Recently, Scientists in the United States have achieved a net gain in energy for the first time from a nuclear fusion reaction which is considered as the most dependable source of energy in future.
- The experiment forced a minuscule amount of hydrogen into a peppercorn-sized capsule, for which scientists used a powerful 192-beam laser that could generate 100 million degrees Celsius of heat. It is also called ‘Inertial Fusion’
- The laser beam was hotter than the Sun’s centre and helped to compress the hydrogen fuel to more than 100 billion times that of Earth’s atmosphere.
- Under the pressure of these forces, the capsule started imploding on itself and leading to the fusion of hydrogen atoms and the release of energy. At the international collaborative project in southern France called ITER in which India is a partner used very strong magnetic fields for the same purpose which is the second method of producing this energy.
- It is relatively easier to attain break-even energy levels through inertial fusion compared to magnetic fusion.
Fusion: In fusion, nuclei of two lighter elements are made to fuse together to form the nucleus of a heavier atom.
- A large amount of energy is released in both these processes, but substantially more in fusion than fission.
- This is the process that makes the Sun and all other stars shine and radiate energy.
|ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor)
It is an international nuclear fusion research and engineering megaproject aimed at creating energy by replicating on Earth the fusion processes of the Sun.
When operational it would become the biggest machine anywhere in the world which would be more complex than the Large Hadron Collider at CERN or the LIGO project to detect gravitational waves.
Currently, the ITER reactor is in the machine assembly phase.
India joined the ITER project in 2005. The Institute for Plasma Research in Ahmedabad, a laboratory under the Department of Atomic Energy, is the lead institution from the Indian side participating in the project.
- Obtaining net energy gainis a very important step but we are still far away from reactor grade fusion reactions.
- Several countries like: China, Japan, UK and South Korea, are working on this technology separately as well, apart from collaborating at ITER.