Fusion energy is something that we will hear much about in the future. It is in simple term described by the fusion of two atoms making it one. This source of energy can apparently last for thousands of years without harmful waste products or radioactive waste. Machinery required to give birth to fusion energy is highly sophisticated.
Many researchers considered that cold fusion could be the lucky coin. Yet producing energy from cold fusion has not been met with success. Paving the way to succeed in hot fusion required billions of investment and years of scientific research before it surfaced as a contemporary source of energy.
The hot fusion is interesting but tremendously difficult. To enable atoms of a particular type of hydrogen to fuse it must be heated to 100 million degrees Celsius. At that heat, the hydrogen created electrical charged particles that are known as plasma. Plasma is a very common state of matter in the cosmos yet it is unprecedentedly difficult to manipulate. The generation of plasma is so complex that experiment conducted has never totally recovered the energy required to produce the reaction.
There are many projects across Japan, U.S and Europe that are trying to perfection the manipulation of plasma and thereby accelerate its energy output. The solution is believed to be in the six-dollar reactor known constructed in the “ITER” project. However, ITER project is still very much in a state of work-in-progress, and commercialization of the technology is not expected within a decade.
Sight of Plasma
Jerome Pamela, project manager of a fusion machine called the Joint European Torus, or JET, at Britain’s Culham Science Center is certain that they will be able to ignite the plasma. The constraint that remains problematic is to convey the transition of plasma into usable energy. A possible solution is to use a particular magnetic field to control plasma once it is heated up to around 10 million degrees Celsius. It is a temperature sufficient to produce plasma but not to initiate a fusion.
An experiment to see the plasma can last for 0.25 seconds. It is quite disappointing to see it live. It is like a ghost in a library but with an enormous amount of energy. It has energy similar to solar, biomass, fission and wind.
Politics and Energy
The ITER project has the developed-world supporting with finance and expertise. The machinery is actually being built in France. Scientists considered fusion energy as rigorously viable theory. The only hurdle that is trickier to control than plasma is politics.
Many politicians say that new energy technologies should emerge based on market forces. However, experts think the contrary. The fact that new technology is expensive and private investment will probably evade uncertain investment project makes the government a more prominent player to support technologic developments.
Innovative technology in the American Economy emerged through government support. According to Martin Hofferts, satellite communication and computers were supported by government intervention. Internet was similarly encouraged by the military and National Science Foundation for some decades before the private forces took-over.
Proactive energy policies are un-regulated up to date. There is an increased use of solar, wind and other renewable sources yet fossil fuels remain the dominant one. The peril effect on climate change might until now be underestimated. Taking actions to harness renewable energy such as wind can result to be both economical and indispensable for the environment.
The ITER project will finish its construction by 2018. It will have a potential capacity to create a heat of 200 million degrees Celsius, which is as much as 10 times the temperature at the core of the sun. Energy from fusion is practically unlimited as it is comparable to stars and suns in the cosmos. The emergence of fusion energy is definitely going to revolutionize the concept of generating clean, renewable and alternative energy.
Source: National Geographic