HomeTechnologyEnergyWhat Is Fusion Energy and When Can We Use It?

What Is Fusion Energy and When Can We Use It?

What is fusion energy? How does it work, and when will we use it? These are questions that many people are asking these days. Especially looking at the current concerns due to geopolitical issues the current strategy for how we generate power is questioned. In this article, we will attempt to answer them. Fusion energy is a type of renewable energy that is generated by combining two or more lighter atoms into one heavier atom. This process releases a large amount of energy, which can be harnessed and used to generate power. Fusion reactors have been in development for many years, and scientists believe that we may be able to start using fusion power within the next coming years.

All about fusion energy and this power alternative

Fusion energy is a relatively new technology, and there are still many things that we don’t know about it. However, scientists believe that fusion power has the potential to be a major source of renewable energy in the future. Fusion reactors have several advantages over other types of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power. For example, fusion reactors are much more efficient than solar or wind power, and they also produce far less greenhouse gas emissions.

Table of contents

There are still some challenges that need to be overcome before fusion energy can be used commercially. For example, fusion reactors require a lot of expensive infrastructures, and there is still some uncertainty about the long-term feasibility of fusion energy.

1. What is fusion energy and how does it work?

Fusion energy is the process of combining two lighter atomic nuclei to form a heavier nucleus. This process releases a large amount of energy, which is why fusion is being explored as a potential source of renewable energy. Fusion reactors use this process to generate power, and scientists are getting closer and closer to making fusion energy a reality.

How does fusion work? By using high temperatures and pressures, fusion reactors can force atomic nuclei to fuse together. This process releases a large amount of energy, which can then be used to generate electricity.

Fusion power has the potential to be a clean and renewable source of energy. Fusion reactors would produce no greenhouse gases, and would not contribute to global warming. Additionally, fusion power would not produce the radioactive waste that comes from nuclear fission reactors.

The Joint European Torus (JET) magnetic fusion experiment in 1991
The Joint European Torus (JET) magnetic fusion experiment in 1991 (Image: EFDA JET)

However, there are still some challenges that need to be overcome before fusion power can become a reality. First, scientists need to figure out how to sustain the high temperatures and pressures needed for fusion to occur. Second, they need to find a way to contain the plasma, the super-hot ionized gas that is created during fusion.

Scientists are making progress on both of these fronts, and there are several fusion reactors currently in development. If all goes according to plan, we could see the first commercial fusion reactors within the next few decades.

2. The benefits of fusion energy over other forms of energy

Fusion power, which has been a dream of scientists for decades, is like the Holy Grail in the world of energy. If it can be harnessed safely and economically, fusion could offer nearly unlimited clean energy resources to the planet.

Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE, Lazard) - renewable energy
Graph of levelized cost of energy (starting with LCOE 14.0, October 2020) for various energy sources as a function of the year, derived from LCOE data from Lazard. (Image: RCraig09, Wikimedia Commons)

But what exactly is fusion? And how does it work? The answers are surprisingly simple: Fusion is a process in which two atoms join together to form a larger atom. This process releases huge amounts of energy, which can then be used to generate electricity.

Fusion power has several potential advantages over other forms of energy generation, including:

  • Fusion reactions produce no greenhouse gases.
  • Fusion reactions produce no long-lived radioactive waste.
  • Fusion reactors are potentially safer than nuclear fission reactors.
  • Fusion could provide a nearly unlimited supply of clean energy.

So why haven’t we been using fusion power for years? The main obstacle has been the difficulty in creating a self-sustaining fusion reaction – one that doesn’t quickly die out. But scientists have made significant progress in this area, and there are now a number of fusion reactors under construction around the world.

The first commercial fusion power plant is expected to come online in 2030. But even if everything goes according to plan, it will still be years before fusion power becomes a major source of energy for the planet. In the meantime, we’ll need to continue working on other forms of clean energy generation, such as solar and wind power.

3. How close are we to achieving fusion energy in 2022 and what challenges remain?

In spite of these challenges, researchers are optimistic that fusion energy will be viable within the next 10-15 years. The main challenges remaining are developing a reactor that can achieve controlled fusion ignition and maintaining the reaction over a long period of time. However, with continued research and development, it is hoped that these challenges will be overcome and fusion energy will become a reality within the next decade.

Binding energy curve - common isotopes
Binding energy curve (average binding energy per nucleon in MeV against the number of nucleons in the nucleus) for a number of relatively common (abundant) isotopes (not chosen systematically; almost anything with an occurrence of over .2 was chosen though a few exceptions are in there, such as U235). A few important ones for the purposes of nuclear fusion and nuclear fission are marked, as well as iron-56, which sits at the highest point on this graph and cannot yield energy from fusion or fission. (Image: Fastfission, Wikimedia Commons)

Looking towards the future, fusion energy presents an exciting possibility for clean, sustainable energy. With continued research and development, it is hoped that fusion energy will become a reality in the next decade, providing a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to traditional forms of energy generation.

4. What will be the impact of fusion energy on the world economy and environment?

Fusion energy, the power source of the future, could be a major game-changer to our world economy. Fusion reactors are designed to produce electricity without generating greenhouse gases or hazardous radioactive waste and operate at much higher temperatures than fission reactors. The fusion reaction releases ten times more energy than nuclear fission; thus one quantity of deuterium is equal to over 200,000 barrels of oil. In the future, developing countries will have the opportunity to use this cleaner, sustainable energy source to improve their quality of life and escape poverty.

Preamplifier at the National Ignition Facility
The preamplifiers of the National Ignition Facility are the first step in increasing the energy of laser beams as they make their way toward the target chamber. NIF recently achieved a 500 terawatt shot – 1,000 times more power than the United States uses at any instant in time. (Image: Damien Jemison, LLNL)

The potential impact of fusion on the environment is also huge. If we are able to harness its power, fusion could provide a nearly limitless supply of energy without the harmful emissions that come from other forms of energy production. Fusion could also help us reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, which would in turn slow the progression of climate change.

While fusion holds great promise for the future, there are still some challenges to overcome before it can be widely adopted. The technology is not yet fully developed, and a working fusion reactor has not yet been built. But if we are able to surmount these challenges, fusion could be an invaluable tool in the fight against climate change and a major step towards a sustainable future.

5. How can we accelerate the development of fusion energy for 2022 and beyond?

There are a number of ways that we can accelerate the development of fusion power for 2022 and beyond. One way is to increase the funding for fusion research, which will allow for more innovation and progress in the field. Another way is to make fusion technology more accessible to researchers so that they can continue developing it faster.

The Wendelstein7X under construction
The last of the five field-period modules of the stellarator experiment Wendelstein 7-X was installed at the end of 2011. (Image: Tino Schulz, Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik)

Last but not least, we need to create more awareness about fusion energy and its potential, so that more people will be motivated to support its development. One way to achieve this is by working together and pooling our resources. If we can do this, then there’s no doubt in my mind that we can bring fusion energy online sooner than what is currently planned right now.

6. Conclusion

Fusion energy has the potential to be a major game-changer in terms of our world economy and environment. It is a cleaner, more sustainable alternative to traditional forms of energy generation, and with continued research and development, it is hoped that fusion will become a reality within the next decade.

There are still some challenges to overcome before fusion can be widely adopted, but if we are able to surmount these challenges, fusion could be an invaluable tool in the fight against climate change and a major step towards a sustainable future.


YouTube: Fusion Power Explained – Future or Failure

Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Alex Alexandrov. The images in the body of the article have been done by the people and organizations as indicated in the credit right beneath the picture.

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Christopher Isak
Christopher Isakhttps://techacute.com
Hi there and thanks for reading my article! I'm Chris the founder of TechAcute. I write about technology news and share experiences from my life in the enterprise world. Drop by on Twitter and say 'hi' sometime. ;)

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