Fusion - Research for Tomorrow's Energy Supply
Source: By Daniel Case (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
What is Fusion?
Nuclei of lighter atoms such as hydrogen collide and fuse to produce nuclei of heavier atoms such as helium and release vast amounts of energy in the process —this is the essence of fusion. Because the energy is derived from the action of nuclei, fusion is a form of nuclear energy. It may be considered the opposite of fission, also a form of nuclear energy, which is generated when nuclei of heavy atoms split into lighter ones. Fusion is the process that powers and drives the production of energy in stars, such as our Sun.
Fusion on Earth
The Earth does not have the immense gravitational force required to confine the hydrogen nuclei. So a different approach is needed to achieve fusion reactions on Earth.
Fusion vs Fission
It seems confusing that energy can be generated by both fusion (the coalescence of two nuclei) and fission (splitting the nucleus), as they appear to be quite opposite processes. The explanation lies in the size of the nuclei.
History of Fusion
Some 70 years ago scientists obtained the first insights into the physics of sunshine: when the sun and other stars transmute matter, tirelessly transforming hydrogen into helium by the process of fusion, they release colossal amounts of energy.