Scientists are about to test the fuel that will eventually power the world’s largest nuclear fusion experiment, ITER. If all goes well, we’ll be one step closer to the goal of generating limitless energy.
If you’re new to the world of nuclear fusion, welcome to the decades-long waiting party. See, nuclear fission is what most of us are more familiar with: it’s when atoms are split apart to create huge amounts of energy.
But fusion is the fusing of two atoms, which releases an energy yield several times greater than fission. Almost all fusion experiments work specifically on fusing hydrogen atoms to form helium. And that’s the big dream of fusion ignition—it would produce a limitless supply of clean energy.
But as you can imagine, heating hydrogen plasmas to 150 million degrees Celsius and then compressing and confining them down into states of matter even more extreme than what’s at the center of the Sun is…kinda hard. There are private and nationally-funded facilities all over the world working toward this…and that’s where ITER comes in.