Future stars create fusion energy machine at school


Schoolchildren at Waverley Junior Academy, near Rotherham, have combined science and art to create a fusion energy machine of the future.

Grade 5 students participated in two workshops to learn about fusion – based on the same processes that power the sun and stars – which has great potential to become an environmentally responsible part of the world’s future energy supply.

Before picking up their pens and pencils to design a star-making machine, the students learned about fusion and ran wild to create their own energy.

The fun and interactive sessions were led by a team from the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) based in nearby Catcliffe Technology Park.

Jordan d’Arras, graduate engineer in development at the UKAEA, said: “The children were really enthusiastic and asked so many good questions. They learned about the importance of secure, low-carbon energy in the fight against climate change and heard about the variety of career opportunities we have at UKAEA that will help make smelting a reality. We hope to have inspired our engineers, scientists and communicators of the future!

The students competed in a design competition and wowed the UKAEA team with their interpretation of what a future fusion energy machine might look like.

Patrick Selkirk and Holly Peace, fifth grade teachers at Waverley Junior Academy, were very proud of the scientific knowledge and artistic talent of their classes.

Patrick said: “It was a great experience for the kids to fully engage. Previously, they had learned all about renewable energy and the effects of non-renewable sources. The UKAEA workshop was informative and well presented to the children. The workshop sparked conversations that sparked a debate on fusion energy.

What is fusion energy?

Based on the same process that powers our sun and stars, fusion has long been considered the ultimate energy source:

  • When a mixture of two forms of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium) is heated to extreme temperatures (10 times hotter than the core of the sun), they fuse together to create helium and release large amounts of energy under form of heat.
  • This superheated material forms a plasma, the fourth state of matter found in lightning and neon signs. Plasma has incredibly complex, yet fascinating physics, similar to weather systems, and predicting its behavior is just as difficult.

  • There is more than one way to achieve fusion. At UKAEA we hold this hot plasma with strong magnets in a doughnut-shaped machine called a tokamak.
  • The energy created from fusion can generate electricity similar to existing power plants.

For more information on the UKAEA’s fusion technology facility in Rotherham, visit: ccfe.ukaea.uk


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