How Does Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) Work?
A spherical capsule filled with fuel (deuterium and tritium–isotopes of hydrogen) is bombarded with energy, compressing and heating a small region in the center of the fuel to values that allow the electrostatic repulsion of the nuclei to be overcome.
The fusion reactions from this central “hot spot” deposit enough energy in the rest of the fuel that fusion occurs there too–this process is referred to as ignition. Ignition hasn’t been achieved yet, but should be at the new National Ignition Facility (
Note that during the very short period of ignition (a few nanoseconds, or a billionth of a second) the fuel is pushed inward, so its own inertia acts to impede its disassembly; hence the term inertial confinement fusion.
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