This article was written by Ludvig
Nuclear fusion is arguably one of the most important reactions that takes place. All elements, including those that make up our bodies, are the results of nuclear fusion. Briefly, nuclear fusion is the merging together of atomic nuclei.
Bonding together even the lightest nuclei e.g. hydrogen and helium, requires great pressure and heat so that the only places that nuclear fusion occurs naturally is in the centres of stars such as our sun. The simplest fusion reaction is the combination of hydrogen and deuterium which forms helium plus a single neutron, even though this is the simplest fusion reaction it requires 800 million °C just to ignite the reaction, this dwarfs the 300,000 °C in the Hiroshima atom bomb.
Currently we on earth are trying to replicate these reactions that happen in the stars but even the most advanced fusion reactors require a lot more energy to ignite the reaction than they produce. Fusion power is the “holy grail” of energy production. Compared with fission technology, fusion reactions are relatively clean, but this is if we can get them to work. According to the predictions made by scientists who are building the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), the amounts of energy produced should be ten times the amount of energy required to heat up the particles which are required for fusion to take place. But, as noted earlier, this is all only theoretical but hopefully all this will be solved in 2018, which is when the ITER is scheduled to be finished, this is assuming that the apocalypse does not occur.
In 1989, the scientific world was struck an amazing idea which was proposed by Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons when they reported having performed nuclear fusion not in a huge reactor but in a test tube. They did this by firing electric current via a palladium electrode through heavy water (this is water whose hydrogen atoms have been replaced by deuterium). The pair believed they had produced energy via “cold fusion.” This caused controversy as most scientists have since been unable to replicate the effect.
We can say that fusion is one of the most important reactions that happens. It has created all the elements that we know today but it also drives the stars. It is also possible that in future it will become even more important as it may provide us all with electricity as its energy potential is extraordinary. I can tell you that whatever it leads to its results will be revealed within the next 20 years.