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Nuclear Fusion, Energy of the Future: Kaler Talk

Nuclear Fusion, Energy of the Future: Kaler Talk

UIUC nuclear scientist to discuss harnessing energy driving Sun, universe

  • Katie Przygoda |
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Nuclear fusion, harnessing the power of the stars, is the April talk in the James B. Kaler Science Lecture Series at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College. 

University of Illinois nuclear physicist Dr. Daniel Andruczyk will present “Why is Nuclear Fusion Seen as the Energy of the Future: The Basics of the Energy Driving the Sun and the Universe,"  on Friday, April 2 at 7 p.m.  This virtual lecture is free to the public on Zoom.

Dr. Andruczyk is assistant research professor in the Department of Nuclear Plasma and Radiological Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His talk will overview the basics of nuclear fusion, why scientists and engineers are so interested in it, and two of the methods they use to control it: magnetic confinement fusion (MCF) and inertial confinement fusion (ICF).

Nuclear power plants around the world generate energy from fission, where atomic nuclei split into smaller elements. Stars such as the Sun extract incredible amounts of energy from nuclear fusion by combining atoms together. In both cases, a small amount of mass is converted to energy, as predicted by Albert Einstein's famous equation, E=mc2.

However, the nuclear fusion occurring in stars is difficult to reproduce on Earth. Scientists have studied the fusion of slightly more massive nuclei, isotopes of hydrogen called deuterium and tritium. The deuterium–tritium or DT reaction requires much less energy, but a working reactor must be a scientific and engineering marvel in order to control an energetic soup of ions and electrons, a plasma, that is over 100 million degrees! These are literally stars in a lab and if the energy released can be extracted, it would be a limitless energy source that is carbon-neutral, meltdown-proof, and leave no radioactive waste.

Dr. Andruczyk earned his BSc and BSc (Honours) in Physics at the University of Queensland and completed his PhD in Plasma Physics at the University of Sydney. In 2006, he performed postdoctoral research at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Greifswald, Germany, where he worked on the WEGA stellarator in support of the W7-X stellarator being built there. In 2009, he spent a year at the H-1 NF national facility in Australia before coming to UIUC in the fall of 2010 as a postdoctoral researcher. In 2012, he was at Princeton Plasma Physics Lab (PPPL) in support of the NSTX reactor program and developing liquid lithium and liquid metal technology. In 2014, he returned to Illinois as a professor and was part of the team to secure WEGA and bring it to UIUC as the HIDRA stellarator/tokamak hybrid device. He is currently part of the leadership team for the Department of Energy’s National Liquid Metal Plasma Facing Component Program.

Following Dr. Andruczyk's Kaler lecture, the planetarium will present its Prairie Skies Spotlight on Galaxies, a tour of the night sky with a focus on the billions of homes of billions of stars throughout the universe. 

The Staerkel Planetarium offers virtual programs to the public on Friday nights and gives shows to schools and private groups. Visit the planetarium website or email for a full show schedule, links to the Zoom meetings, and links to the YouTube channel, which features recordings of past shows.

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