60 second science: Fusion energy with Professor Steven Cowley

The most successful fusion machines on the planet are the JET and MAST tokamaks at Culham Laboratory in Oxfordshire.

Professor Steven Cowley from the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy is the winner of the 2012 Glazebrook Medal awarded by the Institute of Physics for his leadership of the UK’s fusion energy programme and his major contributions to plasma and fusion science.


What’s going on in the centre of all stars is small nuclei of atoms are bing joined together to make bigger ones. It’s a process we’d like to harness to power the Earth.

The fusion reaction that we do in JET is a reaction between two isotopes of hydrogen. JET  is a very large device. I mean, if you stand next to it you are dwarfed by its scale. But in order to get to the stage where we can actually burn a plasma, fully self-sustaining fusion, we have to go to the next stage which is ITER. ITER is twice the size of JET. Really an enormous device.

This award of the Glazebrook medal is an award for Culham. I’m very lucky to have an extraordinarily clever, strong, motivated, skillful set of people.

We’ll be there at the finishing line. We’ll be there when fusion is actually a power source that people get some of their electricity from.

About the film

Filmed on location at:

Director: Martyn Bull
Producer: Thomas Delfs
Camera: Mark Whatmore
Editors: Liam Angell, Mike Willbourne
Cast: Professor Steve Cowley

Production company: insitu
Client: Institute of Physics

Camera: RED Epic, Canon 550D

Solar visualisation: NASA/ESA Helioviewer project
NGC3314 overlapping galaxies: NASA, ESA, the hubble heritage team (STScI/AURA) – ESA/Hubble collaboration, and W. Keel (University of Alabama)
Superbubble in the large magellanic cloud: NASA/CXC/U.Mich/S.Oey, IR: NASA/JPL, Optical: ESO/WFI/2.2-m
ITER images and video: The ITER Organisation

Further reading

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