At one point or another you have probably heard of nuclear fusion and how one day we’ll be able to power cities, or even nations, with this amazing technology. So what is nuclear fusion? Simply put, fusion is the process that powers the sun. The more complicated answer: fusion occurs when two hydrogen isotopes (specifically Deuterium and Tritium) collide with one another. This collision results in the formation of a Helium atom, a neutron, and most importantly- energy.
The National Ignition Facility (NIF), located in California, has been working on harnessing nuclear energy as one of their primary projects, but as you can imagine it’s not that easy. For fusion power plants to be effective they (the power plants) would have to use fusion to produce more energy than they consume. I am not going to pretend like I know what all of this entails, but what I do know is that for the first time in history- it has been done!
In late September of 2013 the NIF conducted a nuclear fusion experiment in which 192 powerful laser beams were used to compress a small hydrogen fuel pellet to the point of nuclear fusion. The energy released during said experiment exceeded the amount of energy consumed- thus producing the world’s first sustainable man-made nuclear fusion reaction. This achievement has been marked by in the science world as one of the most meaningful steps towards self-sustaining fusion.
What does the heralding of nuclear energy mean for us? Well, the majority of energy we use is derived from fossil fuels. The fossil fuels we’ve been depending on are becoming increasingly scarce, and as we further exhaust these resources everything from heating your house to firing up the grill will become increasingly expensive. Nuclear energy, if ever a viable fuel source, will be sustainable, environmentally friendly, and cheap!
Of course nuclear energy cannot be perfect (nothing can), but it does seem to be the better option. Maybe it’s just the excitement of writing this blog post getting the best of me, but wouldn’t be nice to see a little more of a world-wide push for nuclear energy research? Spread the word, folks!
– OIA Bloggers