By Anthony Gendron
Have you ever plugged in your laptop or flipped on your room lights and wondered where that electricity comes from? There are many ways for us to get power. There are methods like burning fossil fuels, turning turbines with water or the wind, or getting energy right from the sun with solar panels. Each power source has its own benefits, but there’s one elusive energy source that could be leagues above any other way to generate electricity.
Cold fusion is a theoretical way to produce energy where atoms are combined into larger elements and release energy. Cold fusion is named this because it is intended to make this process happen at cooler temperatures than it normally would. Fusion is a process that happens in extreme conditions which is why a practical cold fusion technology is so elusive. Fusion happens naturally, but it happens in conditions such as in the core of the sun where the extreme heat and pressure are able to force atoms together despite the atomic forces that would normally prevent fusion from happening. Cold Fusion hopes to fuse atoms to release energy in less extreme conditions through more manageable processes.
One of these potential processes is being developed by a startup called General Fusion in the United Kingdom. The company has been working on a technique they call Magnetized Target Fusion. In this technique a chamber is filled with hydrogen plasma and liquid metal is spun around within the chamber to create a coating on the walls. This layer is hammered into a sphere shape by pistons and this action will force atoms inside the liquid metal sphere to fuse as they get forced together. The liquid metal absorbs the energy from the fusion and the heat is used to create steam to spin turbines and generate electricity. This concept is predicted to produce a lot of cheap and low emission energy.
General Fusion already has plans to build a Fusion Demonstration Plant and take the next steps in bringing this technology into a practical and integrated reality. The plant will be built on The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority Culham Campus and it will help General Fusion to develop its technology and move toward future projects.
With revolutionary technology such as cold fusion in the works, it’s hard to imagine how far we may come and how different our world may look in the future. Cold fusion could take us bounds in the right direction of a zero-emission power grid. Hopefully, our future holds this and many more sustainable technologies so that we can improve the health of our planet so we’ll be able to keep innovating for centuries to come.