Nuclear Fusion

A very indispensable part of our life or better to say nothing can exist without this crucial thing energy. The phones in your hands, or the luxurious cars, or it may be the bright glowing lights in your room are all in your hands due to this vital thing “The Energy.

Not wrong to say, actually life can’t exist without energy. Without energy, we would be banished in an era of cold and darkness.

About five lakhs a year back, the fire was discovered, it was the first-time humans used an external source of energy in form of light energy, time flew by and today we have come across the present world with immeasurable facilities. And behind all these, the basic and one thing is energy. Consequently, our energy needs are at an ever exponentially growing line. Checking the data our consumption of energy in a day is approximately 17 TW. 

Can you think of how much this energy amounts to? 

Shockingly, we can burn approximately 170 billion 100W bulbs at a time.

 Even more astonishing data is that it is calculated that approximately in 2050, our consumption of energy will become double what it is today, isn’t that horrific to think from where the human race will muster that enormous amount of energy to protect this world? 

Before, going to what our prospects related to energy would be. Let’s see some data on our present sources of getting energy.

Approximately, 80% of our present day’s consumption is produced by fossil fuels, 39% by petroleum, 33% by coal, and 28% by Natural gases. Glancing at this data, a huge hazard is awaiting us, by 2050 we will be in a colossal loss of energy.

We have also tried other sources like the production of energy from nuclear reactors and solar cells. But unfortunately, we are not in a secure position fossil fuels produce pollution which is hazardous for our lives, solar energy produced has storage problems as it requires powerful batteries and production from the nuclear reactor has the danger of harmful radiation. 

Here comes the burning question-

What is our future heading to?

We are now looking for a source of energy that can fulfil our needs and will produce energy in an unimaginable amount such that we do not stand at risk of an energy crisis in the future.  

Nuclear fusion

Our sun, the giant star produces energy in such a massive amount. 3,33000 times heavier than our earth this giant sun produces energy of its own. The process by which the sun produces such mammoth energy is known as Nuclear fusion.

Defining it in basic terms: – Nuclear fusion is a reaction in which light atomic nuclei combine to form different subatomic particles. The difference between the masses of the product and the reactant is manifested as the release of energy. 

The next question that comes to mind is – Is this process can be used on our earth to produce such massive amounts of energy?

For a moment, glance at this thought we’ll even never think of energy, it will be present in such enormous amounts!

Right here let’s dig into the science behind nuclear fusion.

Nuclear fusion is a thermonuclear process that occurs at precise conditions (for example – at very high temperatures and pressure may be in the order of crores).

Plasma physics behind Nuclear fusion 

When conditions are favourable that is there are appropriate temperatures and pressure, the atoms of elements with a small atomic number are not able to hold their electrons. Consequently, the electrons and nuclei start bouncing in space, at this state the matter converts into plasma. Plasma is referred to as the fourth state of matter which a matter attains when the atoms in a gas get ionized. 

Now, due to the presence of such massive heat and the presence of the same nuclear charge on nuclei, these nuclei heavily repel each other. They try to throw each other apart and to prevent this these nuclei move at a very high speed. At these high speeds, these nuclei lose their repulsive nature and finally they fuse. Accompanied with fusion, a new heavy nucleus is produced along with lots of energy. Production of this energy is energy is itself called nuclear fusion.

Cleanest energy

It’s quite engrossing to know that this energy produced in the process of nuclear fusion is considered the cleanest form of energy in the whole universe. 

Now an obvious question is – 

Is it possible to perform nuclear fusion on our earth?

The problem in nuclear fusion which hinders us to perform nuclear fusion on earth is the production of the environment under which matter turns into plasma. That is such high temperatures and pressure to make the nuclei fuse. 

Certainly, technology has an answer to that.

Energy can be produced by the use of nuclear fusion on our planet too by two methods namely-

  1. Magnetic confinement(Tokamak)

    In this method, there is a doughnut-shaped device within which pressure is applied to force the plasma. This device is also known as Tokamak. Heavy hydrogen is put in and a very high current of 5000000 (50 lakhs) is made through a loop. And with such a massive current such a large amount of magnetic field is created. This produced magnetic field exerts a force on the plasma until the fusion reaction starts. For example-The nuclei of hydrogen at a temperature of 250 million-degree Celsius gets fused and forms a helium nucleus along with the production of energy. If we need the energy for a long period the fusion reaction also needs to be maintained for a longer time and this is an arduous task!

  2. Inertial confinement

    In this method, the pallet of fusion fuel is heated to very high temperatures with the help of powerful lasers. Due to this heating, these pallets break which results in an increment of density and heat of the fuel. Finally, fusion takes place.

What energy is released per nuclear fusion?

Just imagine this energy’s amount, it’s approximately 16 million Watt.

Main snag

The problem with the production of energy from nuclear fusion on earth is the deficiency of fuel (hydrogen isotopes deuterium, tritium) on earth. And for the fusion reaction to continuously proceed there should be a heavy add-on of fuel. So, the tritium is present on earth in a very small amount of approximately 20kg. The unavailability of fuel poses a problem for our way to get energy from nuclear fusion. Also, it comes out that for now the amount of energy produced also requires a massive amount of energy as input, therefore things are still at the preliminary stages.

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Harshita Raj
Harshita Raj
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