The fusion reactor invested by Google Bill Gates has begun construction. When will “energy freedom” come?

Many people know that one of the reasons and conditions for the existence of life on earth is the proper distance from the sun, which gives us light and heat. Later, people discovered that the sun can provide energy, so we started to use solar energy, but this did not meet the pace of human development, so we also want to have our own "artificial sun."

The "artificial sun" actually refers to a nuclear fusion reaction device. Nuclear fusion consists of atoms with smaller masses, such as hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium, which cause two nuclei to collide and polymerize at extremely high temperatures to produce a new heavier mass. The nucleus is usually an isotope of helium. The huge energy produced during the reaction is the same as the reactions that occur inside stars such as the sun. Therefore, the nuclear fusion reaction device is called the "artificial sun."

▲Picture from: @探秘

At present, the use of nuclear energy is almost always in the form of nuclear fission. If you want to use nuclear energy stably and efficiently, nuclear aggregation changes are worth trying. Not long ago, Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), a nuclear fusion research company invested by Bill Gates, Google, and many private equity companies, has begun to build about 47 acres of fusion reactors.

Although there is not much detailed information on the device design and specific plans of this fusion reactor, it shows that people have taken another step toward the successful use of nuclear fusion.

▲ Picture from: Sina Technology

In fact, the development of human history is always inseparable from changes in the way energy is used. In the past few centuries, the fossil fuels we obtained from the earth's crust have produced electricity, and everything that has developed rapidly afterwards.

▲ Picture from: Sina

However, while fossil fuels and other non-renewable energy sources have brought us countless conveniences, they have also brought billowing smoke and many environmental problems. Even their non-renewable energy shortages have become a problem. If we want to solve these problems so that mankind can continue to thrive on the blue planet, the search for new energy is urgent.

Solar energy, as well as wind energy, water energy, bioenergy and other renewable clean energy sources have low pollution and can be regenerated by themselves, but they are restricted by natural conditions. Therefore, the utilization rate of such energy needs to be improved.

▲Picture from: Sohu

Compared with these energy sources, many people prefer nuclear energy: the use of nuclear energy to generate electricity has less pollution, high energy density, and higher utilization efficiency. At present, many countries have nuclear power plants, but almost all of them use the chain reaction of nuclear fission reactors to generate energy. How to deal with the radioactive materials in the reactor, the excessive waste heat generated during the reaction, and the thermal pollution caused by this, the several nuclear power plant accidents that have occurred so far are enough to show that this is also a problem that cannot be ignored.

▲The Iranian nuclear power plant in Japan, the picture comes from: CCTV.com

Therefore, on the way to explore new energy sources, people have turned their hopes to nuclear fusion with better utilization. First, compared with nuclear fission, it can also release a huge amount of energy during the reaction, and the energy produced by nuclear fusion is several times that of nuclear fission. Secondly, the waste produced by nuclear fusion should be treated better than waste and pollution produced by nuclear fission. In addition, the raw materials required for nuclear fusion (usually hydrogen isotope deuterium and tritium) are abundant in seawater, and the raw materials can be obtained by processing lithium-based materials.

Although the effect of nuclear fusion is good, to complete controllable nuclear fusion, several extremely difficult conditions must be met: the core temperature of the reactor must reach at least 150 million degrees; the plasma involved in the reaction must have sufficient density; fusion reaction It must be maintained for a long enough time. Since the 1950s, scientists have begun to study reaction devices that can achieve these conditions.

At present, the most feasible controllable nuclear fusion reaction device is the superconducting tokamak, which is a cyclic container that uses magnetic confinement to achieve controlled nuclear fusion, such as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor Project (ITER). It is the use of this device that has officially entered the final installation stage in 2020. The SPARC devices researched by CFS companies invested by Bill Gates and Google are also designed based on tokamak.

▲Picture from: Overseas Network

In addition, my country's achievements in the field of nuclear fusion cannot be underestimated. Located in the Hefei Institute of Material Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, the fully superconducting tokamak nuclear fusion experimental device (EAST), known as the "Eastern Hyperloop", set a new world record on May 28, 2021, and achieved a new world record. Repeated plasma operation at 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds and 160 million degrees Celsius for 20 seconds.

▲Image from: @中科院之声

Although people have a good idea of ​​nuclear fusion, there are still many difficulties. Many scientists all over the world are working on it. If it can be successfully realized, to a certain extent, mankind will be inexhaustible. At that time, the "big bang of technology" described in "Three-Body", people's explorations are going deep in the universe, and perhaps it is no longer an illusion.

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Ai Faner | Original link · View comments · Sina Weibo