Chemistry
Nuclear Energy

How is energy produced by nuclear fusion?

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2007-05-21 19:59:46

Nuclear fusion involves the joining together of two atomic

nuclei, fusing them into a single nucleus. When you join two nuclei

together (usually light nuclei with only a few protons and/or

neutrons), a tremendous amount of energy is released. Just as it

takes a tremendous amount of energy to pull apart the pieces of a

nucleus, when you put two pieces together, a lot of energy is

released. Fusion is often confused with nuclear fission, but they

are very different. Fission involves the breaking apart of a single

nucleus into two smaller nuclei. Fusion is joining nuclei. Fission

is breaking apart a nucleus. A tremendous amount of energy is

released upon joining two nuclei together (it is this reaction that

is happening inside the sun). It also takes a huge amount of energy

to get this reaction to occur. The only way we currently know how

to start a nuclear fusion reaction efficiently is to use an atomic

bomb to get it started! This is how much energy you need to start

the reaction! There are several other ways that we know of to start

fusion reactions, but they all require more energy input than you

get as energy output. There is a tremendous amount of research

currently on so-called "cold fusion" or a way to do fusion without

this huge amount of energy input. Currently all known methods

involve putting in MORE energy than you get out! That's not a good

design for a power plant, to say the least (nor is having atomic

bombs going off inside to keep the reactors going!). See the Web

Links to the left of the page for more information.


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