Nuclear Fusion

Frank Diana
2 min readFeb 19, 2024

This monumental undertaking, known as the JT-60SA reactor, marks a significant stride in the pursuit of harnessing the power of nuclear fusion, a technology still in its infancy but hailed by many as the answer to humanity’s future energy needs.

Joseph Shavit — World’s largest nuclear fusion reactor is now online promising to reshape global energy production

It is still early days, but progress is being made. This article and quote above describes the inauguration of the world’s largest experimental nuclear fusion reactor. The article describes a process that seeks to replicate the natural phenomenon occurring inside the sun, where fusion reactions power our solar system.

Harnessing this type of energy is the dream behind nuclear fusion, a process with the potential to revolutionize our world. How does this work? Think of atoms like tiny solar systems, with a central nucleus surrounded by orbiting electrons. In nuclear fusion, scientist are interested in the nucleus, the dense core packed with protons and neutrons. Normally, these nuclei repel each other like little magnets with the same poles facing each other. However, under extreme conditions, they can overcome this repulsion and force them to merge.

To fuse, the nuclei need temperatures millions of degrees Celsius, hotter than the sun’s surface! This intense heat turns atoms into a special state called plasma, a soup of charged particles buzzing with energy. Now, picture two lightweight nuclei, like hydrogen atoms, hurtling towards each other at incredible speeds. Imagine smashing two bouncy balls so hard they stick together. That’s kind of what happens in fusion! When the nuclei get close enough, the strong nuclear force, much stronger than the electrical repulsion, takes over and binds them together. The resulting single, heavier nucleus weighs slightly less than the combined mass of the originals. Where did that mass go? According to Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc², it gets converted into a tremendous amount of energy! This is the energy that powers stars, and the energy scientist hope to harness for clean, sustainable power here on Earth.

However, controlling this is no easy feat. Scientists are building elaborate machines to confine the plasma, create the necessary heat, and sustain the fusion reaction. It’s complex, but the potential payoff is immense. Fusion offers a dream: clean, abundant energy with minimal waste. Unlike conventional nuclear fission, it doesn’t produce long-lived radioactive materials and has a much lower risk of accidents. Plus, the fuel, hydrogen, is readily available in water! While we’re still in the early stages of development, the progress is promising. Fusion research is a global effort, with scientists from around the world working together to unlock this clean energy source.

Originally published at http://frankdiana.net on February 19, 2024.

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Frank Diana

TCS Executive focused on the rapid evolution of society and business. Fascinated by the view of the world in the next decade and beyond https://frankdiana.net/