Luis Felipe Delgado-Aparicio awarded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)


Luis Felipe Delgado-Aparicio studied Physics in our university. He has worked four years at the MIT and, since 2013, he has been working at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. For several years, he has been pursuing one only objective: generate energy through nuclear fusion, which, unlike the energy generated from nuclear fission, presents many more advantages and is a lot safer. “What we do in fusion is to put together light elements and not heavy elements, which are the ones that generate radioactivity”, he comments. Another advantage of fusion is that its raw material is easily found in nature, unlike the elements used in fission, such as plutonium and uranium. “The lightest element is hydrogen, which can be found in the water of our seas”, explain the researcher, who confesses that all his concerns had their origin at the PUCP.


Nowadays, many countries in the world –The United States, Russia, Japan and countries of the European Union- are seeking to pursue this development to rely on a new form of energy that is a lot healthier and eco-friendlier. However, despite the collaborative work between nations, this has not been achieved yet because the process of trying to confine thermonuclear plasma in a laboratory with high temperatures is still quite complicated.

Nuclear fusion requires around 100 million °C, which is twenty times the temperature of solar core. “In the sun, the process of fusion occurs naturally because it is so big that gravity brings molecules and cores closer”, details this Peruvian scientist, and he adds: “With regard to the Earth, there is less gravity here, so we need to force a system to obtain nuclear fusion. We need a very dense plasma that is extremely hot, with temperatures ranging from 100 to 300 million degrees”.

Regarding his work in the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, where he was been working for the past five years, the specialist tells us that he likes to build diagnostics to study plasma. “The only way to study this, at millions of degrees Celsius, is through electromagnetic or optical measurements. You cannot put your finger in the reactor because any disturbing element gets totally destroyed in fractions of a second”, he warns us; and he mentions “that’s why most of the measurements are done through spectroscopic methods, that is to say lasers of special cameras that analyze the light that the plasma emits”. Delgado-Aparicio’s specialty is, in fact, the construction of X-ray devices to study plasma, and the award he has received from the Chinese Academy of Sciences will allow him to keep researching on ths topic. “They have bought some special equipment that will make easier the development of experiments and the calibration of the reactor, so it can work better”, he says.


Regarding the advantages of fusion over fission, the physicist, who is a PUCP graduate, mentions that it is a cleaner, safer process that, in addition, helps in the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. “Unfortunately, nuclear fission generates a lot of radioactivity when it comes to splitting heavy atoms” he explains. This nuclear waste gets accumulated in storage silos, so the radioactivity can go on for hundreds and maybe thousands of years. And in some cases and contexts, like Chernobyl or Fukushima, it can be dangerous”.

Nuclear fusion emits a rapid neutron that is used to produce heat, which is a lot safer and radioactivity-free. “If something happened to a wall of the reactor, what would come immediately after is the loss of the vacuum condition: air comes in and the plasma is destroyed in microseconds” affirms the specialist.


Delgado-Aparicio considers that Peru should not seek to become a country with nuclear development, because it does not need to. “We have many sources to generate electric power: gas, photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, or the conventional hydroelectric source, which nowadays covers almost 60% of power in our country”, he mentions. Moreover, he points out that “there does not exist, either, the critical mass of engineers that have academic degrees in energy or nuclear physics in order to deal with a project of this scale”.

The physicist recommends strengthening the links between the industry and the academia through the development of collective researches, and, regarding his plans, he confesses that he sees himself coming back to Peru in the near future. “I want to collaborate with science and education in my country; I want to have a closer bond with the industry, which should be a boosted relationship”. He concludes saying: “I would like to collaborate with my alma mater that has always been a second home to me, start up a new laboratory and get more involved with the industry and the academia”.

Source: Punto Edu Web