Scientists have achieved a significant milestone in their quest to create a workable nuclear fusion technology. What does this mean for how we might produce electricity in the future?
Nuclear fission and fusion are processes that modify the nuclei of atoms to release energy. For example, fission can split uranium into smaller nuclei, and Barium and Krypton can be joined by fusion to produce helium.
Both fission and fusion require energy to start, but you must get more energy out than you put in. The concept of Mass energy Equivalence can be used to explain this, as every item with a mass also possesses intrinsic energy.
New Breakthrough in Nuclear Fusion
The ideal energy source would be nuclear fusion, but it is too difficult to perform on Earth. In addition, fission reactions need less harsh circumstances than fusion reactions, which require forcing positively charged nuclei close enough to fuse.
The sun can create fusion energy because of its size and high temperature, but a tiny nuclear reactor on Earth cannot produce such pressures and temperatures. So instead, a Tokamak uses strong magnets to confine plasma fuel for fusion at extreme temperatures.
The Jet Laboratory has made headlines for producing more fusion energy than its own record from 1997 by combining two different forms of hydrogen. The experiments support design decisions made for a larger fusion reactor currently being built in France.
A coalition of international governments, including those from Eu member states, the U.s, China, and Russia, are supporting the Eta facility in Southern France, which is anticipated to be the last stage in establishing nuclear fusion’s viability.
Why does fusion release more energy than fission?
Fusion is the process by which light elements combine to create heavy elements. Fusion is the opposite of fission, which is the splitting of an atomic nucleus. Fission produces large quantities of radioactive waste while fusion does not. Fusion is the source of all the energy we see in stars, including our own Sun.
According to the fusion theory, energy can be released by compacting atomic nuclei together rather than dividing them, as in the fission reactions that fuel existing nuclear power plants. The Joint European Taurus Jet has been at the forefront of this fusion method for almost 40 years.
This is a stunning result because it demonstrated the greatest amount of energy output from the fusion reactions of any device in history. If the same conditions and guidelines are followed for Eta, ten times the energy input may be released.
Despite the promising development in the realm of nuclear fusion, commercial fusion reactors are still many decades away. However, if research is fruitful, nuclear fusion might become widely accepted.
What is the difference between fission and fusion?
Both fission and fusion produce enormous amounts of energy from atoms.
Fission occurs when a neutron strikes a larger atom, forcing it to excite and split into two smaller atoms. This process produces a huge amount of energy that is used to heat water into steam.
Fusion occurs when two atoms merge to form a heavier atom, for example, when two hydrogen atoms fuse to form a helium atom. This produces huge amounts of energy and no radioactive products.
A brief explanation of nuclear energy
Three particles make up an atom:
Nuclear energy can be released when the bonds holding the nucleus together are broken, which is called nuclear fission.
In nuclear fission, uranium atoms are split apart by neutrons, releasing energy. This energy is used to power nuclear power plants.
The fusion of atoms is the process by which they combine to form a larger atom and is the source of energy in the sun and stars.
Uranium is a nonrenewable energy source, even though it is found in rocks worldwide. So instead, nuclear power plants use U-235, which is relatively rare, as fuel.
The future of nuclear energy
Future generations will require a much larger energy supply, especially clean electricity generation. Nuclear power can provide this energy in an environmentally friendly way.
Global population and economic growth, along with rapid urbanization, will increase energy demand. Therefore, reducing greenhouse gas emissions while meeting growing energy demands is challenging.
Studies have shown nuclear energy is a low-emission source of electricity. Additionally, nuclear power is the world’s second-biggest source of low-carbon electricity.
Reports on future energy supply suggest that growth in nuclear power is required. Alongside the growth in other forms of low-carbon power generation, to create a sustainable future energy system.