Two Fusion Futures

Fusion is in the news. Two recent events have outlined a future in which Nuclear Fusion may be central to great leaps forward in human development.

These are, of course, gifts of Albert Einstein. We would have no understanding of the Fusion process without his fundamental contribution of E=mc2. It is the formula that explains the process whereby the fusion of elements releases energy. In the case of stars, of which our sun is an average example, it is the fusion of protons that powers them. Fusion will have a very important part to play in our futures and as the two examples below show, that future moves ever closer.

Energy. This is a subject that has appeared on this blog before. For many, Fusion power has been a cherished dream, for others a joke forever out of our grasp. If it works, Nuclear fusion promises near limitless, pollution free, cheap energy that would power humanity and human development for many centuries. It would be one of the greatest and most fundamental steps our civilisation has taken or is likely to take. Our society is an energy society and if it is to last and flourish, an alternative to solid fuel energy is a necessary requirement. Fusion offers our very future if it can be made to work.

We are a step closer. In France, construction is under way of Iter, an experimental Nuclear Fusion reactor to determine the viability of Fusion on a generating level. It is due to start operating in 2020. The sun’s process of fusion of protons is too difficult a process, so it will fuse deuterium and tritium, which are heavier particles and will make the easier. If there is a viable generating system then it is proposed to have a fully functioning generator by 2030.

Intersteller Travel. Texas has recently hosted The 100 year star-ship Symposium, an event backed by both NASA and The pentagon. The symposiums mission is to launch a spaceflight to another star system within 100 years. This is a huge undertaking. To put the task into context, our nearest star is 4.2 light years away. Voyager 1, which is set to leave our solar system, travelling at 38000 mph would take 75000 years to get there. So, a much, much faster propulsion system would be required. A leading candidate and recognised as such, would be a Fusion engine. There has been some considerable work on the feasibility of such an engine. If scientific and engineering progress continues at it’s present rate there is no reason why a Fusion engine could not be built and literally carry us to the stars. 

There we have it. More proof, if any was really needed, about how the work of Albert Einstein carries within it the seeds of our future.

One Comment

  1. Ping from Jamey:

    Jamey…

    Two Fusion Futures | i-einstein…

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