China’s artificial sun just achieved a new milestone, pushing scientists closer toward developing the world’s first nuclear fusion plant.
On Monday, officials from China’s Hefei Institute of Physical Science announced that it sustainably reached over 100 million degrees Celsius in its Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST).
The four-month-long experiment saw the EAST reactor briefly reaching a temperature six times hotter than the Sun’s core.
“By effectively integration and synergy of four kinds of heating power, namely, lower hybrid wave heating, electron cyclotron wave heating, ion cyclotron resonance heating and neutral beam ion heating, the plasma current density profile were optimized,” the announcement read.
“The power injection exceeded 10MW, and plasma stored energy boosted to 300 kJ after scientists optimized the coupling of different heating techniques, and utilized advanced plasma control, theory/simulation prediction. The electron temperature of the core plasma increased beyond 100 million degrees.”
Making an Artificial Sun
The researchers conducted the experiment earlier this year at the Institute of Plasma Physics in China’s Anhui province. The artificial sun was able to maintain its record-breaking temperature for about 10 seconds.
The EAST is a 400-ton machine that uses magnetic fields to contain the superheated plasma. The device is now being hailed as a strong candidate in the search for a nuclear fusion reactor.
To date, nuclear physicists and researchers from different parts of the world are pushing for the development of a nuclear fusion power plant that will produce environmentally friendly, sustainable energy.
In theory, fusion reactors would produce energy by fusing hydrogen atoms into helium. This is the same reaction that keeps the core of the Sun burning. Unlike nuclear power plants that split uranium atoms through fission, fusion reactors won’t produce radioactive byproducts.
Aside from the EAST project, other nuclear fusion initiatives include The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project.
The project, formed in 1985 through the collaboration of 35 countries, is currently building the world’s largest tokamak in France. Google and MIT are also reportedly working on their respective nuclear fusion projects.