China’s ‘artificial sun’ continues to break records

China’s artificial sun sets a new record – Video: Xinhua News Agency

On December 31, 2021, Xinhua reported that the experimental advanced superconducting Tokamak reactor (EAST), also known as China’s “artificial sun”, has maintained a temperature of 70 million degrees Celsius for a long time. 1,056 seconds, about 17 minutes 36 seconds. This is the longest maintenance time compared to all Tokamak furnaces in the world.

In May 2021, this reactor also reached the milestone of maintaining a hot plasma of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds. The highest temperature that this reactor has ever reached, also in May 2021, is 160 million degrees Celsius, 10 times hotter than the Sun, and maintained for 20 seconds.

“These are the targets for the different phases… The recent operation lays a solid scientific and experimental foundation for operating a fusion reactor,” said researcher Gong Xianzu of the Institute of Plasma Physics, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said.

Mr. Gong is in charge of testing of EAST, located in Anhui province. EAST is called an artificial sun because it simulates a fusion reaction, using hydrogen and deuterium gas as fuel, like the Sun.

China's artificial sun continues to break records - Photo 2.

Tokamak reactor is called an artificial sun because it simulates a fusion reaction like the sun – Photo: Xinhua News Agency

Fusion energy can be considered as the most ideal energy source for a carbon-neutral future because it uses a fuel that is abundant on Earth, and is clean, and produces little waste.

In addition, EAST, one of China’s three main Tokamak reactors, will also support plasma physics research to establish industrial-scale reactors to generate virtually limitless clean energy.

After decades of research, practical application of fusion reactors is still a long way off. The two biggest challenges are maintaining a temperature above 100 million degrees Celsius and stable operation for a long time.

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