Nuclear Fusion – Class 12 | Chapter – 13 | Physics Short Notes Series PDF for NEET & JEE

Nuclear Fusion: Nuclear fusion is a process where two atomic nuclei combine to form a heavier nucleus, releasing a large amount of energy in the process. Unlike nuclear fission, which involves splitting heavy atomic nuclei, fusion involves combining light atomic nuclei, typically isotopes of hydrogen such as deuterium and tritium.

In order to achieve fusion, the fuel must be heated to extremely high temperatures and pressures to overcome the electrostatic repulsion between the positively charged nuclei. This creates a plasma, a hot and electrically charged gas, in which the atomic nuclei can overcome their natural repulsion and collide with enough force to fuse together.

The energy released by nuclear fusion is orders of magnitude greater than that released by chemical reactions, and has the potential to provide a virtually limitless source of clean energy. However, achieving sustained nuclear fusion reactions in a controlled and practical way has proved to be a major technological challenge.

Nuclear Fusion in the Universe

Nuclear fusion is the primary source of energy that powers the stars, including our Sun. In the core of the Sun, temperatures and pressures are high enough to initiate the fusion of hydrogen into helium, releasing a tremendous amount of energy in the process. This process, known as the proton-proton chain, involves a series of reactions that combine four protons (hydrogen nuclei) to produce a helium nucleus, two positrons (antimatter electrons), and two neutrinos.

In addition to the proton-proton chain, other fusion reactions can occur in stars, depending on their temperature and composition. For example, in more massive stars, where temperatures and pressures are higher, helium can be fused into carbon, and heavier elements can be formed through a process known as nucleosynthesis.

Nuclear fusion also plays a role in other astrophysical phenomena, such as supernovae, where the fusion of heavier elements can release enough energy to cause a massive explosion.

The study of nuclear fusion in the universe has contributed greatly to our understanding of the behavior of matter under extreme conditions and the origins of the elements that make up our world. It has also inspired efforts to harness the power of fusion on Earth as a potential source of clean and sustainable energy.

Applications of Nuclear Fusion

Nuclear fusion has the potential to provide a virtually limitless source of clean energy, with several potential applications, including:

  • Electricity generation: If practical fusion reactors can be developed, they could provide a source of clean, safe, and abundant energy for generating electricity. Unlike fossil fuels, nuclear fusion does not produce greenhouse gases, particulate emissions, or long-lived radioactive waste.
  • Space exploration: Nuclear fusion could be used to power spacecraft on long-duration missions, enabling them to travel further and faster than is currently possible with conventional propulsion systems.
  • Medical isotope production: Nuclear fusion can be used to produce isotopes for medical applications, such as diagnosis and treatment of cancer, and the sterilization of medical equipment.
  • Materials science: Nuclear fusion can be used to generate high-energy neutrons, which can be used for materials testing, such as for assessing the performance of materials used in nuclear reactors, and for the production of new materials, such as superconductors.
  • Desalination: Nuclear fusion can be used to produce high-temperature steam, which can be used to desalinate seawater, providing a source of fresh water in arid regions.

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By Team Learning Mantras