Weekly Digest #113
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In this digest-
1. Article- Science made easy:
The simple guide to nuclear fusion
2. Happiness Quotient From Around The World
3. Did You Know?
4. Entertainment Quotient
Science made easy:
The simple guide to nuclear fusion
By: Abhimanyu Rao
A few months ago, there was a massive development in the world’s energy crisis. For the first time since the 1920s, which is when the concept had first been theorised, scientists were able to effectively produce energy using nuclear fusion. What this meant was, that they managed to produce more energy from the fusion reaction than the energy they put in for the reaction to take place! This was a major milestone in the research of fusion reactions for several reasons, all of which I shall go over through the course of this article, but before all of that, we need to answer a very basic question, “What exactly is nuclear fusion?”
Nuclear fusion is the process where the nuclei of two light atoms are merged to form a heavier nucleus of a different element. The mass of this new nucleus is less than the combined mass of the two light nuclei! It’s a little confusing, right? Well, don’t you worry, I have a great example that will clear this up in no time. Have you ever heard of bulk discounts? They are price cuts you get for buying a large quantity of something. So, if you were to buy 1000 TVs that cost 10 rupees each, you would think you had to pay 10,000 rupees. However, in most cases you would get a bulk discount, and might only have to pay 9500 rupees! That means that you would have 500 rupees left over.
In the atom scenario, the combined mass of the light nuclei is the 10,000 rupees you have. However, when they combine, it turns out that their mass isn’t actually equal to those 10,000 rupees, but actually just equal to 9,500 rupees! This means that there is an extra 500 rupees of mass that remains. That clears it up, right?
“Extra mass is okay, Abhimanyu, but why do I care? I want ENERGY, not mass!”, is what you’re probably thinking. Very valid point, but remember, all shall be revealed… First, let’s take a little detour to what is arguably the world’s most famous equation, E=mc2
This equation is a part of Albert Einstein's famous Theory of Special Relativity. E stands for Energy, m stands for mass, and c is the speed of light in a vacuum, which is a constant. All you need to know about this equation is that it tells you that energy and mass are permanently linked to each other, and that an object’s mass can turn into energy, and energy can turn into mass. Cool, right?
By now I think you’ve probably figured out where this is going. Remember the extra “500 rupees” mass that was left after the light nuclei combined? That mass turns into energy, which makes the process of smashing two atoms together produce energy! So don’t let anyone ever tell you not to bash things against each other. Instead, explain nuclear fusion to them, and they won’t be able to stop you!
So you’ve figured out what nuclear fusion is. Now what? How does that relate to what these scientists did? Well, in order for us humans to create a controlled fusion reaction, they have to use several high powered lasers, each of which require immense amounts of energy. For the first time in history, scientists were able to produce more energy from the reaction than the energy of the lasers. However, the rest of the energy used in the process means that this process is still not energy efficient. This means that it still, in the grand scheme of things, does not produce more energy than it consumes.
Despite this, the achievements of these scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the United States have proven that someday, this reaction could help save the planet’s rapidly depleting energy sources!
Before I end this article, I want to answer one final question, ‘Why Nuclear Fusion?’. There are three main reasons for this. Firstly, Nuclear reactions produce MASSIVE amounts of energy from relatively small reactions. This is already a necessity in our heavily energy guzzling lives. Secondly, nuclear reactions produce no carbon, and the only possible by-product is usually helium, a gas that is harmless to the atmosphere in the quantities it is produced in. Lastly, unlike nuclear fission, which involves breaking down nuclei into smaller particles, nuclear fusion reactors can’t have a meltdown, and also produce far less radioactive waste.
In conclusion, while we are still years away from an immaculate nuclear fusion based energy system, this is a step in a good direction. These scientists have shown us the importance of appreciating even the smallest of successes, which is a great way to live life!
By: Agastya Rao
By: Mihir Rao
Ant Man and The Wasp: Quantumania
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