Fission and Fusion

Fission and Fusion

Basic Principles

  • Fission is a nuclear process where a heavy nucleus splits into two or more smaller nuclei. This is usually accompanied by the release of a significant amount of energy.

  • Fusion is the reverse process of fission, where two or more light nuclei combine to form a heavier nucleus. This process also releases energy, often even more than fission.

Energy Production

  • Fission is the principle behind the operation of nuclear power plants and the explosion of atomic bombs.

  • Fusion, under controlled conditions, is currently being explored as a viable and potentially limitless source of power. Fusion is the process that fuels stars, including our sun.

Key Differences

  • Fission generally involves heavy, unstable isotopes, such as Uranium-235 or Plutonium-239.

  • Fusion usually involves light, stable isotopes such as Hydrogen-2 (Deuterium) and Hydrogen-3 (Tritium).

  • Fission often produces highly radioactive waste due to the unstable fission products.

  • Fusion theoretically produces less radioactive waste, as the main product is stable Helium.

Additional Facts

  • In fission, a neutron is used to initiate the reaction by striking a heavy nucleus, causing it to split.

  • In fusion, high temperatures and pressures are needed to overcome the electrostatic repulsion between the light nuclei.

  • Chain reaction is a term associated with fission where the neutrons produced in one reaction can trigger subsequent fissions, creating a self-sustaining reaction.

  • In the sun, fusion occurs in a series of reactions known as the proton-proton chain, where protons merge to form helium.

  • While fusion has the potential for a nearly inexhaustible supply of energy, the challenge lies in harnessing the reaction as it requires extremely high temperatures akin to the conditions inside a star.