Fusion 2 Essay

This essay has a total of 2772 words and 11 pages.

Fusion 2


Fusion reactions are inhibited by the electrical repulsive force that acts between two
positively charged nuclei. For fusion to occur, the two nuclei must approach each other at
high speed to overcome the electrical repulsion and attain a sufficiently small separation
(less than one-trillionth of a centimeter) that the short-range strong nuclear force
dominates. For the production of useful amounts of energy, a large number of nuclei must
under go fusion: that is to say, a gas of fusing nuclei must be produced. In a gas at
extremely high temperature, the average nucleus contains sufficient kinetic energy to
undergo fusion. Such a medium can be produced by heating an ordinary gas of neutral atoms
beyond the temperature at which electrons are knocked out of the atoms. The result is an
ionized gas consisting of free negative electrons and positive nuclei. This gas
constitutes a plasma.

Plasma, in physics, is an electrically conducting medium in which there are roughly equal
numbers of positively and negatively charged particles, produced when the atoms in a gas
become ionized. It is sometimes referred to as the fourth state of matter, distinct from
the solid, liquid, and gaseous states. When energy is continuously applied to a solid, it
first melts, then it vaporizes, and finally electrons are removed from some of the neutral
gas atoms and molecules to yield a mixture of positively charged ions and negatively
charged electrons, while overall neutral charge density is maintained. When a significant
portion of the gas has been ionized, its properties will be altered so substantially that
little resemblance to solids, liquids, and gases remains. A plasma is unique in the way in
which it interacts with itself with electric and magnetic fields, and with its
environment. A plasma can be thought of as a collection of ions, electrons, neutral atoms
and molecules, an photons in which some atoms are being ionized simultaneously with other
electrons recombining with ions to form neutral particles, while photons are continuously
being produced and absorbed.

Scientists have estimated that more than 99 percent of the matter in the universe exists
in the plasma state. All of the observed stars, including the Sun, consist of plasma, as
do interstellar and interplanetary media and the outer atmospheres of the planets.
Although most terrestrial matter exists in a solid, liquid or gaseous state, plasma is
found in lightning bolts and auroras, in gaseous discharge lamps (neon lights), and in the
crystal structure of metallic solids. Plasmas are currently being studied as an affordable
source of clean electric power from thermonuclear fusion reactions.

The scientific problem for fusion is thus the problem of producing and confining a hot,
dense plasma. The core of a fusion reactor would consist of burning plasma. Fusion would
occur between the nuclei, with electrons present only to maintain macroscopic charge
neutrality.

Stars, including the Sun, consist of plasma that generates energy by fusion reactions. In
these 'natural fusion reactors'; the reacting, or burning, plasma is confirmed by its own
gravity. It is not possible to assemble on Earth a plasma sufficiently massive to be
gravitationally confined. The hydrogen bomb is an example of fusion reactions produced in
an uncontrolled, unconfined manner in which the energy density is so high that the energy
release is explosive. By contrast, the use of fusion for peaceful energy generating
requires control and confinement of a plasma at high temperature and is often called
controlled thermonuclear fusion.

In the development of fusion power technology, demonstration of ' energy breakeven'; is
taken to signify the scientific feasibility of fusion. At breakeven, the fusion power
produced by a plasma is equal to the power input to maintain the plasma. This requires a
plasma that is hot, dense, and well confined. The temperature required, about 100 million
Kelvins, is several times that of the Sun. The product of the density and energy
confinement time of the plasma (the time it takes the plasma to lose its energy if not
replaced) must exceed a critical value.

There are two main approaches to controlled fusion – namely, magnetic confinement
and inertial confinement. Magnetic confinement of plasmas is the most highly developed
approach to controlled fusion. The hot plasma is contained by magnetic forces exerted on
the charged particles. A large part of the problem of fusion has been the attainment of
magnetic field configurations that effectively confine the plasma. A successful
configuration must meet three criteria: (1) the plasma must be in a time-independent
equilibrium state, (2) the equilibrium must be macroscopically stable, and (3) the leakage
of plasma energy to the bounding wall must be small.

A single charged particle tends to spiral about a magnetic line of force. It is necessary
that the single particle trajectories do not intersect the wall. Moreover, the pressure
force, arising from the thermal energy of all the particles, is in a direction to expand
the plasma. For the plasma to be in equilibrium, the magnetic force acting on the electric
current within the plasma must balance the pressure force at every point in the plasma.

The equilibrium thus obtained has to be stable. A plasma is stable if after a small
perturbation it returns to its original state. A plasma is continually perturbed by random
thermal "noise" fluctuations. If unstable, it might depart from its equilibrium state and
rapidly escape the confines of the magnetic field (perhaps in less than one-thousandth of
a second).

A plasma in stable equilibrium can be maintained indefinitely if the leakage of energy
from the plasma is balanced by energy input. If the plasma energy loss is too large, then
ignition cannot be achieved. An unavoidable diffusion of energy across the magnetic field
lines will occur from the collisions between the particles. The net effect is to transport
energy from the hot core to the wall. This transport process, known as classical
diffusion, is theoretically not strong in hot fusion plasmas and is easily compensated for
by heat from the alpha particle fusion products. In experiments, however, energy is lost
from plasma more rapidly than would be expected from classical diffusion. The observed
energy loss typically exceeds the classical value by a factor of 10-100. Reduction of this
anomalous transport is important to the engineering feasibility of fusion. An
understanding of anomalous transport in plasmas in terms of physics is not yet in hand. A
viewpoint under investigation is that the anomalous loss is caused by fine-scale
turbulence in the plasma. However, turbulently fluctuating electric and magnetic fields
can push particles across the confining magnetic field. Solution of the anomalous
transport problem involves research into fundamental topics in plasma physics, such as
plasma turbulence.

Many different types of magnetic configurations for plasma confinement have been devised
and tested over the years. This has resulted in a family of related magnetic
configurations, which may be grouped into two classes: closed, toroidal configurations and
open, linear configurations. Toroidal devices are the most highly developed. In a simple
straight magnetic field the plasma would be free to stream out the ends. End loss can be
eliminated by forming the plasma and field in the closed shape of a doughnut, or torus,
or, in an approach called mirror confinement, by "plugging" the ends of such a device
magnetically and electrostatically.

In the inertial confinement a fuel mass is compressed rapidly to densities 1,000 to10,000
times greater than normal by generating a pressure as high as 1017 pascals for periods as
short as nanoseconds. Near the end of this time period the implosion speed exceeds about
300,000 meters per second. At maximum compression of the fuel, which is now in a cool
Continues for 6 more pages >>




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