A Future in Fusion: The Race to Harness the Next Generation of Nuclear Power

PhD student Payson Dieffenbach, left, and Assistant Professor David Donovan work in the Plasma-Material Interaction Laboratory. Photo by Shawn Poynter.

Fusion powers the sun and all the stars in the galaxy. It produces nearly all of the elements. It’s the power inside a thermonuclear weapon. No wonder it has the capacity to captivate the collective imagination—both with hopes and fears—like no other field of science or engineering.

On a sub-atomic level, fusion refers to the smashing together of atomic nuclei to produce energy. Research into fusion for the production of electricity has been a 60-year international pursuit, and harnessing it for the energy grid is one of the 14 grand challenges for engineering in the 21st century.

It’s not that fusion hasn’t been achieved yet. It’s that researchers have not yet figured out how to create it with a net energy gain.

Read the full story at ne.utk.edu.

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