Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) – which aims to prove the commercial viability of fusion power – is slated to be built in France by 2016.

(Click image to see the reactor)

Here’s how it will work:

Two hydrogen isotopes–deuterium and tritium–are heated in a doughnut-shaped chamber to more than 100 million degrees Centigrade, at which point they form a plasma, or ionized gas.

Superconducting coils surrounding the chamber wall create a magnetic field that confines the plasma, forcing the deuterium and tritium nuclei to collide; when they do, they fuse to form helium nuclei, releasing neutrons.

The mass of a helium nucleus and a neutron is less than that of a deuterium nucleus and a tritium nucleus; the excess mass is converted into a tremendous amount of energy, which is imparted to the helium nuclei and the neutrons.

When the fast-moving neutrons hit the “blanket” that lines the chamber, they generate heat within it, which can be harnessed to produce electricity.

Since there’s no plentiful natural source of tritium, ITER will test ways of using some of the neutrons to create tritium from lithium-bearing materials in the blanket.

Source: International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Tagged: Energy

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me