Related topics: plasma

Atmospheric helium levels are rising, research confirms

Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego used an unprecedented technique to detect that levels of helium are rising in the atmosphere, resolving an issue that has lingered among atmospheric chemists ...

Solar beats nuclear at many potential settlement sites on Mars

The high efficiency, light weight and flexibility of the latest solar cell technology means photovoltaics could provide all the power needed for an extended mission to Mars, or even a permanent settlement there, according ...

Validating models for next-generation fusion facilities

The flagship fusion facility of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) could serve as the model for an economically attractive next-generation fusion pilot plant, according to recent ...

Stronger materials could bloom with new images of plastic flow

Imagine dropping a tennis ball onto a bedroom mattress. The tennis ball will bend the mattress a bit, but not permanently—pick the ball back up, and the mattress returns to its original position and strength. Scientists ...

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Nuclear fusion

In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, nuclear fusion is the process by which multiple like-charged atomic nuclei join together to form a heavier nucleus. It is accompanied by the release or absorption of energy, which allows matter to enter a plasma state.

The fusion of two nuclei with lower mass than iron (which, along with nickel, has the largest binding energy per nucleon) generally releases energy while the fusion of nuclei heavier than iron absorbs energy; vice-versa for the reverse process, nuclear fission. In the simplest case of hydrogen fusion, two protons have to be brought close enough for their mutual electric repulsion to be overcome by the nuclear force and the subsequent release of energy.

Nuclear fusion occurs naturally in stars. Artificial fusion in human enterprises has also been achieved, although has not yet been completely controlled. Building upon the nuclear transmutation experiments of Ernest Rutherford done a few years earlier, fusion of light nuclei (hydrogen isotopes) was first observed by Mark Oliphant in 1932; the steps of the main cycle of nuclear fusion in stars were subsequently worked out by Hans Bethe throughout the remainder of that decade. Research into fusion for military purposes began in the early 1940s as part of the Manhattan Project, but was not successful until 1952. Research into controlled fusion for civilian purposes began in the 1950s, and continues to this day.

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