Interior of the Joint European Torus (JET) tokamak,
the largest magnetic confinement fusion device in the world.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of JET
There are several experiments worldwide where the conditions for nuclear fusion reactions have been achieved in a controlled manner. The two main approaches that are being explored are magnetic confinement fusion and inertial confinement fusion.
In the former case, a (Deuterium-Tritium) plasma is kept confined
(typically within a doughnut shaped container) by a strong magnetic field and heated up to temperatures where the fusion reactions start to occur at a significant rate. In the latter, high-energy lasers impact and compress a solid
(frozen) Deuterium-Tritium pellet producing an implosion that eventually raises the temperature of the pellet (that has become plasma) enough to trigger nuclear fusion reactions.
Presently the (controlled) fusion devices have not achieved the condition in which they can actually produce more energy than the energy they consume, however tremendous progress has been made since the first experiments in the early 1960's. Despite the high research and development costs, and the technical uncertainties still present, nuclear fusion appears a viable and environmentally sound alternate energy source for the 21st century.
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