<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
  • Define nuclear fusion.
  • Discuss processes to achieve practical fusion energy generation.

While basking in the warmth of the summer sun, a student reads of the latest breakthrough in achieving sustained thermonuclear power and vaguely recalls hearing about the cold fusion controversy. The three are connected. The Sun’s energy is produced by nuclear fusion (see [link] ). Thermonuclear power is the name given to the use of controlled nuclear fusion as an energy source. While research in the area of thermonuclear power is progressing, high temperatures and containment difficulties remain. The cold fusion controversy centered around unsubstantiated claims of practical fusion power at room temperatures.

This figure shows Sun rays piercing clouds to illuminate a natural scene.
The Sun’s energy is produced by nuclear fusion. (credit: Spiralz)

Nuclear fusion is a reaction in which two nuclei are combined, or fused , to form a larger nucleus. We know that all nuclei have less mass than the sum of the masses of the protons and neutrons that form them. The missing mass times c 2 size 12{c rSup { size 8{2} } } {} equals the binding energy of the nucleus—the greater the binding energy, the greater the missing mass. We also know that BE / A size 12{"BE"/A} {} , the binding energy per nucleon, is greater for medium-mass nuclei and has a maximum at Fe (iron). This means that if two low-mass nuclei can be fused together to form a larger nucleus, energy can be released. The larger nucleus has a greater binding energy and less mass per nucleon than the two that combined. Thus mass is destroyed in the fusion reaction, and energy is released (see [link] ). On average, fusion of low-mass nuclei releases energy, but the details depend on the actual nuclides involved.

This figure is a graph of atomic mass as horizontal axis versus binding energy per nucleon as vertical axis showing that, as a function of atomic mass, the binding energy per nucleon steeply increases from zero to about 9 M e V per nucleon then, after attaining a peak, slowly decreases to about 8 M e V per nucleon.
Fusion of light nuclei to form medium-mass nuclei destroys mass, because BE / A size 12{"BE"/A} {} is greater for the product nuclei. The larger BE / A size 12{"BE"/A} {} is, the less mass per nucleon, and so mass is converted to energy and released in these fusion reactions.

The major obstruction to fusion is the Coulomb repulsion between nuclei. Since the attractive nuclear force that can fuse nuclei together is short ranged, the repulsion of like positive charges must be overcome to get nuclei close enough to induce fusion. [link] shows an approximate graph of the potential energy between two nuclei as a function of the distance between their centers. The graph is analogous to a hill with a well in its center. A ball rolled from the right must have enough kinetic energy to get over the hump before it falls into the deeper well with a net gain in energy. So it is with fusion. If the nuclei are given enough kinetic energy to overcome the electric potential energy due to repulsion, then they can combine, release energy, and fall into a deep well. One way to accomplish this is to heat fusion fuel to high temperatures so that the kinetic energy of thermal motion is sufficient to get the nuclei together.

The graph shows potential energy as a function of distance r. The potential energy is negative for small r, then rises sharply to a positive peak at medium r, then falls back asymptotically to zero for large r. The curve at small r is labeled “attractive nuclear,” and the curve at large r is labeled “repulsive Coulomb.” A small ball is drawn to the left of the peak with an arrow indicating that the ball is moving down the potential energy curve toward the negative potential energy well. This ball is labeled “pulled together.” Another small ball is drawn to the right of the peak with an arrow indicating it is moving toward larger r. This ball is labeled “repelled.”
Potential energy between two light nuclei graphed as a function of distance between them. If the nuclei have enough kinetic energy to get over the Coulomb repulsion hump, they combine, release energy, and drop into a deep attractive well. Tunneling through the barrier is important in practice. The greater the kinetic energy and the higher the particles get up the barrier (or the lower the barrier), the more likely the tunneling.

Questions & Answers

definition of mass of conversion
umezurike Reply
Force equals mass time acceleration. Weight is a force and it can replace force in the equation. The acceleration would be gravity, which is an acceleration. To change from weight to mass divide by gravity (9.8 m/s^2).
Marisa
how many subject is in physics
Adeshina Reply
the write question should be " How many Topics are in O- Level Physics, or other branches of physics.
effiom
how many topic are in physics
Praise
yh I need someone to explain something im tryna solve . I'll send the question if u down for it
Tamdy Reply
a ripple tank experiment a vibrating plane is used to generate wrinkles in the water .if the distance between two successive point is 3.5cm and the wave travel a distance of 31.5cm find the frequency of the vibration
Tamdy
the range of objects and phenomena studied in physics is
Bethel Reply
what is Linear motion
Hamza Reply
straight line motion is called linear motion
then what
Amera
linear motion is a motion in a line, be it in a straight line or in a non straight line. It is the rate of change of distance.
Saeedul
Hi
aliyu
your are wrong Saeedul
Richard
Linear motion is a one-dimensional motion along a straight line, and can therefore be described mathematically using only one spatial dimension
Jason
is a one-dimensional motion along a straight line, and can therefore be described mathematically using only one spatial dimensions. 
Praise
what is a classical electrodynamics?
Marga
what is dynamics
Marga
dynamic is the force that stimulates change or progress within the system or process
Oze
what is the formula to calculate wavelength of the incident light
David Reply
if a spring is is stiffness of 950nm-1 what work will be done in extending the spring by 60mmp
Hassan Reply
State the forms of energy
Samzy Reply
machanical
Ridwan
Word : Mechanical wave Definition : The waves, which need a material medium for their propagation, e.g., Sound waves. \n\nOther Definition: The waves, which need a material medium for their propagation, are called mechanical waves. Mechanical waves are also called elastic waves. Sound waves, water waves are examples of mechanical waves.t Definition: wave consisting of periodic motion of matter; e.g. sound wave or water wave as opposed to electromagnetic wave.h
Clement Reply
correct
Akinpelu
what is mechanical wave
Akinpelu Reply
a wave which require material medium for its propagation
syed
The S.I unit for power is what?
Samuel Reply
watt
Okoli
Am I correct
Okoli
it can be in kilowatt, megawatt and so
Femi
yes
Femi
correct
Jaheim
kW
Akinpelu
OK that's right
Samuel
SI.unit of power is.watt=j/c.but kw.and Mw are bigger.umots
syed
What is physics
aish Reply
study of matter and its nature
Akinpelu
The word physics comes from a Greek word Physicos which means Nature.The Knowledge of Nature. It is branch of science which deals with the matter and energy and interaction between them.
Uniform
why in circular motion, a tangential acceleration can change the magnitude of the velocity but not its direction
Syafiqah Reply
reasonable
Femi
because it is balanced by the inward acceleration otherwise known as centripetal acceleration
MUSTAPHA
What is a wave
Mutuma Reply
Tramsmission of energy through a media
Mateo
is the disturbance that carry materials as propagation from one medium to another
Akinpelu
mistakes thanks
Akinpelu
find the triple product of (A*B).C given that A =i + 4j, B=2i - 3j and C = i + k
Favour Reply
Practice Key Terms 6

Get the best College physics course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'College physics' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask