Nuclear reactions are capable of releasing huge quantities of energy. Suchreactions can be achieved either by the nuclear fission (splitting) of elements of high atomic number or by the nuclear fusion (joining) of elements with low atomicnumber. In astrophysics, fusion reactions power the stars and produce all but thelightest elements. The most efficient reaction to utilize fusion on earth is the DTfusion reaction in which nuclei of the two Hydrogen isotopes Deuterium (D) andTritium (T) are forced together to overcome the rejection due to their electriccharge and to allow them to fuse due to the strong nuclear binding force betweenthem. The product of this reaction is a Helium nucleus and a neutron, both withvery high kinetic energy.
Deuterium and tritium fuse together, forming ahelium nucleus, a neutron and lots of energy.
All forms of Hydrogen contain one proton and one electron. Protium, the commonform of Hydrogen has no neutrons, Deuterium has one neutron, and Tritium hastwo. If forced together, the Deuterium and Tritium nuclei fuse and then break apart to form a helium nucleus (two protons and two neutrons) and an unchargedneutron. The excess energy from the fusion reaction (released because theproducts of the reaction are bound together in a more stable way than thereactants) is mostly contained in the free neutron.