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Human-engineered fusion has been demonstrated on a small scale, with the biggest difficulty being to scale up the operation to industrial proportions in an affordable, functional, and environmentally sustainable manner. Fusion is the sun's energy source, and producing electricity from fusion on Earth is more difficult than in the sun because earthbound reactors cannot achieve the high pressure equivalent to the sun's internal pressure. Gravitational pressure and extreme heat force the nuclei of certain atoms, resulting in heavy nuclei and the release of energy. Two single proton hydrogen isotopes, for example, are combined to form a neutron and the heavier nucleus of helium. This conversion leads to a loss of mass, which is transformed into energy (Provide Energy from Fusion).
Several research efforts are underway to find possible ways of providing energy from fusion. Fusion research around the world is still in the developmental stage because of the extremely high required for the research. In the University of Alberta, researchers have focused on the principles of inertial confinement to study the applications and properties of plasma. On the other hand, the “Institut National de la Recherché Scientifique” (INRS) based in Quebec is conducting plasma physics research on fusion-reactor technology and magnetic confinement, including evaluating physical principles of power plants fusion. The Tritium Facility at the Canadian nuclear laboratories is involved in numerous development activities and tritium-related research, such as the design of fusion-fuel cleanup systems and the development of tritium-breeder materials (Lambert, Timothy, and Xuan, 91).
The University of Alberta inertial confinement fusion is a kind of research that tries to initiate nuclear fusion reactions by compressing and heating a fuel target commonly in pellet forms that usually contains a mixture of tritium and deuterium. The reason of this research is to create a condition known as ignition, where the heating process causes a chain reaction burning a significant proportion of fuel. Experiments demonstrated that the efficiency of these devices is lower and reaching ignition will be difficult (Lambert, Timothy and Xuan, 97).
The “Institut National de la Recherché Scientifique” (INRS) research studies the use of magnetic fields to confine the plasma at high pressures and temperatures needed for practical fusion energy. The reason of this research is to develop technologies to heat and confine the plasma and to manage the interactions between the reactor materials and the plasma. Confining the plasma has been a challenge for engineers to providing energy from fusion.
The Canadian nuclear laboratories since its inception have been researching several tritium development activities. The investigation of tritium-permeation characteristics of materials used in tritium-permeation barriers, generation for reactors. Tritium is radioactive and very scarce. Nuclear reactions can convert lithium into tritium required to fuse with deuterium (Kamada, 11).
Creating full-scale fusion-generating facilities will require engineering to meet all the challenges including advanced vacuum systems and better superconducting magnets. Eventually, the success of fusion as an energy provider will rely on whether the problems with creating generating plants and operating them reliably and safely can be met in a manner that makes the cost of fusion economically competitive.
Kamada, Yutaka, et al. “Plasma regimes and research goals of JT-60SA towards ITER and DEMO.” Nuclear Fusion, vol. 51, no. 7, 2011, p. 3011.
Lambert, Timothy, and Xuan Hieu Nghiem. “Review of the Deployment of and Research into Generation III & IV Nuclear Fission Reactors for Power Generation.” PAM Review: Energy Science & Technology, vol. 1, 2015, pp. 90-108.
“Provide Energy from Fusion”. NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering, http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/challenges/fusion.aspx. Accessed 6 September 2017.
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