There are many directions we could go when it comes to the future of sustainable energy—but the UK made a bold move when it announced a huge investment (220 million pounds huge) in a prototype fusion power facility that could be functioning as a commercial power plant by 2040.
So it’s safe to say the race to fusion power is on. Fusion energy could provide us with clean, basically limitless energy.
But the thing is, fusion power isn’t really a reality yet, but does this prototype facility have a shot at making fusion a reality?
Nuclear fusion is what powers stars, including the sun. The ‘fusion’ part refers to the fact that isotopes of extremely light elements like hydrogen, are fusing together at the extremely high temperatures and pressures that exist at the center of stars. Under these conditions, gases like helium and hydrogen actually exist as plasmas.
So how could we possibly recreate what happens inside of stars here on Earth? By replicating those extreme conditions so that we can get the atoms to behave the way we want them to.
And that involves creating plasmas, or taking gases to very high temperatures and densities, which a number of innovative facilities do in a variety of ways.
One of these facilities is called ITER, which means ’the way’ in Latin. ITER is a major international fusion collaboration that’s been in progress since 1985.
China, the EU, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the U.S. are all contributing members who have agreed to fund ITER’s goal of producing fusion energy that could power our world.