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What is Fusion?

Fusion is the process which powers the sun and other stars. The fusion reaction between deuterium and tritium produces helium and a neutron with a high energy which can be used to heat the steam cycle of a power station for making electricity. The fusion of all the atoms in one litre of a deuterium-tritium gas mixture would create roughly enough energy to provide the yearly needs of an average size house.

fusion

Two atoms, here deuteirum
and tritium, fuse together, forming a
helium nucleus, a neutron, and lots
of energy. (EFDA)

To make fusion happen, a hot gas (plasma) has to be heated to over 100 million degrees which fuses nuclei together. In the sun it is gravity that “holds” the hot plasma. On Earth, magnetic fields are needed to hold the plasma.
Since the 1950s, scientists have been investigating different ways to hold the plasma with magnetic fields. The “tokamak” configuration, upon which JET and now ITER are based, has been the most successful.

JET

Split Image showing interior view of the JET
vacuum vessel with a superimposed image of an
actual JET plasma, taken with an infra-red camera
2005 (JET)

In a tokamak the plasma is held in a doughnut-shaped vessel. Using special coils, a magnetic field is generated, which causes the plasma particles to run around in spirals, without touching the wall of the chamber.

ITER

ITER cutaway

Introductions:
- EFDA "Fusion Energy"
- ITER "The Science "
- JET "Fusion Basics"
- European Commission "Fusion"
- Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik "Introduction"

Information Material:
- EFDA Multimedia (brochures, posters, pictures, movies)
- ITER Media (pictures, movies, posters etc.)
- F4E Media Corner (fact sheets, brochures)
- Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik Media (brochures, movies)

Information material may be requested from the Coordination Office of the Association EURATOM-ÖAW.

   
 

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