Peninsula College students create nuclear fusion

PORT ANGELES — Six Peninsula College students put their heads together on how to force particles together and created nuclear fusion.

That’s fusion, not fission.

Fusion is created when particles collide, fuse and then release neutrons and energy

Unlike fission, fusion doesn’t typically release radioactive particles, but it can release energy.

The energy created by Jeff Zirul’s students was barely enough to warm a cup of coffee.

But they — like others on the short list of those who have created fusion — hope that their research can be used to help find another form of energy than petroleum products or nuclear fission.

The group’s first effort at fusion was at 6:30 p.m. June 21, after commencement ceremonies at Peninsula College.

“Our first time was a success,” said Devon McMinn, the team leader.

“We’ve achieved it several times since then.”

Fusion takes place in a device called a fuser.

Tell-tale bubbles form when neutrons are present — meaning that fusion has taken place.

Before then, the fusor turns several colors —including a deep purple glow just prior to fusion.

“Right now it takes a lot more energy to power it than it creates,” McMinn said.

“We think it could have heated a cup of coffee by 1 degree.

“But it didn’t even release enough energy to power a light bulb.”

But it is a start, she said.

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