Fusion Basics

Two isotopes of hydrogen – deuterium and tritium – can fuse together if they have enough energy. When this occurs, the resultant products are helium, a neutron, and a large amount of energy.


For the deuterium and tritium to have enough energy to fuse, the temperature of the fuel must be millions of degrees centigrade. At these temperatures the fuel enters a ‘plasma state’. Atoms are made up of a positively charged nucleus (containing protons and neutrons) surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons. At high temperatures some electrons can gain enough energy to escape the atom. What is left is a ‘soup’ of electrons and ions (nuclei with some electrons), known as a plasma. Since the particles are charged the plasma responds to electric and magnetic fields.