“Nuclear fusion is the energy that powers the sun and stars,” Mike Mauel, professor of applied physics at Columbia University, told CBSNews.com. “It takes hydrogen gas, heating up to millions of degrees, and brings the atoms together to release energy and make helium.”
Instead of splitting an atom’s nucleus, like in fission, nuclear fusion is the process of bringing together two atomic nuclei to form a new nucleus. And there is no need for dangerous chemical elements like uranium or plutonium — easing the fears of nuclear proliferation. Energy derived from fusion is appealing because very few natural resources are required to create fuel.
“The fuel for fusion basically comes from sea water. Every bottle of water that we drink has heavy water — deuterium — inside. Enough that’s equivalent to a whole barrel of oil,” Mauel says.