Physics: Bede’s Pupils Visit Culham Centre for Fusion Energy
On Saturday 1 November Dr Dawson and I took 10 A Level Physics students to the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, currently home to two fusion experiments - the Joint European Torus and the Mega Amp Spherical Tokomak.
Culham is one of two key sites globally looking into the feasibility of providing commercially viable clean energy from fusing small atomic particles together. Temperatures inside the experiments can exceed 150 million degrees celsius, helping to provide the right conditions for fusion to occur.
Lower Sixth Bede's pupil Nadia Gjerdingen said of the trip, "A visit to a nuclear fusion reactor opens your eyes to the limits currently being pushed in nuclear physics and research into sustainable energy sources.
"It was especially interesting to see how they have dealt with the obstacle of the incredibly high temperatures required for fusion versus the limits of what the machine can withstand, and how they can create and contain such a massive temperature range in a relatively small space.
"I think that nuclear fusion offers the potential of a great energy source for future generations, but there are many scientific and engineering challenges to be overcome before it is possible."
The famous equation E=mc^2 explains that tiny losses in atomic mass can yield vast amounts of energy.
The current experiments are feeding their discoveries into the next experiment being built in France which will be the stepping stone to power stations being planned to be operational by 2050. The day was rounded off with a trip into Oxford and a chance to discuss the information we had received.
Fellow Lower Sixth pupil Ivan Vukusic reflected, "Having always been interested in Physics and in the concept of everything that had the word 'nuclear' in it, nuclear fusion has always fascinated me. I have always researched about it and thought I knew how it worked.
"The JET trip and the tour of its facilities changed all of my views. I have certainly understood the magnitude of challenges in physics they overcome, as well as the marvels of engineering of the device itself.
"The guides explained the concept of nuclear fusion itself and showed us the reasons as to why it could provide the renewable, clean energy source for all of mankind."