What Is Nuclear Fusion?Fusion is the power source of the sun and the stars. The large quantity of energy released by the sun and the stars is the result of the conversion of matter into energy. This occurs when the lightest atom, hydrogen, is heated to very high temperatures forming a special gas called "plasma". In this plasma, hydrogen atoms combine, or "fuse", to form a heavier atom, helium. In the process of fusing, some of the hydrogen involved is converted directly into large amounts of energy.
Why Nuclear Fusion?There are two primary reasons for pursuing nuclear fusion research: the furthering of our understanding of the behavior of plasmas that make up most of the known universe, and the creation of a new energy sources. Nuclear fusion energy would be a renewable energy technology that offers a significant mix of potential advantages. Nuclear fusion fuels would be abundant and readily available to all nations. Using nuclear fusion energy to generate electricity will neither contribute to global warming or air pollution nor will it create long-lived radioactive waste.
Rusi Taleyarkhan - Bubble FusionNuclear engineer, Rusi Taleyarkhan led the research team at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee that has proposed a small table-top sized nuclear fusion invention. Taleyarkhan described the project as true, "tabletop physics, using an apparatus the size of three coffee cups stacked on top of the other."
The researchers bombarded millimeter-sized bubbles of deuterated-acetone vapor with sound waves (called acoustic cavitation) that resulted in a burst of subatomic particles called neutrons and the production of tritium, an isotope of hydrogen both evidence of a nuclear fusion reaction.
The bubbles reached temperatures of 10 million degrees Kelvin, the same as the center of the Sun. Sonoluminescence light flashes were also observed. The experiment was dubbed "bubble fusion."
Team MembersRichard Lahey Jr. professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, co-authored the study. The experiments were conducted by Rusi Taleyarkhan, Colin West, and Jae Seon-Cho. Richard Lahey and Robert Nigmatulin performed the theoretical analysis of the bubble dynamics and the shock-induced pressures, temperatures, and densities in the imploding bubbles. Robert Block, professor emeritus of nuclear engineering at Rensselaer, helped to set up and calibrate a neutron and gamma detection system.