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Tips About Nuclear Fusion and Nuclear Fission - Concept

Teacher/Instructor Jonathan Fong
Jonathan Fong

M.Ed.,San Francisco State Univ.

Jonathan has been teaching since 2000 and currently teaches chemistry at a top-ranked high school in San Francisco.

Here are some tips and tricks about nuclear fusion and nuclear fission. Most of the time, my students tend to get these mixed up because they sound very similar, and they are almost spelt the same. But nuclear fusion is basically when you fuse two nuclei together. And so basically two small nuclei, which is basically the plural of nucleus. So you have two "nucleises", basically they combine to form a larger nucleus. So in the process, energy is produced, energy is given off or released.

So basically what happens is, you have two small nuclei and what happens is, they are forced and joined together, so they form a larger one. So say if you had, say in the sun you have Hydrogen. We have hydrogen and what happens is, they tend to form Helium in the sun. So usually, you have these and then you have energy that is being released.

Examples are when you have a sun or like a star fusion, you have smaller elements that combine to form a large element, like the Hydrogen is forming the Helium, or you have like a hydrogen bomb. Or you can have the fusion power that basically generates a lot of energy.

Now that's different from nuclear fission which is basically the opposite. You have one larger nucleus, is split into smaller nuclei. So simply you have a larger nucleus and what happens is, then it gets split. Now usually in real life, what happens in every day life or in nature, this normally happens on its own, so spontaneously. So what happens is, you may have heard of nuclear bombs or things like that. And man made nuclear fission and it usually involves neutron. And if you know a neutron has a mass of 1, no charge and usually have a little and no charge. And so sometimes the scientist would shoot it or bad people will tend to shoot a neutron in order to start the reaction of fission or a split.

So fusion is when you combine, fission is when you split. So you can have controlled fission like in nuclear power plants, and so you actually have a lot of safe guards in nuclear power plants. And even in Japan there were a lot of safe guards when the earthquake and tsunami hit in March of 2011. So but unfortunately, the containing was not able to happen because of nuclear rods they were hot. And so nuclear fission is used for that. It's used for a lot of bombs and things like that.

And then also it makes a lot of energy, so lots of energy is released. Then you also have electric magnetic radiation or you have like the gamma rays. And gamma rays are basically the type of electromagnetic radiation with the most energy as you probably learnt in you're Chemistry class or Physics.

So, remember fusion is when you combine, fission is when you split a partly large nucleus into smaller nuclei. So hopefully, these tips and tricks and don't forget, keep the word straight, will help you with distinguishing nuclear fission versus nuclear fusion. See fission, fusion, see I even got them mixed up. So be careful because my students also get them mixed up to. But don't you. Have a good one