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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

Give an example (but not one from the text) of a device used to measure time and identify what change in that device indicates a change in time.
David Reply
hour glass, pendulum clock, atomic clock?
how did they solve for "t" after getting 67.6=.5(Voy + 0)t
Martin Reply
Find the following for path D in [link] : (a) The distance traveled. (b) The magnitude of the displacement from start to finish. (c) The displacement from start to finish.
David Reply
the topic is kinematics
can i get notes of solid state physics
just check the chpt. 13 kinetic theory of matter it's there
is acceleration a fundamental unit.
David Reply
no it is derived
K thanks
hi guys can you teach me how to solve a logarithm?
Villaflor Reply
how about a conceptual framework can you simplify for me? needed please
Hello what happens when electrone stops its rotation around its nucleus if it possible how
I think they are constantly moving
yep what is problem you are stuck into context?
not possible to fix electron position in space,
yes of course Villa flor
equations of kinematics for constant acceleration
Sagcurse Reply
A bottle full of water weighs 45g when full of mercury,it weighs 360g.if the empty bottle weighs 20g.calculate the relative density of mercury and the density of mercury....pls I need help
Lila Reply
well You know the density of water is 1000kg/m^3.And formula for density is density=mass/volume Then we must calculate volume of bottle and mass of mercury: Volume of bottle is (45-20)/1000000=1/40000 mass of mercury is:(360-20)/1000 kg density of mercury:(340/1000):1/50000=(340•40000):1000=13600
the latter is true
100g of water is mixed with 60g of a liquid of relative density 1.2.assuming no changes in volume occurred,find the average relative density of the mixture...take density of water as 1g/cm3 and density of liquid 1.2g/cm3
plz hu can explain Heisenberg's uncertainty principle
Emmanuel Reply
who can help me with my problem about acceleration?
Vann Reply
how to solve this... a car is heading north then smoothly made a westward turn during the travel the speed of the car remains constant at 1.5km/h what is the acceleration of the car? the total travel time of the car as it smoothly changed its direction is 15 minutes
i think the acceleration is 0 since the car does not change its speed unless there are other conditions
yes I have to agree, the key phrase is, "the speed of the car remains constant...," all other information is not needed to conclude that acceleration remains at 0 during the entire time
who can help me with a relative density question
1cm3 sample of tin lead alloy has mass 8.5g.the relative density of tin is 7.3 and that of lead is 11.3.calculate the percentage by weight of tin in the alloy. assuming that there is no change of volume when the metals formed the alloy
morning, what will happen to the volume of an ice block when heat is added from -200°c to 0°c... Will it volume increase or decrease?
adefenwa Reply
hi what is physical education?
BPED..is my course.
I think it is neither decreases nor increases ,it remains in the same volume because of its crystal structure
100g of water is mixed with 60g of a liquid of relative density 1.2.assuming no changes in volume occurred,find the average relative density of the mixture. take density of water as 1g/cm3 and density of liquid as 1.2g/cm3
Sorry what does it means"no changes in volume occured"?
volume can be the amount of space occupied by an object. But when an object does not change in shape it will still occupy the same space. Thats why the volume will still remain the same
Most soilds expand when heated but if it changes state at 0C it will have less volume. Ice floats because it is less dense ie a larger mass per unit volume.
how to calculate velocity
Okwethu Reply
his about the speed?
how about speed
hello bro hw is life with you
Jacob Reply
Mine is good. How about you?
Hi room of engineers
lawan Reply
yes,hi sir
so, what is going on here
u are all wlc just ask your question anybody. can answer
good morning ppl
If someone has not studied Mathematics enough yet, should theu study it first then study Phusics or Study Basics of Physics whilst srudying Math as well?
Riaz Reply
whether u studied maths or not, it is advisable to start from d basics cuz it is essential to know dem
yea you are right
wow, you got this w/o knowing math
I guess that's it
later people
mathematics is everywhere
thanks but dat doesn't mean it is good without maths @Riaz....... Maths is essential in sciences particularly wen it comes to PHYSICS but PHYSICS must be started from the basic which may also help in ur mathematical ability
A hydrometer of mass 0.15kg and uniform cross sectional area of 0.0025m2 displaced in water of density 1000kg/m3.what depth will the hydrometer sink
16.66 meters?
,i have a question of let me give answer
the mass is stretched a distance of 8cm and held what is the potential energy? quick answer
oscillation is a to and fro movement, it can also be referred to as vibration. e.g loaded string, loaded test tube or an hinged door
Olatunji Reply
Practice Key Terms 6

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