Chinese artificial sun just broke record for longest nuclear fusion | Smart News


China’s Advanced Experimental Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), also known as the Chinese artificial sun, has been in operation since 2006.
MU CHEN / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

In a new world record, China’s “artificial sun” project sustained a nuclear fusion reaction for more than 17 minutes, reports Anthony Cuthbertson for the Independent. In the latest experiment, the superheated plasma reached 126 million degrees Fahrenheit, about five times hotter than the sun, which radiates 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit on the surface and about 27 million degrees Fahrenheit at its center.

Coal and natural gas are the main sources of energy currently used in the world, but these materials are available in limited quantities. Nuclear fusion might be the cleanest source of energy available because it mimics the physics of the sun by fusing atomic nuclei to generate large amounts of energy into electricity. The process requires no fossil fuels, leaves no radioactive waste and is a safer alternative to fission nuclear power, in accordance with the Independent.

“The recent operation lays a solid scientific and experimental basis for the operation of a fusion reactor,” Gong Xianzu, a researcher at the Institute of Plasma Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a statement.

China’s Advanced Experimental Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) was designed to potentially be used as an almost unlimited source of clean energy on Earth, the Xinhua News Agency reports. The donut-shaped EAST reactor is called an artificial sun because it simulates the fusion process within stars, reports Robert Lea for News week.

In a star’s core, intense pressure and high temperatures merge atomic nuclei, creating new elements, Michelle Star reports for Scientific alert. To achieve nuclear fusion, four hydrogen atoms combine to form one helium atom.

Tokamaks like EAST use magnetic fields to confine turbulent, sometimes unstable plasma, or ionized gas, at high temperatures in a loop called a toru, according to the Department of Energy. Inside the tokamak, lasers heat heavy hydrogen atoms, like deuterium and tritium, up to hundreds of millions of degrees Fahrenheit, which is the temperature threshold at which fusion processes begin in stars. . The heat allows researchers to replicate the intense gravitational pressure in a star’s core, News week reports. At these high temperatures, the atomic nuclei inside a tokamak will begin to shatter and release energy that can be used to generate electricity.

Maintaining the plasma at such intense temperatures without leakage, however, has proven to be extremely difficult. Scientists have been working to harness the energy of nuclear fusion for more than 70 years. In addition, an experimental tokamak reactor producing more energy than it consumes has never seen the light of day, for example. Live Science, but China’s success with EAST suggests researchers are moving closer to the sustainable harnessing of cosmic energy. In theory, deuterium can be obtained in the Earth’s oceans; it is estimated that one liter of seawater contains enough smelting material to produce the equivalent of 300 liters of gasoline, News week reports.

Currently, the Chinese EAST reactor is being used to test the technology of an even larger Tokamak reactor under construction in France. The result of collaboration between 35 countries, the international thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER) will be the largest nuclear reactor in the world. The United States, United Kingdom, China, India and all states of the European Union are involved in the project, Live Science reports. The reactor, which is slated to start operating in 2025, also has the world’s strongest magnetic field, which is 280,000 times stronger than that of Earth.

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