Nuclear Fusion Reactor
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A nuclear fusion reactor is a donut-shaped (also known as torus or tokamak) vacuum chamber containing hydrogen atoms that come together under extreme pressure and high temperatures. The resulting matter of the fusion reaction generates an electrically charged gas containing helium atoms, neutrons, and limitless amounts of energy. This is a similar fusion reaction to a proton-proton chain, a predominant scheme to power hydrogen bombs and stars, such as the sun.
Different from nuclear reactors that use nuclear fission to generate power—where energy is harnessed by splitting one heavy atom of uranium with high-energy neutrons into large amounts of energy, radioactive waste, and radiation—nuclear fusion reactors are considered to be safer, more efficient, cleaner, and a possible endless source of energy.
The principles of nuclear fusion lie in a power generation process that harnesses energy when two atoms join together to form one. However, in order to achieve fusion between atoms, there are particular conditions to be followed. The protons contained in each nucleus of the hydrogen atoms tend to repel each other, similar to when two magnets are placed together —mainly because they have the same charge (positive, in the case of protons). The only way of overcoming this electrical repulsion is by increasing the temperature of the vacuum chamber by around 100 million Kelvin, a temperature six times higher than the sun's core. At this temperature, hydrogen is not yet a gas but a plasma instead (a high-energy matter in which electrons are removed from the hydrogen atoms and can freely move throughout the vacuum chamber). To fuse the atoms, magnetic fields, lasers, and ion particles squeeze hydrogen atoms together in its core and later produce enormous amounts of energy.