LAWRENCE LIVERMORE LABORATORY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY LAWRENCE LIVERMORE LABORATORY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Computer graphics image of a hydrogen isotope plasma (the so-called 4th form of matter) used as the basic material in nuclear fusion experiments. The plasma (a flux of high-temperature tritium & deuterium nuclei plus electrons) is produced by heating a hydrogen-isotope gas to a temperature at which it breaks up into its basic constituents (nuclei & electrons). If the plasma can be further heated to temperatures approaching 100 million degrees C for a sufficent time, fusion of the nuclei occurs, accompanied by a vast release of energy. Reactions are contained using large magnetic fields or lasers (inertial confinement).
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