Scientists and researchers worldwide look for new and cleaner energy sources around the clock, and now today, fusion energy may become easier with a new plasma confinement state. Teams from the US and China, along with 33 other nations, are building a facility in order to house a new 500 megawatt ITER (International Thermonuclear Energy Reactor) in France. This research facility hopes to apply the tokamak procedure to a real life reactor that works on fusion.
The tokamak (an abbreviation of toroidal chamber with magnetic coils) is a process that heats up plasma, ionized gas, with the help of strong magnetic coils. The plasma created is even more hotter than the core of our Sun and needs to be checked constantly in order to circumvent plasma turbulence, a phenomenon that appears when the plasma creates pockets of higher temperature within itself without changing the overall temperature. This may be solved by shooting frozen pellets of neon and deuterium (hydrogen isotope) at the higher temperature region, the pellet breaking on impact and spreading itself in order to lower temperature. Another way to combat this problem is by using a “boot-strap” method, slowly making the plasma go closer and closer to the tokamak wall, thus achieving a more uniform temperature and less “wobble”.
Fusion energy is sought after because of its safer applicability in the search of a cleaner source of energy. When compared to fission energy, fusion releases almost no radiation particles (radiation reaches fission levels only if fission was used in order to start the fusion process). True, the fusion process requires a lot more energy to be created than fusion but its energy output is sometimes four times greater than normal fission. It should also be noted that fusion occurs naturally in our environment (it occurs in stars) while fission is an artificial process. Another pro when it comes to fusion is that it is safer than normal fission. For fission to occur, the material needs to achieve critical mass and be bombarded with high speed neutrons while fusion only requires an environment with high density and temperature. Even so, the fusion process can still be used as a nuclear weapon, using the energy created by fission in order to create more energy, such as the hydrogen bomb.
Scientists hope that fusion energy may become easier with a new plasma confinement state provided by the tokamak, and with the process of shooting frozen pellets into it when the need arrives, we can safely say that a clean fusion reactor will soon arrive in the near future.