The constant availability of electricity is very important for human advancement and regular day-to-day functionality. Almost all kinds of technology whether it’s old or new is greatly dependent upon a constant supply of energy. Per se, humans have a large taxing demand for more power, power that is often accrued through less than desirable means. Either it is burning fossil fuels or hydroelectric dams, all present power generators tax the environment to some degree. But, what if you could eliminate all harmful effects of current power generation with a generator able to produce one million times more energy than any chemical reaction and use it to harness virtually unlimited power?
Although it appears to be an engineering fantasy, the answer looms directly overhead which is the energy that powers the Sun and every other star across the Cosmos, which is the Fusion energy. A large amount of energy is released to essentially infinite ends by the fusion of two particles. The most abundant element on Earth and in the universe is Hydrogen and comprises the fuel supply. Limitless energy would be provided virtually by tapping into fusion energy without any carbon emissions and any adverse side effects dealt unto the environment.
Initially in the 1900’s, it was considered as potentially being the most effective means of obtaining energy. But, the immaturity of scientists made them assume that generating and harvesting power from fusion generators would be easy. The first experiments into fusion generation were already being conducted by physicists in the 1930’s. Nonetheless, a major breakthrough was achieved in producing the two of the three critical conditions necessary to initiate the fusion process not until 1968.
A doughnut-shaped apparatus that uses strong magnetic fields to contain plasma within at temperatures exceeding that of the Sun known as “tokamak” was used by the device used in the experiment. The tokamak came to be a vital component of thermonuclear research and is being used to promote the development of producing a viable fusion reactor up to this day.
Through the pumping of a gas into a vacuum chamber, the tokamaks function. After this, electricity is pumped through the center that is the hole of the doughnut. The gas accumulates a large charge and starts heating up, however is confined by the intense magnetic fields generated by massive magnetic coils encircling the device.
Even though a method was devised by the team in satisfying two of the conditions in building a fusion reactor, creation of a functional model turned out to be uncannily difficult. The first controlled release of fusion power was attained in 1991. Several times more power input that what was produced was needed by the generator, a clearly poor means and impracticable way of producing electricity.
Three conditions are required to start a fusion reaction: extremely high temperatures (to fuel high-energy collisions); suitable plasma particle density (to ensure a higher probability for collisions to occur); and a sufficient amount of time in which the plasma is to be confined (to retain the plasma, which has a tendency to expand, in a defined volume). When all these three conditions are met, the fusion process begins.
Completely opposite to a fission reaction in which requires and expels highly radioactive material, fusion oversees particles fuse together in which releases huge amounts of energy in the form of heat, only demanding hydrogen as fuel and yields approximately no radioactive waste.
Two radioactive isotopes of hydrogen, deuterium and tritium, are employed by the reactors in order to fuse together and create helium at the same time as one extremely energized neutron is ejected which then speeds off to start the next reaction. A looping mechanism can be built in this method in order to initiate a self-sustaining device.
The biggest problem that is faced while building a feasible fusion reactor is the creation of a device that is capable of sustaining the great pressure and temperatures of the plasmas which approach 100 million degrees that is 6 times hotter than the core of the Earth. As scientist were able to attain temperatures exceeding just under 50 million degrees Celsius by means of a tokamak, therefore the experiment lasted merely 102 seconds before the plasma collapsed back into its stable form. Creation of sustainable conditions in which a functional fusion reaction is to be produced and maintained is still utterly vague.
Fusion scientists must meet the plasma energy breakeven point in order to attain power generation. A breakeven point is a point in which the plasmas within a fusion device expel at a minimum the same amount of energy as is used to initiate the process. As of today, the moment is yet to be achieved. But, the present world record for energy releases was capable of generating 70 percent of the input power. The record is still held by JET.
Nevertheless, after almost 60 years of research and development of fusion energy, engineers and scientists are now readying the final stages of the world’s largest tokamak reactor to initiate and sustain the word’s first nuclear fission generator with a positive output of energy. The project is an international collaboration with the aim of generating an experimental fusion reactor said to be self-sustaining- essentially harnessing the power of a small star. The project, deemed ITER, is presently well underway.
Now, you must know that ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is an international collaboration of nations in order to create the world’s first self-sustaining thermonuclear reactor in which exceeds the breakeven point. At present, the generator is under construction and guarantees a revolution in power generation in the 21 century. It will be capable of producing 500 MW of output power while consuming just 50 MW of input if it works as planned, thereby, rewriting a new chapter in history as the generation which harvested the power of the stars.
The plant will engage more than 5,000 people during its top construction hours and spans across a distance of 42 hectares. Measuring 8 times the volume of the next largest tokamak, it will be the largest tokamak reactor ever built.
This largest tokamak of the world will have a plasma radius (R) of 6.2 m and a plasma volume of 840 m³. Enormous magnetics coils wrapped around the tokamak are situated in the heart of the reactor which plays an important role in confining the temperatures which will approach 150 million degrees C. The massive vessel, just like all other tokamaks, will charge a gaseous fuel contained by immense magnetic fields. The gas will be forced to break down via the exceptional amounts of electricity and become ionized as electrons are stripped from the nuclei. Plasmas will then be formed.
As the plasma particles continue to collide at increasing intervals and intensities, they will continue to become energized. Auxiliary heating methods will assist in enhancing the plasma temperature’s until fusion temperatures are reached at 150 to 300 million °C. The highly energized particles will be able to overcome the natural electromagnetic repulsion, enabling the particles to collide and fuse, releasing immense amounts of energy.
The first milestone will be creating a functional, self-sustaining thermonuclear reactor, a world first. ITER has established a few goals besides the initial development which are:
1) Generate 500 MW of fusion power for pulses of 400 s
ITER has planned to produce 500 MW of power which is a 10 fold increase from its power input. The goal is then to sustain the plasma for no less than 400 seconds.
2) Demonstrate the integrated operation of technologies for a fusion power plant
ITER has promised to overcome the gap between experimental fusion devices and a functional generator, indicating the capabilities of fusion power plants for the future. Scientists will be capable of studying the plasmas by means of this gigantic device under same conditions which are likely to be discovered in future power plants.
3) Achieve a deuterium-tritium plasma in which the reaction is sustained through internal heating
In an ideal world, scientists are self-assured that the machine will stay self-sustaining, with the only power input being utilized to power the massive electromagnets, once the device turns on.
4) Test tritium breeding
A radioactive isotope of hydrogen, tritium, possibly will be an important component in creating future power plants. But, the first generators will require demonstrating the feasibility of producing tritium in order to sustain other reactors due to a diminishing supply that is already short in demand.
5) Demonstrate the safety characteristics of a fusion device
ITER received the license as a nuclear power in France in 2012 and became the first in the world to have undergone abundant amounts of examination concerning its safety. One of the primary goals of ITER is to demonstrate plasma and fusion reactions will create negligible consequences to the environment.
As 21st century is passing by, an importance is being given on creating sustainable, environmentally friendly. Due to positive thermonuclear reactor tests making increasingly common milestones in fusion generation, it is becoming very clear that soon the world will depend upon the power of the stars, , except this time, to our own accord. The advancement and development of such reactors remain promising. It is only a matter of time before large integration of functional facilities is developed. With no chance of a nuclear meltdown, nearly no radioactive waste, and an essentially virtually unlimited supply of energy provides a hopeful future in which humans will significantly reduce the footprint currently being imprinted onto the Earth.