy. The green movement has forced politics and corporations to search for better alternatives.
The internet was able to show all the terrible crimes we have committed against nature. This gave power to the common person. Now people have information needed to articulate the reasons for change. The internet is the tool needed to dethrone irresponsible corporations.
Once fusion energy becomes a reality, it will be the ultimate green energy source. Hegemonic view has shifted. Now people view nonrenewable energy as a threat. This new meaning makes it difficult for nonrenewable corporations to convince the population that it is safe to use nonrenewable products. We still rely on oil, because oil is still the dominant energy source. Fusion will completely eliminate the need for any other energy source. Fusion has zero carbon emissions, zero radioactive waste, and is powered by deuterium extracted from ocean water! Fusion will become the main power source of this century.
Skorucak, Anton. Why Does the Nuclear Fusion Reaction Yield More Energy than the Nuclear Fission Reaction?, www.physlink.com/education/askexperts/ae534.cfm.
Kurzgesagt YouTube, YouTube, 10 Nov. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZsaaturR6E.
“Nuclear Fusion Power.” Nuclear Fusion : WNA - World Nuclear Association, World Nuclear Association, Dec. 2019, www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/current-and-future-generation/nuclear-fusion-power.aspx.
CleryOct, Daniel, et al. “The Bizarre Reactor That Might Save Nuclear Fusion.” Science, 30 Jan. 2018, www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/10/bizarre-reactor-might-save-nuclear-fusion.
“Wendelstein 7-X.” YouTube, YouTube, 5 Oct. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gtf-1JibORg.
“Impulse Drive.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 May 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impulse_drive.
Fusion Energy Production from a Deuterium-Tritium Plasma in the JET Tokamak. IAEA, 1992,
Garcia, Sair, and Julio J. Martinell. “Burn Control of an ITER-like Fusion Reactor Using Fuzzy Logic.” Fusion Engineering and Design, North-Holland, 21 June 2019, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0920379619306970.
LipinskiHubert, Stephen LipinskiHubert A. “US20090274256A1 - Hydrogen-Lithium Fusion Device, Method and Applications.” Google Patents, Google, 17 Aug. 2007, patents.google.com/patent/US20090274256A1/en?q=nasa&oq=fusion+drive+nasa.