Fission vs. Fusion – What’s the Difference?

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The word fission means “a splitting or breaking up into parts” (Merriam-Webster Online, http://www.m-w.com). Nuclear fission releases heat energy by splitting atoms.  The surprising discovery that it was possible to make a nucleus divide was based on Albert Einstein’s prediction that mass could be changed into energy.  In 1939, scientist began experiments, and one year later Enrico Fermi built the first nuclear reactor.

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The word fusion means “a merging of separate elements into a unified whole”. Nuclear fusion refers to the “union of atomic nuclei to form heavier nuclei resulting in the release of enormous amounts of energy” (Merriam-Webster Online, http://www.m-w.com). Fusion takes place when two low-mass isotopes, typically isotopes of hydrogen, unite under conditions of extreme pressure and temperature.

Fusion is what powers the sun. Atoms of Tritium and Deuterium (isotopes of hydrogen, Hydrogen-3 and Hydrogen-2, respectively) unite under extreme pressure and temperature to produce a neutron and a helium isotope. Along with this, an enormous amount of energy is released, which is several times the amount produced from fission.

via Fission vs. Fusion – What’s the Difference? | Duke Energy | Nuclear Information Center

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About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
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