Although fusion energy reactors may not have the best track record in fiction—Doc Ock could attest to that—they still offer the prospect of fundamentally altering human civilization and likely bringing about a new age of accelerated innovation. But how realistic is the power of the Sun in the palm of humanity’s metaphorical hand? A new video from Kurzgesagt explores the topic, delving into how the “unlimited clean energy” source may one day be utilized.
In the video, Kurzgesagt, the YouTube channel that does an excellent job of elucidating everything from genetic engineering to quantum computers, discusses the downsides of current forms of energy production, including fossil fuels, nuclear, and even solar (the issue with solar is batteries, but there are companies like Tesla working on that problem). Fusion energy would have none of the downsides of these current methods of energy production, although it is extremely difficult to accomplish, and a reactor that produces more energy than it uses may not even be possible.
There is, of course, one big fusion reactor that most certainly does work however, and that’s the Sun. In fact, every active star in the universe is a fusion reactor, which is great news for any form of life that likes to get a tan or exist. As the video explains, stars use their extraordinary mass to create the pressure (and thus temperature) required to fuse atoms together, which in turn releases mind-boggling amounts of energy. Since we can’t duplicate that process on Earth though, we need to get creative.
The video explores the two methods that have been used so far to fuse atoms here on Earth: magnetic confinement and inertial confinement. Magnetic confinement uses magnetic fields to control a plasma in order to achieve fusion. Inertial confinement uses high-powered lasers to heat up a pellet of fuel and make its atoms fuse.
The video also explains potetial sources of fuel for fusion reactors—hydrogen and hydrogen isotopes including deuterium and tritium—some of which we may be able to gather on the Moon. Or maybe Oscorp can help out with some of that “precious tritium”?
Regardless of method or source of fuel, it’s still unclear whether or not fusion reactors that produce more energy than they use are possible here on Earth. But it’s probably still worth exploring, right?
What do you think? Should we invest in fusion or focus on refining renewables like solar and wind? Let us know in the comments below!