fusion lab astronomy
1) Write at least two paragraphs discussing things that you learned from the background portion of this lab. Be sure to include your interpretation of why nuclear fusion does not occur naturally on the Earth as well as why we do not yet have the technology to replicate the process.
2) Write at least one paragraph to discuss how plasma forms at the core of a star. Be sure to include the definition of plasma and why the conditions are able to sustain fusion here.
3) Use the search engine of your choice to find the temperature at which hydrogen fusion takes place. Also find the temperature at which helium fusion takes place. Which one is higher, and by what factor? Discuss your interpretation of why one of the processes requires such a higher temperature.
4) The process of helium fusion is known as the triple alpha process. How many steps are there in this process? What are they? What element is the result of helium fusion? Does this surprise you? If so, why?
5) Notice that lithium, beryllium, and boron are not produced in mass quantities like helium and carbon? Why do you think this is? Are they produced at all in stars?
6) The proton-proton chain and the triple alpha process are both exothermic. It turns out that all fusion processes that result in an element between hydrogen (1 proton) and iron (26 protons) are exothermic. Why is this important? What would make it difficult for an endothermic fusion process to be sustained?
7) Finally, iron is the most tightly bound nucleus. This means that it has the least average mass per nucleon (protons and neutrons). Another way to think about this is using something called the binding energy. Iron also has the largest binding energy per nucleon. This means that as the binding energy per nucleon increases from hydrogen to iron the fusion processes are exothermic. Once elements heavier than iron begin to fuse then the binding energy per nucleon decreases and the fusion processes become endothermic. Why do you think this happens?
8) This lab was a bit more technical than others. Pick one or two questions that gave you difficulty and discuss how you think they could have been made more effective.