Our sun, which is essentially a star, is a fantastic source of clean energy and one of the best clean and green technologies available to humans. It has been burning bright for billions of years due to nuclear fusion.
When the world is trying to take the leap from petrol and diesel fuel to electricity as a fuel source, they are probably heavily counting on this clean source of energy for producing electricity in the coming years as we slowly loosen the petroleum fuel reserves.
Many tried experimenting with the process in search of clean energy, but nothing really materialised until late, when there was a hope that radiated out of the tokamak.
Does it sound like a name from the Madalorian series? Whenever I hear it, the name reminds me of two names: Bobafet and Tatooni. Tokamak seems like a combination of more than two names.
But what exactly is a tokamak?
Current fusion technology experiments conducted
The United Kingdom’s tokamak-experiment observation in late 2021
The Joint European Tours (JET) research facility in Oxfordshire, UK, used a doughnut-shaped machine, a giant, to conduct the experiment proving nuclear fusion to be the next generation clean source of energy for producing electricity, and the results were only obtained in the later part of 2021.
It was a discovery, a much needed discovery, and if it is true that ‘necessity is the mother of all inventions’ then it just might be that the Earth is providing us with a lucky breakthrough just in time.
The tokamak study proved that when superheated gases known as plasma are held between powerfully charged magnetic bars producing a field, fusion reactions occur with the emission of highly charged particles.
The scientists at the EUROfusion consortium observed a record 59 megajoules of fusion energy from just a 5-second burst.
The previous experiment that went off successfully gave off 21.7 MJ, but this time, the team is convinced they would be able to hit the jackpot by solving the energy crisis by delivering fusion clean energy through the said clean and green technology available—nuclear fusion is the next gen stuff.
The NIF and LLNL-Experiment in the United States were completed about a month ago.
Even the National Ignition Facility (NIF) recently announced that it had successfully completed the quest of producing ample energy resources through nuclear fusion only in recent times.
Simultaneously, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) also stated that they conducted an experiment whereby the fusion reaction produced more energy than a laser energy source that was primarily used for operating the experiment.
LLNL Director, Dr. Kim Budil, stated that it was a major breakthrough and a scientific challenge that would be capable of tackling humanity’s needs efficiently and effectively.
It is stated that a small amount of fusion fuel can help generate clean energy, and the current fusion technology can help a power plant produce clean energy withno carbon dioxide emissions for years.
The NIF is a $3.5 billion laser complex at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, where the input energy was 2.05 MJ and the output/released energy was 3.15 MJ. This technology for clean and renewable energy production is known as thermonuclear inertial fusion.
Fundamentals of breakthrough technology
- The NIF researchers combined two isotopes of hydrogen called deuterium and tritium.
- They were brought together in a grain size capsule, and then a high-intensity light beam of 192 lasers was projected on it.
- When the electrons left the parent atom, the remaining nuclei and atoms transitioned from matter to plasma in a way that scientists would describe as floating.
- Plasma is nothing but the fourth state of matter, only next to solids, liquids, and gases, and you can imagine it as a soup with your munchies floating in it like the positive and negative ions.
- They kept bombarding this soup with the same laser beams, and the energy kept pouring into the plasma.
- These two nuclei fuse into one another, releasing a huge amount of energy that forms the basis of nuclear fusion.
Detrimental forces to overcome when creating fusion energy
Technologies for clean and renewable energy production are entitled to overcome a few barriers.
- More energy is required to fuse two nuclei together as they have repulsive force acting on them.
- A lot of energy needs to be supplied to it to convert this repulsive force known as the Coulomb barrier into an attractive force.
- When the repulsive force gives way to the attractive force, it is here that both the nuclei fuse into one another.
- This entire process will also result in a massive temperature of 100 million Kelvin, which is nearly six times the temperature of the sun’s core. Scientists will have to figure out what they can do with it.
Current fusion technology solutions for clean and green technology
To overcome these issues, two very different methods are being experimented with for the current fusion technology.
At the Lawrence Livermore facility, a high-intensity laser beam was brought into use. The process goes by the name of thermonuclear inertial fusion.
Some researchers have even used a strong magnetic field to conduct their experiments.
A huge investment is going towards this breakthrough technology, and the International Thermonuclear Fusion Reactor (ITER) is the world’s largest fusion facility and is currently being created in France. Almost 35 nations, including India, are contributing to its making. India joined it in 2005, and The Institute of Plasma Research, Ahmedabad, is leading the project from our country.
Commercial demonstration is possible by 2040, but for regular daily supplies, it might take years.
Industrial applications might still take 30 to 40 years primarily to get it to every household in every country, which is what is assumed by some renowned faces of this project.
Hopefully, this clean and green technology will be enough to make human life better and far more advanced in the coming years. Saving our mother Earth is the responsibility of every single individual who breathes and takes birth here.
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