How does nuclear fusion produce new elements?

1 Answer
Feb 9, 2014

Nuclear fusion produces new elements by "fusing" two small nuclei into a larger nucleus.


Nuclear fusion is a nuclear reaction in which two or more atomic nuclei collide at nearly the speed of light and join to form a new type of atomic nucleus. This creates new elements.

Nuclear fusion converts hydrogen into helium in all stars. For example,

₁¹H + ₁¹H → ₁²H + ₁⁰e

₁¹H + ₁²H → ₂³He

₁²H +₁³H → ₂⁴He + ₀¹n

Hydrogen and helium nuclei can then be fused into heavier elements. Gradually all the other elements up to uranium must have been formed in the stars.

Even heavier or “trans-uranium” elements can be made by accelerating two ions to very high speeds but in opposite directions and allowing them to collide. For example,
₉₂²³⁸U + ₇¹⁴N → ₉₉²⁴⁸Es + 4₀¹n

Other elements are made by neutron bombardment in a nuclear reactor. For example,

₉₄²³⁹Pu + 2₀¹n → ₉₅²⁴¹Am + ₋₁⁰e

So, from these two methods, a whole series of man-made or “artificial” elements from atomic number 93 to 118 have been synthesized.