Nuclear Fusion

Let us look at the graph for the energy of various nuclei. Remember tht this graph is upside down and so Iron (Fe) has the lowest energy.

Atomic Number v Energy

We have seen when talking about alpha decay that some elements with atomic number higher than that of iron can decrease their mass by emitting an alpha particle or by undergoing fission.

If we look at the elements with atomic number less than iron we see that they could decrease their energy by increasing their mass.

Under certain situations this can happen. If we can get two hydrogen atoms to collide at very high energies then they can fuse to produce helium. This is the process that powers the Sun and is called nuclear fusion.

It is difficult to create the right conditions to get hydrogen-hydrogen fusion on Earth. Therefore fusion is usually carried out with two of the isotopes of hydrogren – (one proton in the nucleus) – deuterium (one proton and one neutron in the nucleus) and tritium (one proton and two neutrons).

Since there are no proposals to build a commercial fusion reactor anywhere in the world at the moment I will not go into this subject any further.




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