"Fusion Power Source of the STAR"
Fusion and Fission
Fusion and Fission are 2 different types of nuclear reactions that involve the splitting or merging of atomic nuclei.
Fission – The process of splitting a heavy atomic nucleus into two or more smaller nuclei, releasing a large amount of energy in the process.
This is the process used in nuclear power plants and atomic bombs. In fission, energy is released by breaking the bonds between the nucleus’s protons and neutrons. This reaction typically requires a neutron to initiate the process.
Fusion – The other hand, is the process of combining two light atomic nuclei to form a heavier nucleus. This process also releases a large amount of energy, as is the case in stars like the sun. In fusion, energy is released by the binding of the two atomic nuclei.
However, achieving fusion requires much higher temperatures and pressures than fission and is therefore much more challenging to achieve in a controlled manner.
Fission involves the splitting of heavy atomic nuclei into smaller ones, while fusion involves the merging of lighter nuclei into a heavier one.
Both processes release a large amount of energy and have the potential to be used as sources of power, but they have different requirements and challenges associated with their implementation.
Is it Fiction or a Reality
Fusion energy is a real possibility and a promising technology that has been researched for many decades. Fusion energy is the process of combining two atomic nuclei to create a new, heavier nucleus, which releases a significant amount of energy. This is the same process that powers the sun and other stars.
Scientists have been working on creating a controlled fusion reaction here on Earth for many years. While there are still technical challenges to be overcome, significant progress has been made, and there are several experimental fusion reactors in operation around the world.
One of the most significant challenges in creating a practical fusion reactor is maintaining the high temperature and pressure required for the fusion reaction to occur. Scientists are currently investigating several different approaches to achieve this, including magnetic confinement and inertial confinement.
While it may still be some time before a practical fusion reactor is developed, the potential benefits of this technology are enormous. Fusion energy is clean, safe, and virtually limitless, offering a potential solution to the world’s energy needs while reducing carbon emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.
No longer a science fiction
It is a real technology that has been studied and developed for many decades. While a practical, commercially viable fusion reactor has not yet been built, significant progress has been made in understanding the underlying physics and developing experimental reactors.
There are several experimental fusion reactors in operation around the world, including the Joint European Torus (JET) in the UK and the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in the US. These reactors are helping to advance our understanding of fusion and develop the technology needed to create a practical fusion reactor.
In recent years, several private companies have also entered the fusion space, such as Commonwealth Fusion Systems and General Fusion. These companies are working on innovative approaches to fusion, such as using high-temperature superconductors or acoustic waves to generate the high temperatures and pressures needed for fusion.
While there are still technical challenges to be overcome, such as achieving the high temperatures and pressures needed for sustained fusion reactions and developing materials that can withstand the extreme conditions inside a fusion reactor, there is reason for optimism. Many experts believe that practical fusion energy could be achieved within the next few decades, which could have a transformative impact on the world’s energy landscape.
How close are we
Creating a practical fusion reactor that generates more energy than it consumes, also known as achieving “net energy gain,” is a major technical challenge that has yet to be fully realized. While significant progress has been made in understanding the underlying physics of fusion and developing experimental reactors, there are still technical hurdles that must be overcome before a practical fusion reactor can be built.
Several experimental fusion reactors have achieved significant milestones in recent years. For example, in 2018, the Wendelstein 7-X fusion reactor in Germany achieved a record-breaking plasma temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius, which is hotter than the center of the sun. In the same year, the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) in China also achieved a plasma temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius.
Private companies are also working on innovative approaches to fusion, such as using high-temperature superconductors or acoustic waves to generate the high temperatures and pressures needed for fusion. Commonwealth Fusion Systems, a company spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has raised over $200 million to develop a compact fusion reactor using high-temperature superconductors.
Despite these achievements, there are still technical challenges that must be overcome before practical fusion energy can be achieved. These challenges include developing materials that can withstand the extreme conditions inside a fusion reactor, achieving sustained fusion reactions, and developing the infrastructure needed to support a fusion energy industry.
Overall, while practical fusion energy is not yet a reality, there is reason for optimism that it could be achieved within the next few decades, which could have a transformative impact on the world’s energy landscape.
Fusion will make Electricity by 2024
David Kirtley, the founder of Helion Energy, is a leading proponent of fusion energy and has made significant contributions to the field. Helion Energy is a private company that is developing a fusion reactor technology based on a pulsed fusion method called “magnetized target fusion.”
According to Helion Energy, their technology could potentially produce fusion energy at commercial scale by the mid-2020s. However, it is important to note that achieving commercial-scale fusion energy is a major technical challenge, and there are no guarantees that any particular technology will be successful.
While Helion Energy has made significant progress in developing their fusion technology and has received funding from a variety of sources, including the US Department of Energy, the timeline for achieving commercial-scale fusion energy is difficult to predict. It is likely that there will be many technical challenges and hurdles that must be overcome before practical fusion energy can be achieved.
Overall, while there is reason for optimism about the potential for fusion energy, it is important to approach claims about the timeline for achieving practical fusion energy with caution and scepticism. The development of fusion energy is a complex and challenging endeavour that requires significant research and development, and progress can be slow and uncertain.
Unit of energy a fusion can generate
This is described by Einstein’s famous equation E=mc², which relates energy to mass. In a fusion reaction, some of the mass of the reactants is converted into energy.
The amount of energy that can be generated by a fusion reaction depends on several factors, including the mass of the fuel, the temperature and density of the plasma, and the efficiency of the energy extraction process. In the case of the most widely studied fusion reaction, deuterium-tritium fusion, each individual reaction can release up to 17.6 million electron volts (MeV) of energy.
The potential energy that can be generated by a fusion reaction is enormous. In fact, fusion reactions are the energy source that powers the sun and other stars. The energy released by a fusion reaction is many times greater than that released by a chemical reaction, such as burning fossil fuels.
The exact amount of energy that can be generated by a fusion reaction depends on the specific reactants used and the conditions under which the reaction occurs.
For example, the most commonly studied fusion reaction for power generation is the fusion of isotopes of hydrogen – deuterium and tritium. The fusion of these two isotopes can release up to 17.6 MeV (megaelectron volts) of energy per reaction.
To put this in perspective, 1 megawatt-hour of electricity is equivalent to about 3.6 billion joules, or about 6.2 x 10^18 electron volts. So, a single Deuterium – Tritium fusion reaction could potentially release over 10 million times more energy than burning a single fossil fuel molecule.
Note: Achieving sustained fusion reactions and harnessing this energy on a practical scale is a major technical challenge that has yet to be fully realized.
Fuel Considered to create fusion
The most commonly studied fuels for creating fusion energy are isotopes of Hydrogen, particularly Deuterium and Tritium.
Deuterium is a stable isotope of hydrogen that is present in seawater and can be extracted relatively easily.
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that can be produced from lithium using a neutron source, such as a fusion reactor itself.
When deuterium and tritium are heated and compressed to very high temperatures and pressures, they can undergo fusion and release large amounts of energy. This process is called “DT fusion,” and it is the most studied fusion reaction for power generation.
Other fuels that have been studied for fusion include helium-3, which can also undergo fusion with deuterium to produce energy, and p-B11 (proton-boron), which produces energy through a different fusion reaction that requires much higher temperatures and is therefore more difficult to achieve.
However, deuterium-tritium fusion remains the most practical and well-studied fuel for fusion energy, as it can be achieved at relatively low temperatures and can release large amounts of energy per reaction.
The process of producing energy from fusion involves several steps, which can be roughly described as follows:
Fuel preparation: The first step in producing energy from fusion is to prepare the fuel. This typically involves extracting deuterium from seawater or producing tritium using lithium and a neutron source.
Plasma formation: The fuel is then heated and ionized to form a plasma, which is a high-temperature, electrically charged gas. This is typically done using powerful heating systems, such as lasers, microwaves, or particle beams.
Confinement: The plasma must be confined in a magnetic field or by other means to prevent it from touching the walls of the reactor and cooling down too quickly. This confinement is typically achieved using magnetic fields produced by superconducting coils.
Ignition: Once the plasma is confined, it must be heated to a temperature and density at which fusion reactions can occur. This requires a large amount of energy to be added to the plasma. The goal is to reach a state known as ignition, in which the energy released by fusion reactions is sufficient to sustain the plasma and produce net energy output.
Energy extraction: As the fusion reactions occur, they release high-energy neutrons and charged particles, such as alpha particles. These particles carry energy, which can be captured and converted into useful forms of energy, such as heat or electricity. This typically involves using a blanket of material surrounding the reactor to absorb the neutrons and convert their energy into heat, which can then be used to generate electricity using conventional power plant technologies.
Waste management: Fusion reactions do not produce long-lived radioactive waste products, as is the case with nuclear fission. However, some materials in the reactor, such as the blanket and the superconducting coils, may become activated and produce radioactive waste. This waste must be managed and disposed of safely.
Note: The process of producing energy from fusion is complex and challenging, and many technical hurdles must be overcome before practical fusion energy can be achieved.
However, significant progress has been made in recent years, and there is reason for optimism about the potential for fusion energy to provide a safe, clean, and abundant source of energy for the future.
Fission Pros and Cons
- Fission reactors have a high energy density and are capable of generating large amounts of electricity in a small space.
- Nuclear power plants emit no carbon dioxide or other air pollutants during operation.
- Fission can be used for a variety of applications, including electricity generation, space exploration, and medical applications.
- Nuclear fuel can provide a reliable source of energy for many years.
- Nuclear waste produced by fission reactors is radioactive and can remain hazardous for thousands of years.
- The risk of nuclear accidents, such as the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters, can have catastrophic consequences for human health and the environment.
- The cost of building, operating, and decommissioning nuclear power plants is high.
- The proliferation of nuclear weapons is a major concern with fission technology.
Fusion Pros and Cons
- Fusion offers a virtually limitless source of energy with no greenhouse gas emissions or long-lived radioactive waste.
- The fuel used in fusion reactions is abundant and widely available.
- Fusion reactions are inherently safe and do not pose a risk of nuclear meltdown or radiation leaks.
- The technology could have many other applications beyond electricity generation, such as space propulsion and medical applications.
- Fusion requires extremely high temperatures and pressures, which are challenging to achieve and maintain.
- Developing a practical fusion reactor that can generate more energy than it consumes has proven difficult, and progress has been slow.
- The technology is still in the experimental stage, and it could be many years before it is ready for commercial use.
- Fusion research and development is costly, and significant investment will be required to bring it to fruition.