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Rad Scientist Episode 4: San Diego Physicist Working Toward New Energy Source For Future Generations

San Diego physicist Cami Collins standing in front of a life-size replica of a fusion reactor.
Margot Wohl
San Diego physicist Cami Collins standing in front of a life-size replica of a fusion reactor.
Rad Scientist Episode 4: San Diego Physicist Working Toward New Energy Source For Future Generations
Rad Scientist Episode 4: San Diego Physicist Working Toward New Energy Source For Future Generations GUEST:Cami Collins, physicist, General Atomics

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. A podcast called rad scientist gives us some background and insight into the people that make up San Diego's research community. It is hosted by Margo wall. Today's episode introduces us to Cami Collins, Physicist, General Atomics . She is focus on can we develop a new energy source for future generations question markWe are not going to have fossil fuels. They will be running out and we have to come up with something.That is in the works at General atomics in San Diego. Where she's been a scientist for the past three years. It is a defense contractor for the U.S. government that makes all sorts of high-tech things like drones, lasers, magnetic devices but can they work that she works on an ambitious project figuring out how to use nuclear fusion to make electricity.We had the stream of using fusion for energy source one day. We want to make that happen on earth.Your thinking that we already have nuclear power plants? We do but these use nuclear vision which is different from fusion.Nuclear fusion is a process where you split them and produce a lot of nuclear waste. It is not like that. Fusion is a process where two hydrogen atoms back -- come together. They split atoms apart and fusion fuses atoms together. Hydrogen atoms and that means the fuel for this energy is all around us in the most abundant resources There is one more big difference. Fusion produces a fraction of the nuclear waste but there is no risk of a reactor meltdown and unlike a lot of the energy sources we use today fusion does not produce any greenhouse gases. Produces helium. -- It produces helium. There is more that I love. You wouldn't need a lot of water to get some major power with just one gallon --You would have enough power to power your home for your entire lifetime.That would be rad. Now you might think it's less crazy that at 10 years old she decided that she would be a nuclear physicist.I remember specifically we were reading our science books and I was reading ahead because we were in the section about alternative energy and we talked about nuclear fission and fusion about how you can join Adams and I said that's a really great idea. I cannot imagine doing anything else. Maybe if I opened up a dog resort but other than that nothing else is appealing.She grew up in Montana a population of 3500.I think being brought up in the environment I built a hovercraft with my father. It worked. The thing lifted and it was really unstable. All of a sudden it went into their car fan and it just got destroyed. That was like this is not going to be my vehicle for driving to high school.Back to the future left a lot of us with hoverboard dreams but none of us try to build a one. The tinkering skills came in handy.These building skills when I got to grad school were invaluable. I walked into this room and it was completely empty and I got to build an entire experiment from scratch. The stuff that is needed for nuclear fusion.It's the fourth matter. Plasma is made up of charged particles. Every once in a while two charged ions to come together and join. They released a boatload of energy. That is nuclear fusion and it needs the right condition to happen because normally two positive charges repel. You have to have these particles hot enough so they are moving fast enough in order to join together. Then you also have to have enough ions coming together to make efficient fusion reactor and the last thing is you need to be able to confine the ions long enough to make collisions.That was Cami Collins speaking of the fourth episode of the new podcast rad scientist. Is hosted by Margo wall is part of the KPBS Explorer program. To hear the full podcast go to .

The KPBS podcast "Rad Scientist" is trying to bridge a connection between San Diego's scientific community and non-scientists. Podcast host Margot Wohl is working towards her Ph.D. in neuroscience at UC San Diego.

The third episode features Cami Collins, a physicist at General Atomics in San Diego. Collins who grew up in the small town of Glasgow, Montana, dreamed of becoming a physicist.

"I remember very specifically we were reading our science books. I was reading ahead because we were in this section about alternative energy. They talked about nuclear fission, and then they talked about fusion, about you can join atoms and it doesn't produce nuclear waste. I was like, 'Wow. That's a really bright, great idea,'" Collins said.


Collins' goal is to create a new energy source for future generations.

"Rad Scientist" is one of seven local content projects selected for the KPBS Explore program.