To produce energy from fusion reactions, a mixture of deuterium and tritium gases has to be heated to extremely high temperatures. At these high temperatures the gases are ionised, forming a plasma. Research in this area principally focuses on the physics of magnetically confined high-temperature plasmas, the engineering required to heat plasmas to the temperatures required for fusion to occur, and developing diagnostic devices to help refine the control of the reactor processes.
There are some significant scientific and technological challenges to be met to establish the physics and engineering basis for the next generation of large fusion experiments. These include fundamental studies on the behaviour of the plasma under different conditions to be able to conduct experiments at optimum performance and developing a number of sophisticated technologies for plasma engineering and reactor technology, such as large superconducting coils and advanced materials.
As the research moves closer towards demonstrating the feasibility of a fusion power station, effort is being increasingly devoted to looking at the safety, environmental and socio-economic aspects of fusion power.