Nuclear Fusion: The Energy of the Future That Can Save the Planet

*This text was written by a columnist from TechWorld; learn more at the end.

If you’ve seen the box office hit movie “Spider Man 2” which grossed more than $750 million in 2004, you might remember that the villain’s main objective, Doctor Octopus, was to create a technology that would allow him to control a form of energy. similar to the Sun. In the film, the developed machine did not work and put the city at risk, which forced Spider-Man to intervene.

The idea of ​​controlling the Sun’s energy form is nothing new. Since the 1950s scientists have been trying to reproduce so-called nuclear fusion, a process responsible for the energy produced by stars and which requires enormous amounts of heat and pressure to join nuclei of hydrogen atoms and produce helium. This process causes the Sun to release more energy every second than we are able to consume in an entire year. Therefore, it is not surprising that it is of enormous interest to reproduce it in a self-sustaining way, even if, obviously, on a smaller scale.

Nuclear reactor from the movie Spider-Man 2 (2004)Source: Reproduction/Sony Pictures (2004)

A year after the film’s release, by coincidence or not, the ITER project began, based in southern France and financed by 35 countries with the objective of achieving and controlling nuclear fusion. This project should start being tested in 2025 and will hardly produce energy before 2050, but other countries and many companies have been investing in this technology in parallel to accelerate these deadlines and the advances have even excited some specialists.

The problem here is that we have a huge urgency for clean, renewable forms of energy. In addition, the evolution of existing technologies may end up making nuclear fusion out of the plans, despite having advantages such as having virtually inexhaustible raw material (hydrogen) and the small need for physical space, unlike solar plates and wind power towers, for example.

It is really important to continue producing, researching and advancing in clean technologies for the production of energy in order to reduce, as much as possible, the effect of climate change. It is important to emphasize that, contrary to what we see in many false news and misleading interpretations, the climate change caused by humanity is no longer a reason for debate in the scientific world. And its effects, if not mitigated, could pose numerous risks to life on Earth as we know it.

wind energyTurbines for wind energy production (credits: engel.ac/Shutterstock)

The latest special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes it very clear the importance of zeroing carbon emissions by mid-century (2050) to limit global warming by 1.5 OC, thus avoiding different consequences that can range from the loss of species to an increase in the frequency of floods and droughts, including a possible acidification of seawater.

It is already possible to observe extreme weather events with increasing frequency. To cite some examples, we have the intense cold waves that occurred in Chicago in 2019, the heat waves that hit Canada and the United States in July 2021 and periods of drought, like the one we are facing in Brazil today, that leave the reservoirs of water and hydropower production threatened.

This year, between October 31 and November 12, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) is taking place. This event brings together leaders from around the world to discuss accelerating decision-making that can help mitigate the effects of the climate crisis, mobilize investments for the cause and adapt business models to protect vulnerable communities, species and their natural habitats.

Talking about the topic of climate change is complicated for a number of reasons, such as the lack of interest and/or denial on the part of some and the great anxiety caused by others because it is a problem that is apparently too big and unsolvable. But we are at a critical moment where it is extremely important to be aware, to seek as much information as possible from reliable and diverse sources (official websites of institutions such as the IPCC, universities and major news portals are good examples while the currents received without sources and with shallow arguments on social networks are the opposite). Also, it’s always important to talk to friends and family to keep the debate, not the planet, as heated as possible.

Rodolfo Lima Barros Souza, professor of physics and columnist of the TechWorld. He has a degree in Physics and a Masters in Science Teaching and Mathematics from Unicamp in the area of ​​Public Perception of Science. It is present on social networks such as @rodolfo.sou

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