Kate uses powerful lasers in an attempt to build a new type of power station that works in the same way as the Sun.
The appeal of a fusion reactor is that unlike the nuclear power stations we use today, fusion does not produce high-level radioactive waste. Fusion also has the advantage that there is a plentiful supply of fuel -“Half a bath-full of seawater and the lithium in a laptop battery would supply 30 years’ worth of energy for one person” explains Kate.
Fusion is the joining together of atoms to release energy, and is the process that powers the Sun. “Fusion is a really efficient way of getting energy; the only downside is that it’s just really difficult to do because of the high temperatures involved. Confining the fuel at 100 million degrees without touching it is very difficult. The Sun does it using its gravitational field, but we can’t make a lab as big as a star!”
Kate works as part of a team based near Oxford, “we are investigating ways of confining the fuel using lasers”. If they succeed, not only will they will develop an almost limitless source of energy, but one that will not contribute to climate change. An added bonus for Kate is that she is doing a job she loves “I play around with lasers all day, get sent to different countries courtesy of the lab, and work with lots of other young people. What could be better?”
You can find more information about careers in physics by visiting www.physics.org