Home Arts Harnessing the power of the stars

Harnessing the power of the stars

by Tiffany Lafleur August 1, 2017
Harnessing the power of the stars

Documentary on fusion power explores alternative to fossil fuels

In Let There Be Light, which had its Quebec premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival on July 27, scientists are in a race against time to try to harness the power of the stars in an attempt to find an alternative to fossil fuel. This might sound like a science fiction movie, but it is actually a documentary. Directed by Mila Aung-Thwin and Van Royko, the film sheds light on the experts working on producing fusion energy — the same energy produced by stars.

Whereas nuclear energy, or fission, is the process of harnessing energy by breaking atoms apart, fusion is the collection of energy by pushing and smashing atoms together. This is done using extremely high temperatures — numbering in the millions of degrees Celsius — and collecting the energy from the bonding of two lighter elements to form a heavier atom. It sounds simple enough in theory, but it has yet to be achieved.

Let There Be Light explores some of the challenges facing fusion energy, and who’s working towards achieving the impossible. Notably, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) in France, which is in the midst of building a massive magnetic fusion generator. The megaproject, composed of over a million pieces, was scheduled to finish in 2019. But amid construction delays, poor management and a blown budget, the project is still far from complete.

Though the theme of fusion might seem far-fetched, as if plucked from the distant future, it has actually been around since the 1940s. The film not only shows where fusion is headed, but also delves into the past to see where it came from. In this way, it deconstructs a difficult scientific field and simplifies it for the audience to understand. The film includes interviews and expert commentary, as well as beautiful cinematography.

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