Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Promise of Fusion Power

It has been called the holy grail of energy technology; a perfectly clean
source with an unlimited supply. Nuclear fusion has been demonstrated to be
possible, but converting it to a viable energy source remains technically
elusive. However, research on making fusion energy reality is in progress,
and there are some who are convinced that there will be a day when this free
and abundant source will arrive.

Our current nuclear technology, fission, is the breaking of the atomic
nucleus, which releases massive amounts of energy. For a fusion reaction,
the nuclei of two atoms fuse together to form a heavier nucleus. The
resulting release of energy is incredibly large. To put it in perspective,
fusion is the power of the sun, a force strong enough to heat a planet that
is 93 million miles away.

The fuels for a fusion reaction are the hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and
tritium, which are abundantly found in seawater. Experts estimate that there
is enough deuterium in seawater to last practically forever. Riccardo Betti,
professor at the University of Rochester's Laboratory for Laser Energetics
and a leading expert on nuclear fusion, believes that the deuterium found in
one cubic kilometer of seawater is equivalent in terms of energy to the
entire world's oil supply.

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