Nuclear fusion has been little more than a concept for producing energy since the hydrogen bomb was conceived. There have, however been companies working to develop reactors capable of harnessing the explosive power of the sun. Very recently, a company named Tokamak succeeded in testing plasma in a miniature fusion reactor. They hope to have a reactor capable of withstanding 15-million degrees in 2017 and as much as 100-million in 2018.
What is nuclear fusion?
Nuclear fusion is the reaction that powers stars throughout the universe using minimal amounts of highly abundant fuel. Nuclear fusion is fueled by hydrogen atoms, but the reaction that occurs in stars is so large that normal hydrogen will work. In industrial environments, however, higher temperatures and “heavy” hydrogen isotopes must be used to initiate and sustain fusion.
Why does it have to be so hot?
The core of the sun carries out nuclear fusion at about 15-million degrees, so why does a smaller reactor have to be hotter? In order to ensure a stable fusion reaction, a smaller reactor has be reach higher temperatures to ensure the particles have enough energy to react. The Tokamak compact fusion reactor uses magnetic fields to contain the plasma generated by the reaction.
Why does this new reactor matter?
This new reactor achieving first plasma has set the tone for the progression of their project. If they can achieve containable temperatures up to 100-million degrees, then commercial and civilian fusion energy production is possible.
How will this technology impact society of it works?
Compact nuclear fusion reactors have the potential to power both cities and vehicles on a large scale with minimal fuel consumption. The primary dilemma involved with nuclear fusion is dissipating the heat that the reaction produces After all, when many metals melt in the thousands of degrees, containing a core over 10-million degrees is a daunting task.
Nuclear fusion is an incredibly efficient process that emits enormous amounts of heat which can be recycled into energy through alternative means such as steam generation. Fusion relies on high fuel efficiency and long term sustainability as well as low levels of waste output to make itself the clear choice for future miniaturized applications.
If Tokamak succeeds in generating and sustaining temperatures in excess of 15-million degrees by the end of 2017, there is hop that the 100-million degree mark may yet be within reach as will sustainable and stable nuclear fusion generators.