Chemistry Essentials for Dummies

Chapter 4. Nuclear Chemistry

Coming Together with Nuclear Fusion

Soon after researchers discovered the fission process, they discovered another process, called fusion. Fusion is essentially the opposite of fission. In fission, a heavy nucleus is split into smaller nuclei. With fusion, lighter nuclei are fused into a heavier nucleus.

The fusion process is the reaction that powers the sun. In a series of nuclear reactions in the sun, four hydrogen-1 (H-1) isotopes are fused into a helium-4 (He-4) with the release of a tremendous amount of energy. Here on Earth, people use two other isotopes of hydrogen: H-2, called deuterium, and H-3, called tritium. (Deuterium is a minor isotope of hydrogen, but it’s still relatively abundant. Tritium doesn’t occur naturally, but people can easily produce it by bombarding deuterium with a neutron.)

The following equation shows the fusion reaction: