For years nuclear fusion was the stuff of sci-fi books and movies, but technology has brought it, like so many other things, closer to reality. So close, in fact, that there are plans to build the first nuclear fusion reactor by 2025 - a reactor that could yield a lot more energy than is fed into it and provide vast amounts of clean, sustainable energy.
Nuclear fusion, unlike fission, involves smashing particles together to generate energy. Basically, as Bloomberg Energy author Jing Cao explained in a detailed June overview, it's like recreating the Sun on Earth.
An international team of scientists is working on the biggest project in nuclear fusion in France, to build the largest magnetic fusion machine - a tokamak - and test the commercial-scale viability of this clean energy source. The ITER project is based on the pretty simple premise that the larger the vessel in which fusion reactions occur, the more of them occur, generating more energy.
The ITER tokamak will be ten times larger than the largest existing such device, capable, as per plans, to produce 500 MW of fusion power. To compare, the record so far, set by European tokamak JET (the largest existing one), is 16 MW, from input of 24 MW. The goal of the ITER team is to produce these 500 MW from an input of just 50 MW. Recently, a team of researchers from the MIT published a paper that suggests this achievement is realistic.
The MIT team tweaked the "recipe" for nuclear fusion in such a way that the output of power was ten times greater than with the original composition, which consists of 95 percent deuterium ions and 5 percent hydrogen ions, forming plasma heated to incredibly high temperatures in the tokamak from the movement of the ions.