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Part of the Einstein exhibition.
A fusion reaction occurs when two lighter atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus. The most simple fusion reaction occurs when a single proton, the most basic positive electric charge, is fused to a second proton. This is the first step in the fusion process that makes energy in the heart of our Sun. The entire three-step process is called the proton-proton chain and the results are a Helium atom and energy in the form of light. This simple demonstration is an illustration of what protons would experience during fusion.
What is happening?
Protons are positive electric charges and repel each other strongly due to the electromagnetic force. However, there is a force even stronger than the electromagnetic force - the strong nuclear force. This "strong force" only works when the protons are really close to each other, and since they normally repel each other, something has to squeeze them together before they can get close enough for the strong nuclear force to take over and bind them.
In this model the magnets repel each other like protons do. The Velcro acts like the strong nuclear force. You need to apply a force in order to squeeze the magnets together until the Velcro touches and joins them. You have now "fused" together two lighter magnets to make a heavier one! Copyright © 2002 American Museum of Natural History. All rights reserved.