Fusion Power Explained – Future or Failure


The fundamental currency of our universe is energy. It lights our homes, grows our food,
powers our computers. We can get it lots of ways: Burning fossil fuels, splitting atoms, or sunlight striking photovoltaics. But there’s a downside to everything Fossil fuels are extremely toxic, Nuclear waste is… well, nuclear waste, And, there are not enough batteries to store sunlight for cloudy days yet. And yet the sun seems to have virtually limitless free energy. Is there a way we could build a sun on Earth? Can we bottle a star? [Intro Jingle] The sun shines because of nuclear fusion. In a nutshell, fusion is a thermonuclear process. Meaning that the ingredients have to be incredibly hot. So hot, that the atoms are stripped of their electrons Making a plasma where nuclei and electrons bounce around freely. Since nuclei are all positively charged, They repel each other. In order to overcome this repulsion, The particles have to be going very, very fast In this context, very fast means “very hot” Millions of degrees Stars cheat to reach these temperatures. They are so massive, that the pressure in their cores Generates the heat to squeeze the nuclei together Until they merge and fuse Creating heavier nuclei and releasing energy in the process. It is this energy release that scientists hope to harness In a new generation of power plant, The fusion reactor. On earth it’s not feasible to use this brute force method to create fusion. So if we wanted to build a reactor that generates energy from fusion, We have to get clever. To date, scientists have invented two ways of making plasmas hot enough to fuse: The first type of reactor uses a magnetic field to Squeeze a plasma in a doughnut shaped chamber Where the reactions take place. These magnetic confinement reactors Such as the I.T.E.R. reactor in France, Use superconducting electromagnets cooled with liquid helium To within a few degrees of absolute zero. Meaning that they host some of the biggest temperature gradients in the known universe. The second type called “Inertial confinement” Uses pulses from super-powered lasers To heat the surface of a pellet of fuel Imploding it, briefly making the fuel hot and dense enough to fuse. In fact, one of the of the most powerful lasers in the world Is used for fusion experiments At the National Ignition Facility in the U.S. These experiments and others like them around the world are today, just experiments. Scientists are still developing the technology, And although they can achieve fusion, Right now, it costs more energy to do the experiment Then they produce in fusion. The technology has a long way to go before it’s commercially viable, and maybe it never will be. It might just be impossible to make a viable fusion reactor on earth, But if it gets there, it will be so efficient That a single glass of sea water, could be used to produce as much energy as burning a barrel of oil, with no waste to speak of. This is because fusion reactors
would use hydrogen or helium as fuel And sea water is loaded with hydrogen But not just any hydrogen will do. Specific isotopes with extra neutrons called Deuterium and Tritium Are needed to make the right reactions. Deuterium is stable and can be found in abundance in sea water, Though Tritium is a bit trickier. It’s radioactive And there may only be 20 kilograms of it in the world Mostly in nuclear warheads Which makes it incredibly expensive. So we made need another fusion buddy for Deuterium instead of Tritium. Helium-3, an isotope of Helium,
might be a great substitute. Unfortunately, it’s also incredibly rare on earth. But here, the moon might have the answer. Over billions of years, the solar wind may have built up huge deposits Of Helium-3 on the moon. Instead of making Helium-3, we can mine it. If we could sift the lunar dust for helium, We’d have enough fuel to power the entire world for thousands of years. One more argument for establishing a moon base, if you weren’t convinced already. Ok, maybe you think building a mini sun Still sound kind of dangerous But they’d actually be much safer
than most other types of powerplants A fusion reactor is not like a nuclear plant, Which can melt down catastrophically. If the confinement failed, then the plasma would expand and cool, And the reaction would stop. Put simply, it’s not a bomb. The release of radioactive fuel, like Tritium, Could pose a threat to the environment. Tritium could bond with oxygen making radioactive water, Which could be dangerous as it seeps into the environment. Fortunately, there’s no more than a few grams in use at a given time, So a leak would be quickly diluted. So we’ve just told you that theres nearly unlimited energy to be had At no expense to the environment In something as simple as water. So, whats the catch? Cost. We simply don’t know if fusion power will ever be commercially viable. Even if they work, they might be too expensive to ever build. The main drawback, is that it’s unproven technology Its a 10 billion dollar gamble And that money might be better
spent on other clean energy That’s already proven itself. Maybe we should cut out losses Or maybe, when the payoff is unlimited
clean energy for everyone, It might be worth the risk. Videos like this one take hundreds of hours to make and are made possible by your contributions on patreon.com If you want to learn more about global energy, Here’s a playlist about nuclear energy, fracking and solar power. Let us know in the comments if there are other technologies you want us to explain.

100 Comments

  1. can you talk about the states of matter? but mostly just plasma, especially since you said it a lot in this video, but didn't go in depth talking about it, as it makes up 99.9% of matter in the universe. That would help me tremendously, especially since we never learned about plasma and the states of matter in school.

  2. just recently UK commited 250m to getting a fusion reactor by 2040… and another company was given 50m in UK to attempt to make the tech commercially viable

  3. I like the ITER, but how are you gonna build up speed just like that? you need to be precise if ur building it in space. the "harvester will have to keep the same mass and density as everything else or it can, after a few days, pull the atoms to it, creating the next generation of an atomic bomb. and the magnets need to have the same properties or it will result in a big problem and where are you gonna get so much iron (use iron particles because they cant be fused) and keep it running? and the compressor, it's funny because I'm 10 years old and I basically know rocket science because of these videos 🙂 if I'm missing anything of I am incorrect, please reply to this comment and il look into it.

  4. Fusion and quantum atom acceleration. Like planetary alignment when these atoms are fusing they disperse. You would need to hyperlink the atoms on disperse to redirect its kinetic outburst and maintain direct acceleration back to the centralized fusion core. Matter being repeatedly redirected after each burst and repetitively being fluctuated through. Like harvesting a star

  5. Confined energy dispersing is based on cross reference with gravity. Energy is downwards. In space gravity is forced by and in energy. Fusion without loss would have to be by larger matter fluctuations. Like genetics fusion of a cell require force or another cell willing to fuse. Would require more energy to fuse atoms at our center than energy from the outside

  6. Kurzgesagt: If we were able to find the technology to make this fusion device it would cost an unbelievable price
    Goku: Hold my dragon balls

  7. 10 billion? That Fcking nothing. Doesn't the US pump trillions of dollar into the black budged?

    Everything when we speak about stuff that could make us leap into the future its not possible because "muh money"

  8. Ican remember reading reports of an experimental device called zeta that would harness the power of the hydrogen bomb to produce electricity. A workable device was just round the corner. Sixty years later it still is. Perhaps it always will be.

  9. I could do the calc.. haven't time though, but i would have thought more energy in glass of water for hydrogen that a barrel of oil. If you want to calc.. you'd get total mass of hydrogen, take the difference with helium.. use E=m.c^2. , c = 3*10^8

  10. It's the 15th of November 2019 and ITER just announced it's plan to build a 500 megawatt fusion reactor. A lot has happened for technology in 2019.

  11. So what put you guys off the D-D reaction? It has a lower activation energy than D-T or D-H3, and yet you don't even mention it?

  12. We don't really have a choice, we have to get fusion energy production working and by working meaning well over unity for power output. Solar and wind are nice stop gaps but don't come close to being a viable replacement for fossil fuels, great for augmenting but no replacement.

    The real problem is that we are just not making it a priority with enough funding, this is why I was glad to see venture capitalists finally get in the game. This is the future the only question now is how long.

  13. Only 10billion dollars? For something that can power the entire plant?
    Yeah lets not

    I think he said billion but maybe he ment trillion, but still

    A small price to pay for salvation

  14. Great video. Made alot of sense. But if we could use the hydrogen from our water wouldnt we eventually run out of hydrogen making a far worse problem. I know there is a metric "F" ton of hydrogen in the ocean but i imagine we would use it up fast.. Just a thought.

  15. 0:37
    Can we bottle a star?
    Proceeds to talk about fusion energy…

    Dyson Sphere: Am I a joke to you?

    (Great video btw, love it)

  16. Humans will perish do to not being able to decide which projects to do first. Able to do anything , to dumb to know when rulers are keeping people down.

  17. Hey i just have a question
    Do we have infinite energy if we first use fusion and make hydrogen into helium and use fission to make it hydrogen and again use the hydrogen in fusion please someone answer please.

  18. "10 billion dollar gamble"

    Litterally the US military budget is 698.5 billion USD.
    Chinese military budget is 177.6 billion USD
    And Russian budget is 61.4 billion USD

  19. If it's a ten billion dollar gamble, the US military could get some of its budget cut and barely make a dent in order to make it. Not to mention, the US military is the strongest in the world, yet could still be the strongest with ten billion dollars removed.

  20. The main reason we can't build them is because of the rich idiots that don't care about anything else than earning money off of their non-renewable energy sources!

  21. I love how people keep pointing at the government as if it is the soul arbiter for creating nuclear fusion. Like anything else it's economics that the determine viability of a product or technology. If something is cheaper it will invariably be the first option taken. For example, despite the risks associated with natural gas power plants compared to nuclear, companies will elect the first option because it generates profits in a shorter timeframe. That's the world we live in, humans live in terms of instant gratification over long-term investment. Also, the US government could easily afford the $10 billion if they stemed the $200+ billion a year lost due to illegal immigration (i.e. food, housing, medical coverage, economic losses overseas, education, and criminal justice). If you don't like what I am saying tough luck deal with it.

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