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Fusion on the back of an envelope

This course provides a broad introduction to fusion physics and lays the foundation for the other lecture courses in this field.


Massive amounts of energy can be released in the nuclear fusion reaction of hydrogen isotopes. This opens the possibility of a clean and inexhaustible source of energy, for future generations. A self-sustaining fusion reaction can be achieved in a hydrogen plasma with a temperature of 150 million Kelvin.

In this course, the following subjects are treated:

  • principles of a fusion reactor
  • elementary physics of hot plasmas
  • discussion of open questions
  • inventory of potential showstoppers on the way to a commercial reactor.

The approach adopted in the course is to show how, starting from common sense and simple concepts, with simple calculation and derivation a rather good insight into the physics of fusion can be obtained: hence ‘fusion on the back of an envelope’. This field is a marriage of fascinating physics and baffling technological challenges. Fusion energy is also discussed in the context of the growing world energy demand, and the need for sustainable energy. This course provides a broad overview over the field of fusion and serves as basis for the programme of courses on fusion offered by the TU/e, in the frame of the specialized 'Fusion' master, or as elective courses in the programmes of Applied Physics, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering or Sustainable Energy Technology. An important element is the excursion to the international fusion reactor ITER (South of France) or another large fusion research center.

Course ID: 
Eindhoven University of Technology, the Netherlands