One of the key challenges facing today's engineers is how to make fusion a viable power source. Fusion energy is virtually limitless, but it must be made efficient, economical, and environmentally acceptable.
Fusion occurs every day on the surface of the sun. Human-engineered fusion (other than the fusion created by a thermonuclear bomb) has already been demonstrated on a small scale. Engineers are currently looking for ways to scale up the fusion process.
Fusion’s potential will soon be demonstrated in southern France when the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is powered up. ITER will use powerful magnetic forces to confine the fusion ingredients. Fusion fuels will be injected and confined in a vacuum chamber, then heated to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees (hotter than our sun). The fuels will become a gas-like form of electrically charged matter known as plasma. ITER will test the ability of magnetic confinement to hold the plasma in place at high-enough temperatures and density for a long-enough time to create a fusion reaction. ITER is expected to produce plasma in 2016, and to generate 500 megawatts of thermal energy by 2025.
Fusion is such a sought after power source because it poses no risk of a runaway nuclear reaction. The fusion reaction can be quickly stopped simply by eliminating the injection of fuel. Better still, the end product of a fusion reaction is not radioactive. And once engineers learn how to control the generation of fusion plasmas, the reactors can rely on less radioactive fuels.
For an additional perspective, check out the video, Nuclear Fusion Power Plant--Clean Infinite Energy
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Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients.