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  • 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

kinetic functional force
Moyagabo Reply
what is a principal wave?
Haider Reply
A wave the movement of particles on rest position transferring energy from one place to another
Gabche
not wave. i need to know principal wave or waves.
Haider
principle wave is a superposition of wave when two or more waves meet at a point , whose amplitude is the algebraic sum of the amplitude of the waves
arshad
kindly define principal wave not principle wave (principle of super position) if u can understand my question
Haider
what is a model?
Ella Reply
hi
Muhanned
why are electros emitted only when the frequency of the incident radiation is greater than a certain value
ANSELEM Reply
b/c u have to know that for emission of electron need specific amount of energy which are gain by electron for emission . if incident rays have that amount of energy electron can be emitted, otherwise no way.
Nazir
search photoelectric effect on Google
Nazir
what is ohm's law
Pamilerin Reply
states that electric current in a given metallic conductor is directly proportional to the potential difference applied between its end, provided that the temperature of the conductor and other physical factors such as length and cross-sectional area remains constant. mathematically V=IR
ANIEFIOK
hi
Gundala
A body travelling at a velocity of 30ms^-1 in a straight line is brought to rest by application of brakes. if it covers a distance of 100m during this period, find the retardation.
Pamilerin Reply
just use v^2-u^2=2as
Gundala
how often does electrolyte emits?
alhassan
just use +€^3.7°√π%-4¢•∆¥%
v^2-u^2=2as v=0,u=30,s=100 -30^2=2a*100 -900=200a a=-900/200 a=-4.5m/s^2
akinyemi
what is distribution of trade
Grace Reply
what's acceleration
Joshua Reply
The change in position of an object with respect to time
Mfizi
Acceleration is velocity all over time
Pamilerin
hi
Stephen
It's not It's the change of velocity relative to time
Laura
Velocity is the change of position relative to time
Laura
acceleration it is the rate of change in velocity with time
Stephen
acceleration is change in velocity per rate of time
Noara
what is ohm's law
Stephen
Ohm's law is related to resistance by which volatge is the multiplication of current and resistance ( U=RI)
Laura
acceleration is the rate of change. of displacement with time.
Radical
the rate of change of velocity is called acceleration
Asma
how i don understand
Willam Reply
how do I access the Multiple Choice Questions? the button never works and the essay one doesn't either
Savannah Reply
How do you determine the magnitude of force
Peace Reply
mass × acceleration OR Work done ÷ distance
Seema
Which eye defect is corrected by a lens having different curvatures in two perpendicular directions?
Valentina Reply
acute astigmatism?
the difference between virtual work and virtual displacement
Noman Reply
How do you calculate uncertainties
Ancilla Reply
What is Elasticity
Salim Reply
the property of a body to regain it's original shape is called elasticity. or. the property of a body which can be stretch is called elasticity.
Nazir
Practice Key Terms 6

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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