The Energy Of The Future: How To Harness The Power Of The Sun.
The Power Of A Star.
Nuclear fusion is a dream that scientists have had for years. As a dream it has been just beyond our grasp. Even in the 1920s when people were just beginning to understand fusion, fusion power seemed to be about 50 years removed. In the '20s, scientists discovered that the total mass of 4 hydrogen atoms was more than the mass of a helium atom. This meant that the remaining mass would be converted into energy. This was thought to be what powered the sun, now we know that it is correct. The first man made fusion reaction was in the 1950s. The device was a boosted fission weapon that used neutrons, created by fusion, to boost the amount of fissile material used, before the core blew itself apart. The practical fusion weapon was "Castle Bravo" by the U.S.. This device was an uncontrolled fusion reaction that was more powerful than was calculated. The result was a fireball that was 4.5 miles wide within one second, demonstrating the power of the sun. Unintended side effects were 7000 square miles of the pacific ocean blanketed in radioactive fallout. Natives on surrounding islands were not evacuated for 3 days leaving many with severe radiation poisoning.
Limitless clean energy, that is what we think of most when we talk about fusion power. Nuclear energy without the toxic, radioactive waste. There are many experiments going on today that are trying to harness this power so that we can use it in our everyday lives. The first recorded use of controlled thermonuclear fusion was at Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico. There were new innovations happening all around with new fusion reactor designs by Russia, the UK and others. In 1964 the public got its first look at fusion during the world's fair by a machine developed by general electric.
When we look up at night and view the stars, everything we see is shining because of distant nuclear fusion.— Carl Sagan
The Joint European Torus tokamak generator based at the CCFE.
The Fight To Fusion.
Harnessing the power of a star is not easy. To achieve fusion we must get the hydrogen fuel to reach a temperature hotter than the surface of the sun. After that we need to be able to contain this reaction, use it to vaporize water, and spin a turbine. Right now, creating the fusion reaction is not the problem. Making a stable fusion reaction, that makes more energy than is put into it, is the problem. Without this surplus of energy, practical fusion is beyond our grasp.
Lasers may be the key to achieving our goal of nuclear fusion. In 2013, a research laboratory was able to produce fusion be bombarding a fuel pellet with lasers. The resulting reaction was able to produce a net positive of energy. Meaning that more energy was produced than was originally put into the system. This was a big step in our dream of a clean energy future.
No one knows what the future holds. Will we ever be able to harness this awesome power? Hopefully the answer is yes, as it should change our world for the better. But, to the first people to create a practical fusion reactor, will be given a head start for the future. This in itself should be enough for any government to want to be the first to build one. Though it seems like the future is far from the minds of some. These people, who cut funding to the sciences, must not realize that without them all the advances which have made our technological society possible will slow down. Though it is a peaceful thought that progress is made each day, and it will not be stopped as long as people are passionate about it.