There are two versions of each lab, one with a ten-question conclusion and one with directions for a full lab report. This way the teacher has the option! Each lab is two pages to allow for one two-sided handout.
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*Some of you have already purchased my lab book – be sure to check out Page 141 !
“Nuclear fusion and nuclear fission are different types of reactions that release energy due to the presence of high-powered atomic bonds between particles found within a nucleus. In fission, an atom is split into two or more smaller, lighter atoms. Fusion, in contrast, occurs when two or more smaller atoms fuse together, creating a larger, heavier atom.”
This page contains a useful comparison chart for fission and fusion.
“[Nuclear fusion provides ] … the promise of limitless energy supply, emission-free and without the long-term radiation problems of nuclear fission. The idea behind it is simple: In the Sun, the nuclei of hydrogen atoms are continuously fused into helium nuclei. This process releases enormous amounts of energy. Fusion researchers hope to reproduce this process in fusion reactors on Earth. …
[But] these promises have been made for at least six decades. Incidentally, the first working fusion reactor is always ‘fifty years away’ – since fusion research started after the Second World War. Cautious estimates today say that perhaps by 2060 or so, there might be a real fusion reactor that actually produces more energy than it requires. Existing experiments are far from this point. Furthermore, the international ITER project has mostly hit the headlines with reports on mismanagement and cost explosions. So where is fusion research today? Somewhere between lofty promises and stark realities.”
“In February  a new chapter of fusion energy research commenced with the formal opening of Wendelstein 7-X. This is an experimental €1 billion (A$1.4bn) fusion reactor built in Greifswald, Germany, to test a reactor design called a stellarator.
It is planned that by around 2021 it will be able to operate for up to 30 minutes duration, which would be a record for a fusion reactor. This is an important step en-route to demonstrating an essential feature of a future fusion power plant: continuous operation. “
“But the W-7X isn't the only fusion game in town. In southern France ITER is being built, a $US20 billion (A$26.7bn) experimental fusion reactor that uses a different design called a tokamak. However, even though the W-7X and ITER employ different designs, the two projects complement each other, and innovations in one are likely to translate to an eventual working nuclear fusion power plant.
Fusion energy seeks to replicate the reaction that powers our Sun, where two very light atoms, such as hydrogen or helium, are fused together. The resulting fused atom ends up slightly lighter than the original two atoms, and the difference in mass is converted to energy according to Einstein's formula E=mc².
The difficulty comes in encouraging the two atoms to fuse, which requires them to be heated to millions of degrees Celsius. Containing such a superheated fuel is no easy feat, so it's turned into a hot ionised gas – a plasma – which can be contained within a magnetic field so it doesn't actually touch the inside of the reactor.
What makes the W-7X particularly interesting is its stellarator design. It comprises a vacuum chamber embedded in a magnetic bottle created by a system of 70 superconducting magnet coils. These produce a powerful magnetic field for confining the hot plasma.
Stellarators and tokamaks are both types of toroidal (doughnut-shaped) magnetic confinement devices that are being investigated for fusion power. In these experiments a strong toroidal (or ring) magnetic field creates a magnetic bottle to confine the plasma.”
“PPPL fusion research centers on the National Spherical Torus Experiment (NSTX), which is undergoing a $94 million upgrade that will make it the most powerful experimental fusion facility, or tokamak, of its type in the world when work is completed in 2015. Experiments will test the ability of the upgraded spherical facility to maintain a high-performance plasma under conditions of extreme heat and power. Results could strongly influence the design of future fusion reactors.
The Laboratory develops components and scientific data for ITER, which represents the largest step to date toward the development of a commercial fusion reactor. ITER, whose name is Latin for “the way,” is being built in Cadarache, France, by the European Union, the United States, China, India, Japan, Korea and Russia. The facility is designed to produce 500 million watts of fusion power for at least 400 seconds by the late 2020s to demonstrate the feasibility of fusion as a source of energy.
PPPL conducts research on the use of liquid lithium to help keep fusion reactions hot. The Laboratory’s Lithium Tokamak Experiment (LTX) is the world’s first experimental fusion facility to have liquid lithium covering all its walls to absorb plasma particles that escape from magnetic confinement. The shiny metal keeps the particles from re-entering the plasma as a cold gas, retains impurities that can cool the plasma and halt fusion reactions, and prevents damage to the plasma-facing walls. Included in this research are experiments led by Princeton University engineer Bruce Koel on the behavior of lithium and other wall materials.”
“The inside of a fusion device is an extreme environment. The creation of fusion energy requires the smashing together of light elements, such as hydrogen, to form heavier elements such as helium, a process that releases immense amounts of energy. The temperature at which this process takes place is too hot for solid materials, necessitating the use of magnets to hold the hot plasma in place. …
One of the projects … will study the effects of high magnetic fields on molten salt fluid dynamics. One of the key elements of the fusion pilot plant currently being studied … is the liquid immersion blanket, essentially a flowing pool of molten salt that completely surrounds the fusion energy core. The purpose of this blanket is threefold: to convert the kinetic energy of fusion neutrons to heat for eventual electricity production; to produce tritium—a main component of the fusion fuel; and to prevent the neutrons from reaching other parts of the machine and causing material damage.
It’s critical for researchers to be able to predict how the molten salt in such an immersion blanket would move when subjected to high magnetic fields such as those found within a fusion plant. As such, the researchers and their respective teams plan to study the effects of these magnetohydrodynamic forces on the salt’s fluid dynamics.”
Here is a 2017 list of current fusion research institutions along with links to their websites:
You may wish to have your students research these websites as a Homework or Extra Credit assignment.
Past blog posts related to Nuclear Fusion include:
02/26/2014 Isotopes and empirical/molecular formulas
02/04/2015 Atomic Structure Revisited
02/11/2015 Introduction to Nuclear Chemistry
02/18/2015 Nuclear Chemistry -- Part II
(Fission, Fusion & Half-Life)
04/01/2015 NOVA video "Hunting the Elements" (2012)
08/06/2015 Post-Fukushima Restarts
10/22/2015 The Future of Nuclear Fusion
10/30/2015 Current Event -- Radioactive Waste
02/20/2016 Nuclear Waste and Lake Huron
03/26/2016 Nuclear Waste Storage
05/01/2016 30th Anniversary of Chernobyl
05/29/2016 New Uses for Waste Glass
07/31/2016 Cost of Nuclear Shutdown in Germany
09/30/2016 Videos for the Chemistry Classroom
10/28/2016 Nuclear Power Plant Closure
11/18/2016 Chernobyl New Safe Confinement
11/25/2016 Tsunami Near Fukushima
02/10/2017 High Fukushima Radiation Levels
03/17/2017 Nuclear Waste in Batteries
05/26/2017 Radioactive Truffles?
06/02/2017 Swiss Nuclear Power Ban
07/28/2017 Current Fukushima Underwater Footage
12/22/2017 The Radium Girls
03/02/2018 Video: Uranium - Twisting the Dragon's Tail
*This Blog contains several entries that would be helpful to your chemistry classroom. Check out the Topic List to help you to find past Blog entries.
Also, Write To Me about your successes, challenges, or questions in the Chemistry Classroom.
Remember, buying a copy of the lab book Chemistry on a Budget can be very useful to your Chemistry classroom with labs and class article ideas.
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