Student Activities: Fusion
These activities can be used to supplement the topics on the Teaching Chart, Fusion: Physics of a Fundamental Energy Source, produced by the Contemporary Physics Education Project (CPEP).
The following activities are intended for use in middle school, high school, and introductory college courses.
The Teacher’s Notes for these activities are located here. The content is password protected. If you are an educator and want the password to access the Teacher’s Notes send an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information: your name, your title or position and your school or institution.
Demonstrations of these activities can be found following the YouTube link below.
activities for middle school classes:
Testing a Physical Model:
Similar to the High School Simulating Fusion activity found below, this also uses bottle tops with Velcro attached. The tops are placed in a box, which is shaken. Some of the tops will “fuse” together and this is used to demonstrate how time, particle density, and temperature affect the number of fusions produced in a hypothetical reactor. The emphasis is on producing a physical model from thinking about a hands-on simulation.
Modeling the Interaction in a Nucleus:
Magnets with Velcro repel when far apart and attract when brought closer. This presents an analogous situation to nuclei repelling when far apart and attracting to fuse when closer. Students investigate the nature of a model and how it represents a real physical situation.
Plasma Globe and Spectra:
In this activity the students first investigate the properties of light and color using different types of sources and prisms and/or diffraction gratings. They develop a set of reference spectra using spectrum tubes. Then the spectra from a plasma globe is observed and compared with the references.
activities for high school and introductory college
This uses bottle tops with Velcro attached that are placed in a box, which is then shaken. Some of the tops will “fuse” together and this is used to demonstrate how time, particle density, and temperature affect the number of fusions produced in a hypothetical reactor.
Motion of charged particles in a magnetic field
This uses electron beam in an oscilloscope to demonstrate the actual physics of magnetic confinement. Bar and electromagnets are used to twist the paths of electron beams so that a line on the scope screen is seen to rotate.
The Physics of Plasma Globes:
In this activity the students first develop a set of reference spectra using spectrum tubes. Then the spectra from a plasma globe is observed and compared with the references. Also, they investigate some of the electrical effects of the plasma globe.
Long Range Repulsion, Short Range Attraction:
Strong magnets can be seen to repel when far apart and attract when brought closer. This presents a kind of analogous situation to nuclei repelling when far apart and attracting to fuse when closer. This can also be used to explore the nature of induced magnetic moments.
Plasma Globes and "Body Capacitance":
This activity is designed to guide students in understanding how plasma globes work through a series of hands-on steps which compare what happens in a plasma globe to what happens in a simple-to-construct capacitor with aluminum foil parallel plates.
Studying the Electric Field Near a Plasma Globe:
Students use simple “antennas” to detect the electric fields produced by a plasma globe. Investigations lead to some understanding of the fields produced by the oscillating RF source and by the plasma streamers in the globe.
Properties of a Plasma: Half-Coated Fluorescent Bulbs:
Students compare the spectra of the uncoated and coated parts of the fluorescent bulb and compare them to the spectra of reference sources and to the spectra of incandescent bulbs. They also look at the effects of magnetic fields on the plasma in the fluorescent bulbs.
Resistance of a Fluorescent Bulb: Half-Coated Version:
Students investigate the current versus voltage for a fluorescent bulb and see how the resistance of the bulb varies with voltage and current. By developing an understanding of the nature of the resistance in the bulb, students learn some of the characteristics of plasmas, such as those that are present in the bulb.
Resistance of a Fluorescent Bulb: Plasma Tube With Power Supply:
This activity has the same objectives as the Half-Coated Bulb version, but incorporates a schematic to build a circuit with an integrated bulb and power supply device.