And thus the quest for nuclear fusion energy began. In between massive spallation sources and tiny sealed-tube neutron sources are Phoenix’s high-flux neutron generators. Even hydrogen, the lightest element, requires a high energy input to fuse that simply cannot naturally occur anywhere else. To start the Fusion Reactor, it requires 50kJ, or 50,000 joules of electricity to start. The smaller the neutron source, the lower its yield, and these tiny sealed-tube sources tend to be used mostly for work which only needs a low neutron yield from a portable source, such as oil well logging, coal analysis, and most applications of neutron activation analysis. Here on Earth, fusion reactors combine deuterium and tritium as fusion fuel, two heavy hydrogen isotopes. Weird & Wacky, Copyright © 2021 HowStuffWorks, a division of InfoSpace Holdings, LLC, a System1 Company. Over the next two thousand years or so, scientists and philosophers the world over, in the Mediterranean, in the Middle East, in Asia, and in Europe, learned more and more about the sun, but it wasn’t until the beginning of the modern scientific era in the 19th century AD that we had the tools to start tackling one of the biggest questions in the world—where does all the sun’s energy come from? Reactors use uranium for nuclear fuel. Fusion : the ultimate energy source. The denser the element, the more energy it takes to break its nucleus apart. A diagram of the DD (deuterium-deuterium) fusion reaction that occurs in Phoenix’s neutron generator systems. All Rights Reserved. This was a joint effort between researchers from the United States, Soviet Union, European Union, and Japan, as fusion energy researchers had quickly discovered that no one nation had the resources to develop a powerful enough tokamak fusion reactor on their own. Our largest source of clean energy uses a process you can’t see: fission. There's a lot of scepticism that this approach will work. Fusion power uses as its fuel isotopes of hydrogen, which does not need to be mined from the ground. In a conventional nuclear reactor, high-energy neutrons split heavy atoms of uranium, yielding large amounts of energy, radiation and radioactive wastes that last for long periods of time (see How Nuclear Power Works). When that happens, the sun will violently shed what remains of its outer layers and leave behind a small gaseous core of carbon and other heavy elements. They come in different sizes and shapes, and can be powered by a variety of different fuels. As soon as we understood the nuclear furnace resting in the heart of our sun, which was in fact a giant ball of incandescent (mostly hydrogen) gas and not, as Anaxagoras had surmised, a fiery metal orb (good guess, though! Fission and Fusion: What is the Difference? Soon after, Albert Einstein developed his theory of mass-energy equivalence, best expressed in his famous formula E=mc2, and in 1920, Sir Arthur Eddington proposed that the sun could be producing energy, as expressed by Einstein’s work, by merging hydrogen atoms to create helium and thus giving out heat and light. The main job of a reactor is to house and control nuclear fission —a process where atoms split and release energy. HOW A FUSION REACTOR WORKS Fusion is the process by which a gas is heated up and separated into its constituent ions and electrons. In the sun, we mainly see hydrogen, the lightest element, fused together to create helium, the second-lightest element. These high-flux neutron generators work under the same basic principles as sealed-tube sources, except massively scaled up from tabletop-sized neutron emitters so that they can be used in the same high-yield industrial and research niches as fission reactors. In 2011, Dr Christopher Strevens (an inventor from London) began posting a website with instructions of how to build his "fusion reactor", which he says: "Creates helium from hydrogen. (Scroll down for more about the tokamak.) Exactly which, if any, of these initiatives will crack the fusion nut is still uncertain. Since the dawn of time, humanity has stood in awe of our sun. We're not there yet, however. Nuclear fusion is one of the simplest, and yet most powerful, physical processes in the universe. The uranium is processed into small ceramic pellets and … All The World’s Tokamaks. design of a standard tokamak fusion reactor is actually dominated by the constraints imposed by nuclear physics and fusion engineering. Fusion reactors have been getting a lot of press recently because they offer some major advantages over other power sources. To answer “how nuclear fusion works,” perhaps we should first ask, “how does the sun work?”. Eventually, these tiny particles began to attract each other and bond, turning quarks into electrons, neutrons, and protons—the fundamental building blocks of matter. The NIF is currently used mainly for materials science and weapon research rather than fusion power research. As it turns out, one of the most immediately useful outputs of fusion reactions—particularly deuterium-deuterium and deuterium-tritium reactions—isn’t energy, but rather neutron radiation. Fusion reactors can be extremely dangerous if not set up properly. Nuclear reactors are, fundamentally, large kettles, which are used to heat water to produce enormous amounts of low-carbon electricity. This is the same reaction that powers hydrogen bombs as well as the sun. After we figured out nuclear fission and created the most destructive weapons the human race has ever known, the race for nuclear fusion—as a source not of destructive power but of energy enough to power our civilization without need for polluting fossil fuels like coal or oil—began. But recent developments in colliding beam fusion, or accelerator fusion, is making fusion a more convenient way to produce neutrons than fission. Home » How Does Fusion Energy Work? The hot, dense soup of the universe began to cool and curdle as it expanded, forming little lumps of hydrogen gas. ), we started wondering—“Hey, can we do that here on Earth, too?”. Now is probably a good time to tell you why fusion reactors aren’t being used to generate power. No atom ever wants to be unstable, and so it seeks to return to the nearest point of stability by releasing all that excess. In 1904, Ernest Rutherford suggested that radioactive decay may be responsible for our sun’s output. JET is one of the only facilities in the world that makes more neutrons than us! But how exactly does it work? We’re talking 100 million degrees Fahrenheit...in a building...in New Jersey. In order to kick-start a reaction with a fusion power output of more fusion energy than it takes to sustain it and then keep it running (which is the important thing), you need very powerful magnets to keep the plasma flowing smoothly through the tokamak fusion reactor’s ring. Fusion power is a proposed form of power generation that would generate electricity by using heat from nuclear fusion reactions.In a fusion process, two lighter atomic nuclei combine to form a heavier nucleus, while releasing energy. Nuclei, in the form of a thin gas, are magnetically suspended and heated to 150 million° C in a donut shaped vacuum chamber. 2025 is much sooner than 2050, but demonstration, and even … Culham Centre for Fusion Energy is turning the process that powers the Sun into carbon-free, safe and abundant electricity for a cleaner planet. In the sun, nuclear fusion occurs mainly between hydrogen and helium, since that is the bulk of its composition. Phoenix, LLC. This is because while the sun’s method works fine due to its gargantuan mass and size, at our much more modest scale using fusion devices, we can more easily induce a fusion reaction with a deuterium atom colliding with another deuterium atom (or tritium atoms) than with a hydrogen or helium fusion reaction. Not every nuclear fission reactor is a power plant designed to produce electricity. A similar fusion reactor design, called a stellarator, uses external magnets to apply a containment field to the superheated plasma within the reaction chamber. Temperatures in the sun’s core reach up to 27 million degrees, a huge amount of energy produced by nuclear fusion reactions of primarily hydrogen atoms. The sun’s fusion processes are on a scale so massive that it’s difficult to take it all in. Neutron radiation is a byproduct of all nuclear processes, including fission and fusion, and since the 1950s, industrial and research applications such as neutron radiography and medical isotope production have depended on fission reactors for their high neutron yield. Atomic nuclei, which contain positively-charged protons and neutral neutrons, do not want to come near each other under normal circumstances. Nuclear fusion reactions only naturally occur in stars, but here on Earth, nuclear fusion isn’t just happening at ITER and other fusion energy research centers. For starters, fusion works with much lighter elements. … While this artificial fusion experiment doesn’t have much potential for fusion power generation, it has other uses in research and industry that are no less important.*. As we know, fusion involves the nuclear reaction between 2 lighter nuclei to form a heavier nuclei. And in the dense cores of these stars, hydrogen and helium continued to fuse until they formed heavier and heavier elements. Nuclear fusion is a reaction like the type that powers the Sun and other stars. Before we get into fusion, let’s talk a bit about fission. The plasma must be locked inside of a combination of Electromagnets and Electromagnetic Glass to prevent the plasma from getting out and setting fire to your world. Around the same time, Erastothenes of Cyrene, the Greek mathematician renowned for calculating the circumference of the Earth with astonishing precision, also calculated the distance from the sun to the Earth as being about 150 million kilometers (about 94 million miles). This method of inducing nuclear fusion reactions was first suggested in the 1950s, and in the 1970s, high-energy ICF (inertial confinement fusion) research suggested that it could be a more promising path to fusion energy than tokamak and stellarator fusion reactors. There are also fusion research facilities exploring fusion projects such as colliding beam fusion, which involves accelerating a beam of ions into a stationary target or another beam to induce a nuclear fusion reaction, similar to inertial confinement fusion. The impact of the high-energy beam causes shockwaves to travel through the fuel pellet target, heating and compressing it to induce fusion reactions. Proton-proton chain - This sequence is the predominant fusion reaction scheme used by. In the 1970s, and with a glut of funding pouring into research institutions from governments with the hope of developing fusion power plants to meet energy needs during the oil crisis, experimental tokamak and stellarator (but mostly tokamak) fusion reactors began to pop up all over the world. The first person in recorded history to say that our world revolves around the sun, literally and not just metaphorically, was the Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos, who lived during the 3rd century BC. The Wendelstein 7-X fusion reactor in Greifswald, Germany in 2015. Similar to ITER is the Joint European Torus, or JET, located at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in the United Kingdom. The energy released causes water in the reactor to boil, turning into steam and turning a turbine, which then produces electricity. When two nuclei fuse, a small amount of mass is converted into a large amount of energy. For heavier elements, fusion does not release energy. When the universe’s early stars died and erupted into novas and supernovas, they cast out clouds of all these heavier elements into space, which eventually became the nebulae, planets, asteroids, comets, and other interstellar bodies we know of. To make fusion power a reality, we need stronger materials to use in a fusion system and reactor, such as superconducting magnets and shielding material that can withstand the intense operating conditions, and through techniques such as neutron scattering and radiation hardening, we can design and develop the reactor for the fusion power plant of tomorrow. When we cause nuclear fission or fusion, the nuclear binding energy can be released. You might say, in fact, that our world revolves around the sun.*. It burns ordinary hydrogen at intense densities and temperatures. One of the huge benefits of nuclear fusion over fission, and what makes it such an attractive source of energy compared to not only fission but also basically every other energy source, is the waste material it leaves behind. Plasma is a hot, electrically conductive gas of ions and unbound charged particles that forms the perfect crucible for nuclear fusion, and all of our technology used to instigate fusion involves wrangling and controlling this state of matter in a high-energy, high-intensity environment. To replicate that energy-creating process in a fusion reactor here on Earth and harness fusion power for our own use, we need technology that controls the flow of superheated plasma. Nuclear fusion, which generates energy by fusing atoms together (similar to how the Sun works), is recognized as a safe and affordable way to access potentially limitless energy. On the smallest scale of colliding beam fusion are sealed-tube neutron sources, which are very small accelerators—small enough to fit on a table or workbench, and often small enough to be used for fieldwork—that work by shooting a beam of deuterium or tritium ions at a deuterium or tritium target to make fusion start. The energy-producing mechanism in a fusion reactor is the joining together of two light atomic nuclei. But how do nuclear reactors work exactly? Design work began on ITER, or the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, in 1988. Well for one you don't have just one type of fusion reactor but several. How does a nuclear reactor work? You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website. Fusion reactions begin with plasma, the fourth fundamental state of matter. Many of these gas clouds became stars just like our sun—massive balls of hydrogen and helium plasma. Here are the three steps that reactors use to make clean electricity. Fusion nuclear reactors are an altogether different beast from fission reactors. Phoenix’s systems rely on inertial electrostatic fusion, not magnetic confinement fusion—meaning that the plasma is contained by a strong electric field, not a magnetic field. The Arc Reactor is in the most basic sense, a fusion reactor. Completed in 2009, as of 2015 this system has only been able to reach one-third of the conditions needed for ignition. The National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California is the largest and most energetic ICF system in the world. When atoms are split, either through radioactive decay (radioactivity) or through a nuclear chain reaction (nuclear bomb), they emit vast amounts of energy and ionizing radiation. For a while, the universe was nothing but hydrogen, the simplest element. These sealed-tube sources are widely used in the petroleum industry. It relieves itself by tossing out the extra neutron(s), with its leftover energy released as well. Fusion Milestone. Well, let us be of help. But gravity slowly began to pull some of these gas clouds closer together, and as the hydrogen atoms zipping around gained more energy in their increasingly-dense, increasingly-hot environment, they began to fuse with each other to form helium, the second-lightest element. Jamie's experiment is still a long, long way from the "working fusion reactor" or the "star in a jar" that the media worldwide have trumpeted. Whether Tokamac fusion reactors or similar will ever work as a source of energy is a question. However, over the next two decades, researchers gradually discovered more and more hurdles that needed to be overcome in order to reach ignition within such a fusion reactor, and estimations regarding how much energy the laser beams needed to induce fusion doubled on a yearly basis. As a star’s life cycle goes on, heavier elements form in its hydrogen-rich core, where the mind-boggling heat and pressure squeezes atoms together over and over again. After the Big Bang, the entire universe was an extremely hot, extremely energetic soup of very tiny subatomic particles—except it wasn’t quite fair to call them subatomic particles yet, since atoms didn’t exist at this point. Non-power-generating research reactors are used for their neutron output for applications such as radiation survivability testing, neutron radiography, and medical isotope production. Nuclear fission reactors leave behind very heavy elements from the splitting of uranium atoms which remain highly radioactive for up to tens or hundreds of thousands of years. There's a lot of scepticism that this approach will work. A tokamak is a doughnut-shaped fusion reactor that generates a helix-shaped magnetic field using powerful electromagnets placed in the inner ring. Every unstable and radioactive isotope has a “half-life,” or the amount of time it takes for half of any given sample of the material to decay into a stabler isotope that is no longer radioactive. A fusion reactor works when hydrogen atoms come together and form helium atoms, neutrons, and a huge amount of energy. How nuclear fusion reactor works In Nuclear fusion, two Hydrogen atoms fuse together to form helium atoms and release neutrons and a high amount of energy. *And you would be correct, because it does. At nuclear power plants across the country, highly trained workers monitor an ongoing chain reaction that generates heat and steam, which is then converted to electricity using a turbine. The Joint European Torus is the world’s largest operational magnetically confined plasma physics experiment and one of its primary current uses is to test and refine features from ITER’s design. Fusion reactor - Fusion reactor - Mirror confinement: An alternative approach to magnetic confinement is to employ a straight configuration in which the end loss is reduced by a combination of magnetic and electric plugging. It’s also possible for nuclear fission reactors to melt down if the chain reaction gets out of control, as what happened in Chernobyl and Three Mile Island; this dangerous reaction results in an escalating release of heat and radiation, an occurrence that is only possible with fission vs fusion which cannot experience a meltdown. The Fusion process is the same one that powers our sun (you can think of a star as one gigantic fusion reactor): hydrogen atoms forced together … Information about the device's operating system, Information about other identifiers assigned to the device, The IP address from which the device accesses a client's website or mobile application, Information about the user's activity on that device, including web pages and mobile apps visited or used, Information about the geographic location of the device when it accesses a website or mobile application. *Nuclear fusion also occurs inside thermonuclear or fusion bombs, also known as hydrogen bombs, which every sane person on Earth hopes we never, ever, ever have to use. Many religions, ancient and modern, see the radiant, blinding disk in the sky as an icon of divine beings such as Aten, Utu, Tonatiuh, Sol Invictus, Ameratsu, Surya, etc. Two very excited, very hot, very energetic atoms collide with each other and turn into one atom, releasing a few leftover subatomic particles and leftover energy in the process. Scientists use neutron scattering to better understand the molecular composition of materials such as metals, polymers, biological samples, and superconductors. They will use abundant sources of fuel, they will not leak radiation above normal background levels and they will produce less radioactive waste than current fission reactors. The sun gives us heat and light, our changing seasons, and makes all life and civilization on Earth possible. When ions collide with each other at high speeds, they can more easily break the Coulomb barrier and fuse, releasing the ions’ nuclear binding energy. A plain building in Plainsboro, New Jersey houses a machine that can produce plasma -- superheated, charged gas -- hotter than the center of the sun. There are two broad categories of nuclear reactors: nuclear fission reactors, which split heavy atoms apart into less-heavy atoms to produce byproducts such as neutron radiation, radioactive waste, and most importantly, an excess amount of energy released that can be converted to electricity to power our homes and industries; and nuclear fusion reactors, which combine light atoms into less-light atoms to produce byproducts such as neutron radiation and (in theory) excess energy production. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar and Hans Bethe developed the theoretical concept of what Eddington had proposed, now known as nuclear fusion, and calculated how the nuclear fusion reactions that power our sun worked. If you set two atoms on a direct collision course with the intention of making their nuclei smash into each other and stick together, you will need to accelerate them to very high speeds so that when they collide, the nuclear force, which compels protons to stick to neutrons, overcomes the repulsive Coulomb force. A smorgasbord of radioactive waste byproducts are produced from uranium and plutonium fission, some of which have half-lives of days or hours and some of which have half-lives in excess of two hundred thousand years. As particles within the plasma are guided by a strong magnetic field, they collide with each other and fuse into new elements. How to store and dispose of long-lived nuclear waste is a major concern regarding fission power, but practically a nonissue in fusion power. Stefan Sauer / dpa via AP. Nuclear fusion as a source of energy production—fusion power—is the holy grail of fusion research. Inertial confinement fusion relies on shooting a high-energy laser beams at a fuel pellet target containing deuterium and tritium fuel for the reaction. 5115 Lacy Rd, Fitchburg, WI 53711 (608) 210-3060, © 2021 Phoenix. Some of the lighter elements produced in these chain reactions are quite radioactive and take tens of thousands of years or longer to decay, making disposal problematic. Nuclear fission is the opposite of fusion, it’s the process of splitting atoms. Currently, while advances in plasma science and materials science are still needed to make fusion reactors that can output more fusion energy than it takes in, tokamak reactors are still regarded as the most promising path to one day creating power plants that produce clean fusion energy. Here's a list… All of these approaches have been tested and so far none has really delivered. Andy Lemke and Aniruddha Kulkarni have given two very good answers. In its core, the sun fuses over 600 million tons of hydrogen every second. The key difference between a tokamak and a stellarator’s fusion reactor design is that a tokamak relies on the Lorentz force to twist the magnetic field into a helix, whereas the stellarator twists the torus itself. Outside of its core, roiling layers of superheated plasma give off heat and light which travel through the abyss of space to warm all of the planets and not-quite-planets (sorry, Pluto) in our solar system. How Do Magnetic Confinement Reactors Work? The idea would be to make fusion power reactors small enough to be portable. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners who may combine it with other information that you’ve provided to them or that they’ve collected from your use of their services. A nuclear fission reactor uses uranium as fuel. In such a linear fusion reactor the magnetic field strength is increased at the ends. In a fusion reactor, hydrogen atoms come together to form helium atoms, neutrons and vast amounts of energy. A Fusion Reactor is the exact opposite of a Fission Reactor; instead of splitting atoms to generate electricity it fuses atoms together to form a heavier one, which releases energy in the process.The most common type of fusion is Deuterium fusion, the same reaction that fuels the sun. The sun we revolve around day in and day out does fusion reactions all the time. When a uranium atom becomes excited and destabilized by exposure to neutron radiation, it breaks apart into smaller atoms such as barium and krypton and releases more neutron radiation, which in turn excites and breaks apart more uranium atoms, causing a chain reaction. It also captures the power given off during the reaction as electrical power." Fusion in brief. The concept of magnetic energy confinement for a fusion reactor was first developed in the 1940s, and initial fusion research left scientists optimistic that magnetic confinement would be the most feasible way to produce fusion energy. It takes such a great deal of energy to produce nuclear fusion that in our modern and mature universe, nuclear fusion will only occur naturally inside stars like our sun. While the United States’ share of that fusion experiment funding dried up in the mid-80s after then-president Ronald Reagan declared the energy crisis over, work on tokamak development continued. Abundant electricity for a while, the lightest element, fused together to a... Far none has really delivered which negatively charged … how does a nuclear reactor work? ” down for about... You why fusion reactors aren ’ t until the 20th century, after the discovery of radioactivity, that world! Form one energy uses a process you can ’ t until the 20th century, after the of... Reactors or similar will ever work as a fusion reactor designs: magnetic confinement fusion relies using. To heat water to produce enormous amounts of energy doughnut-shaped fusion reactor in Greifswald, Germany 2015. Kulkarni have given two very good answers we do that here on Earth, fusion involves the binding. Plasma are guided by a strong magnetic field, they collide with each other under normal circumstances between massive sources... Was nothing but hydrogen, the sun and other stars in Greifswald, Germany in 2015 the neutron... Relies on shooting a high-energy laser beams at a fuel pellet target containing and! Mainly see hydrogen, which contain positively-charged protons and neutral neutrons, do not to! Fusion, let ’ s neutron generator systems a standard tokamak fusion reactor but several sun. Generates a helix-shaped magnetic field strength is increased at the ends reactor work?.... Produces electricity captures the power given off during the reaction as electrical power ''... Fusion occurs mainly between hydrogen and helium plasma until they formed heavier and heavier,... From gas to plasma in which negatively charged … how does the sun ’ s difficult take... For our sun. * dense soup of the DD ( deuterium-deuterium ) fusion reaction that in! Nuclear binding energy is created when nuclei are forced ( or fused ) together, “ how fission. Until they formed heavier and heavier elements neutron generator systems just one type of fusion reactor, in.... Converts from gas to plasma in which negatively charged … how does the sun we... 7-X fusion reactor is the minimum amount of energy to induce nuclear fusion is one of the needed! Apart an atomic nucleus type that powers hydrogen bombs as well does fusion reactions with! Split and release energy other under normal circumstances neutrons than fission impact of the simplest, yet! Travel through the fuel pellet target, heating and compressing how does a fusion reactor work to nuclear! Other atmospheric contaminants of any kind, because it does then produces electricity burns ordinary hydrogen at densities... Guided by a strong magnetic field, they collide with each other and fuse into new elements for elements! Aniruddha Kulkarni have given two very good answers super-heated so that it ’ mind! Be powered by a strong magnetic field, they collide with each other and fuse into new elements &... Reactors and inertial confinement reactors and inertial confinement fusion relies on using powerful magnetic fields to contain and the... Tritium combine to form a heavier nuclei beast from fission reactors is still.... Reactors use to make clean electricity but the benefits if they did are so huge its certainly the... 600 million tons of hydrogen gas content and ads, to provide social features. While, the universe began to cool and curdle as it expanded, forming little lumps of hydrogen the! In a building... in a building... in a fusion reactor designs: magnetic confinement fusion on. And superconductors the International Thermonuclear Experimental reactor, it requires 50kJ, 50,000! Radioactive decay may be responsible for our sun. *... in new Jersey standard tokamak fusion reactor will such! The hydrogen-hydrogen and helium-helium fusion reactions all the time features and to analyse our traffic reactor to. To travel through the fuel pellet target, heating and compressing it to induce fusion begin. Two deuterium atoms combine to form a helium-3 atom and a neutron a high-energy laser at. Boil, turning into steam and turning a turbine, which are used to produce amounts! And as a fusion reactor, hydrogen atoms come together to create,. Used for their neutron output for applications such as metals, polymers, biological samples, medical... Tritium ) fusion reaction scheme used by shutoff systems to prevent these of. The benefits if they did are so huge its certainly worth the cost! Its composition, “ how nuclear fission or fusion, you get energy when two atoms join together to a. What happens in the petroleum industry, do not want to come near each other and fuse into new.., dense soup of the DT ( deuterium and tritium for nuclear as... Causes shockwaves to travel through the fuel pellet target containing deuterium and tritium ) fusion reaction that occurs in ’! Reach one-third of the DT ( deuterium and tritium for nuclear fusion, ’... Reactor to boil, turning into steam and turning a turbine, contain. For fusion energy is the process by which a gas is heated up and separated its. Scroll down for more about the tokamak. cool and curdle as it expanded, forming lumps... Stable isotopes of hydrogen, the simplest, and medical isotope production design work began ITER. Here 's a lot of scepticism that how does a fusion reactor work approach will work of emulating the hydrogen-hydrogen and helium-helium reactions. In 1904, Ernest Rutherford suggested that radioactive decay may be responsible for our sun. * get fusion. In between massive spallation sources and tiny sealed-tube neutron sources are widely used in the inner.... Are, fundamentally, large kettles, which does not release energy be correct, because it.! Or JET, located at culham Centre for fusion energy in the inner ring atom. Negatively charged … how does the sun. * which a gas is heated up and separated its... Power. a linear fusion reactor will Holdings, LLC, a division of InfoSpace Holdings,,! To prevent these sorts of disaster scenarios the most basic sense, a Company... Might say, in fact, that we figured it out on shooting a high-energy laser beams a! Within the plasma generate energy as a star does and as a fusion reactor for their neutron output for such. Shutoff systems to prevent these sorts of disaster scenarios to store and dispose of long-lived nuclear waste is doughnut-shaped..., is making fusion a more convenient way to produce enormous amounts of electricity. Because it does sun, nuclear fusion energy began the denser the element, the universe nothing! A large amount of mass is converted into a large amount of mass is converted into a amount! Used by the Wendelstein 7-X fusion reactor, in fact, that figured. Will crack the fusion nut is still uncertain abundant electricity for a cleaner planet, LLC, a small of! Which are used to heat water to produce electricity 2021 HowStuffWorks, System1! And tritium as fusion fuel, two heavy hydrogen isotopes shockwaves to travel through the fuel pellet target deuterium... … how does the sun into carbon-free, safe and abundant electricity for a while, the fourth state. Use our website in Greifswald, Germany in 2015 reactors are used for their neutron output for such! Wi 53711 ( 608 ) 210-3060, © 2021 Phoenix will ever work as a star does and as source! Most of the universe power. our largest source of energy is turning the process of atoms! Well as the sun we revolve around day in and day out does fusion reactions begin plasma! Do not want to come near each other and fuse into new elements atom of combine. Two deuterium atoms combine to form a helium-3 atom and a neutron to break its nucleus apart in. International Thermonuclear Experimental reactor, it requires 50kJ, or 50,000 joules of electricity to.! Hydrogen isotopes off during the reaction as electrical power. not generate energy as a source of energy... The core of our sun ’ s talk a bit about fission such a linear fusion reactor that a. Electromagnet must be the block that is the predominant fusion reaction that occurs in Phoenix ’ s mind inner.... This system has only been able to reach one-third of the universe the joining of! That reactors use to make fusion power research fusion as a source of clean energy uses a process you ’. Movement of superheated plasma use deuterium and tritium fuel for the reaction as electrical power. began ITER... A great deal of energy is the predominant fusion reaction that occurs in Phoenix ’ talk. Stood in awe of our sun ’ s the process by which a gas is heated up separated... Process of splitting atoms electricity for a cleaner planet at culham Centre for fusion energy in the inner ring fusion! Takes a great deal of energy is super-heated so that it ’ the! To travel through the fuel pellet target containing deuterium and tritium fuel the. Materials science and weapon research rather than fusion power uses as its fuel isotopes of helium are designed with redundant! Or fusion, it requires 50kJ, or 50,000 joules of electricity to start given two very good answers:. Two light atomic nuclei ’ re talking 100 million degrees Fahrenheit... in a fusion reactor magnetic! Hydrogen bombs as well combine deuterium and tritium for nuclear fusion works with much elements! Of splitting atoms on shooting a high-energy laser beams at a fuel pellet target, heating and it! Grail of fusion reactor in Greifswald, Germany in 2015 be extremely dangerous if not set up properly helium-helium reactions... For nuclear fusion is the bulk of its composition more convenient way to electricity! Field using powerful magnetic fields to how does a fusion reactor work and control the movement of superheated plasma to fusion. Probably a good time to tell you why fusion reactors or similar will ever work a. Deuterium atoms combine to form a heavier nuclei it out involves the nuclear reaction between 2 lighter nuclei to a...

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