Necessary ingredients for fusion, part 1.
Let's talk a bit more about fusion energy.
In our last post we described how fusion is the joining together of (light) nuclei, to give off heavier nuclei and a lot of energy. This “joining together” happens when the two nuclei are forced close enough that the “strong” force takes over; think of the strong force as a very short, but very strong hook: it has no effect until you get very close, at which point you cannot escape.
As you may recall, the nucleus of an atom is where the positive charges are found – all nuclei are thus positively charged. You may also recall that like charges repel – positive repels positive. This is because of the “electromagnetic” force; think of the electromagnetic force as a compression spring between the two nuclei.
In order, therefore, to have fusion we need to bring together two nuclei which repel each other. In fact, the closer you bring them together, the greater the repulsion is (think of the compression spring). We need to somehow overcome that repulsion and bring the two nuclei close enough for the “hook” of the strong force to join the two nuclei.
One way we have found to bring the nuclei together is to make them go very fast. When the nuclei travel very fast, some will have enough energy to overcome the repulsion and get close enough to join together. When you make atoms and molecules travel very fast, that is the same as saying you make the substance very hot; indeed fusion experiments around the world routinely reach millions of degrees, and some go as high as 10 times the temperature at the centre of the sun (more than 100 million degrees).
High temperature is therefore a necessary ingredient to get fusion energy onto the grid, but it is not the only required ingredient. More on fusion in subsequent posts!
In the meantime, please continue spreading the word about Fusion Reactors.