What is Fusion Energy?
Fusion is the process that powers the sun and the stars.
- Fusion in the Sun (Universe Today)
- Fusion in the Sun - Step by step. (Zebu, U Oregon)
- Twinkle Twinkle, Inefficient Star (What an impractical universe. Who designed this thing?)
Small Things, Coming Together
“Fusion” is the word used to describe what happens when the nuclei of light atoms overcome their electrical resistance to get close enough to activate the strong nuclear forces that make them stick together, or “fuse”.
Once fused, they form a bigger nuclei. This is transmutation. Remember those alchemists of yore, trying to turn one element into another? Fusion succeeds. Two elements combine to form a different element at the level of the nucleus. That’s deep.
This is different from chemical reactions (like burning fossil fuels). In a chemical reaction, elements remain the same, it’s the electrons that are moving around, changing states. Think of a molecule as a loose association of elements, held together by the electrical forces of the electrons buzzing around them. Chemical reactions involve the exchange of electrons between molecules, shifting states at the electron level. That’s superficial.
What does this have to do with Energy?
It all goes back to E=mc2
In the process of these reactions, some mass is converted to energy. In a sense, mass is highly concentrated energy.
Take our lightest element. Hydrogen is made up of one proton. Each proton has a certain weight. When two protons fuse, the weight of the new thing (the two fused protons) is slightly less than that of two individual protons. Where did that extra mass go? It turned into energy. A lot of energy.
Fusion releases much more energy than any chemical reaction. Why? As noted, with chemical reactions, electrons move around. Tiny little electrons. They also lose a tiny bit of mass, which gives the chemical reactions their energy. But compared to a proton, this is very very tiny. See “Fusion’s Colossal Upside”.
Note: This section under construction. Brilliant, user friendly answers to these questions coming soon. Donate to speed things up.
Fusion According to…
The following links provide more technical explanations of, “What is fusion?”
- What is Fusion - General Atomics
- What is Fusion - ITER
- What is Fusion - Wikipedia
- What is Fusion - Fusenet
- What is Aneutronic Fusion - Focus Fusion
Let us know which ones work the best for you. We’d like to give them the “Best Explanation of Fusion” prize (pending : ))