China is experimenting with an “artificial sun” called Experiential Advanced Supraconductor Tokamak (EAST) to make way for clean energy in the future. The structure of the device is a fusion reactor, which in a recent test successfully ran for almost 20 minutes at a breathtaking 70 million degrees Celsius. The machine seeks to harness the power of nuclear fusion, a lesser-explored method of harnessing nuclear energy. The structure mimics nuclear reactions that take place inside the sun, using hydrogen and deuterium gases as fuel. These experiments could bring scientists closer to “unlimited clean energy”.
The reactor is being tested to make its auxiliary heating system “hotter” and “more durable”. The EAST, designed and built by the Chinese, has been used for nuclear fusion experiments since 2006. However, it was only recently that the researchers achieved an important milestone.
A report in the South China Morning Post said that the “artificial sun” in the latest experiment ran for 1,056 seconds at 70 million degrees Celsius – or 17 minutes and 36 seconds. That is almost five times hotter than the real sun, whose core is 15 million degrees Celsius.
The reactor reaches high temperatures by boiling hydrogen isotopes (hydrogen and deuterium) to form a plasma. When these elements merge, large amounts of energy are released, which accumulates in the form of heat. Scientists are now faced with the challenge of keeping temperatures above 100 million degrees Celsius and keeping the structure stable over long periods of time.
The latest experiment took place at the Hefei Institute of Physical Science in eastern Anhui Province, China. Gong Xianzu, who led this EAST experiment, said, “The latest operation lays a solid scientific and experimental foundation for the operation of a fusion reactor.” A report from the New York Post indicated that more than 10,000 Chinese and foreign academic researchers were involved in this $ 948 million (approximately Rs.7,060 billion) project. The experiments started in early December and are expected to last through June.
Song Yuntao, director of the Plasma Physics Institute, said, “In five years we will start building our fusion reactor, which will take another 10 years.” .
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